Will employees shape the future of the workplace?

Will employees shape the future of the workplace?
The Covid-19 pandemic transformed the workplace as we knew it. Organisations and teams had to pivot at lightning pace. Three years on, and companies are still adapting as a return to the five day, nine-to-five in the office has not manifested.

Companies such as Amazon and Google appear to be the exception to the rule in mandating people back to the office, with many organisations confirming, and even expanding, hybrid working policies in line with their employees’ changed expectations.

Beyond the physical environment, organisations are also reflecting on other elements impacting business. Broader societal issues around sustainability and diversity and inclusion (D&I) are at the forefront of employer and employees’ minds. In the period of the ‘Great Resignation,’ will the future workplace be driven and shaped by the demands of the current and next generation of workers?

What matters to your team?

Alongside the environment people work in, the last few years have highlighted broader societal issues, issues organisations can no longer ignore that matter to their employees. This goes beyond the package employees are looking for such as benefits or holiday. Post-pandemic and in the new society we live in today, employees expect more.

The expectation is that the next generation of workers will be more socially conscious which will impact staff recruitment and retention. They are expecting intention and direct action around key issues such as D&I and sustainability. We are in the era of ‘action’ and vague corporate messages without evidence or initiatives to back them up are going to be left in the dust.

When exploring organisations to work for, people want to see that they are doing something impactful beyond profits.

Shaping future ways of working

We now have a new understanding of work-life balance. Companies once hesitant to offer flexible working because of uncertainty are now more willing to offer it. It is considered a requirement that employers offer this option today.

Management teams need to be able to offer effective hybrid/remote working.

Hybrid working impacts work both positively and negatively. You lose the ‘water cooler’ moments of creativity with people separated. But you can also see increases in productivity. Future Forum reported workers with ‘full-schedule flexibility’ saw 29 per cent higher productivity. Interestingly, the Forbes piece that cites the research also explores the ongoing battle around employer trust with hybrid working which is something that will continue to come up in these conversations.

Outside of flexible working, we have seen an acceleration in a wider sense of purpose around workplaces. The demands of future workers are based on more than pay. They are interested in the policies and benefits organisations can offer on the issues that matter to them.

Defining purpose and policies

The Great Resignation has meant we’re in an employee’s market. To stay competitive in attracting and retaining talent organisations need to take note of what is important to their current and future people. With four-day work week trials showing success in the UK, and the rise of inflation and cost of living crisis, employee demands are changing.

If you’re wondering whether your organisation tackles the issues that matter to your people, the first question to ask is, can you identify what those issues are? Does the organisation have policies in place to tackle the issues?

How will proposed plans around your ways of working benefit your team, industry, or other areas of the organisation such as profit, productivity or staff retention? It’s time to ask the questions.

What will the future workplace look like?

One thing is certain; the workplace of the future will look different to our predictions pre-pandemic. If you had asked leaders if they would be working entirely remotely for a year in 2019, I don’t think many would have thought it possible.

Creating the right culture, based on a wider purpose over profits, could be the key to a successful future workplace. By understanding what matters to their people, leaders will see that flexible working is a small part of what people want from an employer.

Image: Helena Lopes/Unsplash