The only 3 essentials you need to achieve lasting workforce-readiness
My rule is simple, ‘No Vaccine, No office’, I have mum dad at home and there’s no way I’m going to endanger them. Walking into office would mean, walking into a ground of possible infection.Bhavya Mehra, Manager, Godrej Properties
The first 2 months were very hard. Sharing in-home responsibilities with my wife while managing pitch meetings and I craved to go back to the office. But now, I have an excellent WFH routine down with home care, fitness, work and even extra reading. Not sure ‘Work from office’ suits me anymore.Aman Dewan, B2B Business Head, Ikai Asai
What do I miss most about the office? The random coffee chats, the energy, the hustle bustle, and mostly, that classic morning cappuccino.Sarthak Jain, Lead Actuary at Metlife, Gurgaon
Do I trust my organization to guarantee a safe return to work? Well, I trust them, but I’m not sure I trust other employees. They may not be as prepared or informed as I am. So why take a chance?Nimisha Sharma, Lead analyst, PWC UK
Do I think the post-pandemic workplace will be to my liking? My organization has never asked me what I’d like when I return to work, so I’m not sure the new workplace will be to my liking. I mean, who are they listening to, if not us?Senior manager at a Fortune 500 enterprise (Source would prefer to remain anonymous)
What are the key mindsets of the post pandemic workforce towards return to work?
A recent article from Deloitte Digital suggests there are three distinct archetypes with different levels of risk aversion, perceptions of safety, and circles of trust. They are the protectors, the pragmatists and the prevailers.
They are the cautious lot, going above and beyond to follow safety protocols while also ensuring that others around them do the same. They are the ones who isolate themselves for 20 days when the requirement is upto 14 days. They don’t want to endanger themselves or others. You can spot a protector, telling a coworker to adjust their mask so that it covers their nose, or giving a spare bottle of sanitizer to a colleague to ensure the colleague’s safety.
They are the balanced lot, the ones that bring the calmness in the midst of chaos and utter storm. They understand the importance of following protocols and maintaining social distancing but also undeanst that this is an economic pandemic alongside a health crisis. You can spot a pragmatist as he/she steps out for coffee chats, social gatherings, client meetings while ensuring they wear their masks and meaning required feet distance.
These ones seem outright apathetic but hear us out. Yes they prioritize their personal freedom and enterprising nature way above any safety protocols or restrictions but they do not go out of their way to break safety protocols or endanger others. They are simply way less cautious at the risk of being ignorant. You can spot a prevailer as they freely step out of their house, with a mask (since it is a mandatory local requirement in many geographies), extending their hands or offering hugs to wary or worried neighbours.
1044 responses. 3 facts.1 conclusion.
Fact 1 – 50% respondents stated that they are afraid to go back to the office when it reopens due to health concerns.
Fact 2 – 68% of respondents said that they are not highly likely to return to office when it reopens.
Fact 3 – 64% of respondents stated that despite domestic distractions, they are more productive working from home than at the office.
As of June 2020, Korn Ferry’s ‘Staying Home’ study revealed the conclusion that workplaces today are competing with each other or with their pre-pandemic version. They are in fact competing with the home of every employee in their organization. The problem statement most enablers and enterprises are working on as we speak is to create a workplace which is safer, more secure and definitely more pandemic-ready than before.
So, first things first. Let’s tweak and correct the problem statement.
To create a workplace which can replicate the perfect balance of safety, warmth, flexibility and productivity of home.
Now that we understand the broad set of mindsets, let the solutioning begin.
We at Veris have identified 3 essentials to solving for, sustainable, successful and scalable return-readiness. So here goes,
We call them the 3 T’s of lasting return-readiness namely, Trust, Talk & Technology
Harvard Business Review defines trust as “our willingness to be vulnerable to the actions of others because we believe they have good intentions and will behave well toward us.”
It is characterized by a shared mutual belief in the fairness shown by all parties involved. For an organization and its employees in the post-pandemic era it is defined by shared understanding that events have been unforeseen and uncertain, yet both parties are trying their very best to respond to the situation for the welfare of the other.
How can enterprises inculcate trust in their employees during these uncertain times?
Imagine an employee contemplating whether to return to the workplace, visiting your resource centre, only to find zero protocol guides, safety playbooks or workplace guides on emergency response control? Emergency response should go beyond fires and data theft. It should be agile, flexible and equipped to manage crises and events of all types. Emergency response should be well documented but also communicated to employees in advance through safety playbooks and protocol guides, instilling confidence and trust. Questions you could ask your facility teams include, have you built an internal emergency response team? Is it equipped with different endangering events of different types and scales? How structured and efficient is your response, if an employee tests positive for COVID-19 or shows symptoms at the workplace?
How many times have we heard, ‘Prevention is better than cure’. This is especially true in the time of COVID-19, when one infected surface could infect a workforce of thousands in less than 24 hours. This includes keeping track of vaccines, pills or keeping COVID-19 OTC medicines, om hand. Most importantly,this means sanitization and proper ventilation at the workplace. From disinfecting surfaces to mandatory hand sanitization, multiple facial mask adherence checks or social distancing on work floors or shared spaces. This could be ensured through sensor-based technology, triggering alerts on overcrowding, creating employee rosters, pre-booking desks to ensure a first cum first serve arrangement, etc.
The biggest question of the minds of public commutters is how will we get to work? This is where you need to enable employees by offering options such as company cab services or reimbursement for on-demand cab services ordered personally by employees such as Uber or Lyft. Another crucial concern on the minds of employees is the safety of travel within the workplace. Questions you could be asking your facility management teams are, how many people are allowed in lift lobbies and inside the lift? How to ensure safety of each commuter within these shared spaces? What about the usage of staircases? How will ensure social distancing and safety while using the staircase routes?
Every worker in the workforce comes with her/his own background and context. It is imperative that you make room for a variety of personal circumstances that may fluctuate and differ more than ever, owing to the global pandemic. Every employee may attach different levels of weight to different workplace factors while making the return-to-office decision. What works for a working single mother may not work for a 23 year old trainee living with his parents or for a senior partner living with his wife and kids. While it is important to maintain structure and standardization, it is important to factor in space for flexibility to solve for any special personal circumstances.
First things first, it is imperative that enterprises are curious about the needs, wants and preferences of their employees. The employees should feel heard. They should be assured that the post -pandemic workplace will be created based on employees and not a hypothesis carved out by a facility management consultant. Curiosity should be all-pervasive across functions and seniority. Every employee should feel included in the decision-making process. This can be done through regular surveys, suggestions boxes, anonymous polls or one-to-one conversations led by the HR team.
Enterprises should communicate confidence with a balance of humility. They should communicate with employees regularly and proactively. Informing employees of all upcoming changes to the facility would be a step in the right direction. It is also important to communicate possible dangers and risks, employees would be taking by returning to the workplace. Honesty and humility add a much-needed layer of authenticity to an interaction, reminding employees that we all are in this together.
Regularity and relevance of communication with your employees is a key factor in building trust in the post-pandemic era. It is less about bombarding employees with a barrage of messages, notifications and guides. It is most about ensuring that your teams sharing standardized as well as personalized safety literature will may apply to different parts of the workforce. It is also about tracking the engagement rate of employees with this safety literature and communication so that you can tweak aspects of it to make it more effective, readable and impactable.
Technology can play the role of a crucial connector, a much-needed confidant and a careful observer at the post pandemic workplace. The role of technology even before the post-pandemic workplace is visualized. It is a tool which can capture a million employee preferences from a single screen, track employee consumption and preferences while enabling a safe, smooth, seamless user-journey through the pandemic-ready workplace. The technology of yesterday will not suffice for the workplace of tomorrow. The technology powering the future of the workplace has to be one which is unified, mobile-first human-centric and integrable with the broader ecosystem.
It is no surprise that we live in a smartphone-first world and it is therefore no secret that the one-app revolution is here and is here to stay. Such an ecosystem encompasses various stages of the employee journey at the return-ready workplace. It includes and is not limited to the pre-entry and check-in stage, Touchless access & In-premises Movement, AI-driven room scheduling & bookings, One-tap ordering & express servicing, real-time communication and engagement.
What’s most crucial to boost employee confidence and bring back the same charm in conversations as before, is the acknowledgement that every one he/she interacts with is symptom-free & safe. Workplace managers need to re-imagine both the near and long term future to map the ideal pre-entry & entry workflows for employees and guests alike. A tech-enabled journey is one where queues, Unauthorised visits, Logbooks, and Manual coordination are replaced with touchless attendance, 3-step authentication of guests, contactless visitor management, web check-in facility to reduce queues, health screens, contact tracing, threat alerts, automated two-way communication.
Elevators and doorways are a key point of contact between people working throughout the building, maintenance staff, visitors, vendors, and others. WHO-workplace guidelines are centered around reducing touchpoints and protecting staff from touching infected surfaces. A truly effective access control software must extend beyond just the technology, preferably ensuring that employees and visitors seamlessly move in and out of the premises without hassle. QR based access controls, BLE & NFC supporting modes are pivotal for a touchless experience. The technology should also integrate with Active Directory, HRMS, or any other ERP systems, pushing relevant records for compliance, reporting, payroll, and analysis purposes. A tech-enabled workplace here would be one where physical access Cards, touch based biometrics & elevators and manned navigation are replaced by QR based mobile passports, retro-fitted holographic/ foot operated elevators, indoor way-finding via mobile-view navigation, occupancy meters & health stat displays
Flexible desking & physical distancing
In the post-pandemic workplace, hot-desking will not only have a massive cost-saving implication on the management, but also a considerable imprint on the workforce. If this new wave is laced with a seamless experience, easy flexible scheduling that ensures physical distancing, opt-in visibility for colleagues to book their desks near her and ghosting options to enjoy focussed work, it could prove to be a win-win situation for both the management and the employees. A tech-first workplace would be one where fixed desks, fixed floors, fixed lockers, traditional department-wise seating arrangement, passage-way conversations would be replaced by a user-friendly hot-desking management app with desk-booking options, dynamic desk availability for distance control, digital lockers, automated alerts in case of workplace huddling and real-time usage views.
In the post-pandemic era, early returns would largely revolve around the need for collaboration and discussions. That means optimal space usage and management would be critical for workplace managers. Rooms should be fitted with amenities to support virtual as well as in-person meetings to suit the hybrid work mode. While many offices are also planning to convert meeting rooms into private cabins or storage while parallelly converting open areas to dedicated break-out spaces to avoid confined interactions; others are bolstering their sanitisation game and air quality control. A tech-enabled workplace would be one where ad-hoc meetings, packed conference rooms, daily-sanitization schedule would be replaced by seamless space scheduling, simplified meeting room management, pre-booked spaces, virtual-meeting friendly amenities, limited capacity rooms & spaces, before & after meeting sanitisation schedule.
Every interaction is now digital, limited to a few taps on ones phone. Why should the office environment be any different? Why shouldn’t one be offered an Uber-like experience via workplace experience apps ? On-demand ordering within office not only ensures touchless interactions but also minimises efforts and betters the employee experience by removing possible friction & delays. By rewarding app based interactions and offering third-party discount coupons, launch announcements and free passes, enterprises can explore new revenue opportunities. A tech-enabled workplace is one where phone calls & emails to order basics, Cafeteria/ stock room visits are replaced by a unified workplace management app, on-demand services, geo-fenced personalised discounts, passes and announcements.
Social interaction and collaboration are major underpinnings of the in-person office space, which helps facilitate communication and connection. Swift and effective communication are centerstage especially in wake of threats. A tech-enabled return-ready workplace is one where break-out conversations, face-to-face requests, physical bulletin boards are replaced with on demand servicing, digital bulletin boards, virtual cafeteria-like conversation hub, modern ticketing, in-app service reviews & ratings.
The post-pandemic era is characterized by uncertainty and newness. It is an era where the daily realities of employees have undergone seismic shifts, leading to a paradigm shift in their working patterns, consumption trends and preferences. This is a green field, which is yet understudied and untouched. This is why it is critical that enterprises invest in mapping and tracking preferences and usage patterns of employees at the post-pandemic workplace. It is also important that they consistently experiment with innovative measures, track patterns, analyze the collected data and continually optimize processes towards higher employee productivity and well-being. This is where comprehensive analytics capabilities of your property management software or workplace productivity apps can play a significant role.
Bringing it to a close – A human-first approach
Employees are 1.6x more likely to go above and beyond what is expected of their work and 1.5x to take on additional responsibility when their employer demonstrates humanity. Humans have one thing in common irrespective of gender, religion, experience or age. We all fear change and experience when forced to go beyond our comfort level. Combine this with a primal fear that kicks in when humans are faced with a globally threatening crisis. This is where organizations can take the human-first approach, showing their desire to understand what their workforce is experiencing, the good, the bad or the ugly. It is this shared commitment to learning, growing and tackling crises together, that creates lasting and sustainable workforce-readiness. So, what are you waiting for? Go conquer your 3T’s and win the hearts and minds of your phenomenal workforce! If you need any help through this journey, pick up the phone and talk to us. We promise, we’ll listen!