Using Innovation to Promote Workplace Culture in a Post-COVID Environment

This article is originally from Trade and Industry Development Magazine, written by Kayla Stallard, January 2023.

Just three years ago, American offices were full of cubicles and coffee grounds, and the concept of “remote work” was a rarity. But the coronavirus pandemic has now transformed workplaces, and workplace culture in ways Americans scarcely would have imagined. Competitive labor markets have pushed employers to see their people as an amenity – a key resource for success – while the pandemic has led many workers to adopt and continue new hybrid ways of carrying on their roles.

The last three years have provided numerous insights, which workplace strategists, architects and interior designers have used to help lead the transformation of space. Companies benefit from these key lessons about creating safer, healthier offices that promote a strong workplace culture to attract and retain talent. It’s a powerful, quantifiable phenomenon when an employee walks into a space and thinks, “This was made for me, with my well-being in mind.”

O.C. Tanner, a maker of software for helping employees feel more connected to their companies, has conducted robust research on workplace culture. Tanner has found that personalized employee experience makes workers 19 times more likely to feel fulfilled. Further, the firm’s research shows fulfillment among employees leads to better retention (+43 percent), higher satisfaction (+40 percent), less burnout (-38 percent), and higher quality work (+20 percent). Fulfilled workers are likely to stay an average of three years longer than unfulfilled employees.

But companies must make concerted, strategic efforts to communicate well with employees and to show that management cares, especially when workers want flexibility of hours and location. Attracting and retaining talent means accommodating those needs and asking employees what they want to personalize spaces to suit them.

A few ways in which companies can use innovation to promote workplace culture include:

Promoting Intentionality, Engagement and Personalization

Creating an effective workplace culture today takes intentionality in polling, planning, goal setting and workplace design. Tech and data-driven approaches help firms enhance corporate culture through space. Companies can also leverage analytics and data for dynamic insights about activity-based configurations and use strategies to resize or repurpose spaces for labs or offices.

Making Space an Asset, not an Afterthought

The same strategic thinking goes for increasing productivity via space choices. A larger space could be reinvented into a smaller reconfigurable “smart lab,” an adaptable plug-and-play space, or could be converted into an integrated, immersive digital environment. In other words, firms must make space an asset, not an afterthought.

Managing Flexibly to Promote Culture

Promoting an organization’s workplace culture goes well beyond office interiors. Create spaces that lead to serendipitous moments like employees running into each other at a cafe or a coffee bar to unite a workplace. Seeking to create equity in a space? Among other methods are the strategic use of office assignments and space sizes. Equity can also be evident across digital and physical platforms by designing with the latest tech, including high-quality mics and cameras.

Embracing Hybrid and High-Tech

Slack Technologies’ recent pandemic survey of 10,000 knowledge workers found that 72 percent of workers were not happy with their level of flexibility, whether time or location, and they planned to seek a new work opportunity in the next year. Employee surveys and townhalls can be especially helpful to gauge what policies are working and how different spaces dedicated to various activities and work behaviors are being used. All sorts of tech spaces can be considered, with a long list of vendors available to facilitate virtual collaboration.

Reinventing the Office Without Razing It

Strong leaders recognize the utility of innovation, agile thinking and innovative practices like mixing collaboration and community spaces with the more intimate project and seclusion areas. The best workplace strategists, designers and architects help clients create modality and duality of purpose in planning space. They can simulate space configurations and introduce new and innovative practices.

Overall, the utility and need for office space is ever-evolving; what works for one company won’t necessarily work for another. The workplace is now ground zero for a dynamic new experience that creates a powerful first impression. Smart space decisions unlock value for companies by creating efficiencies and improving employee experience to reduce attrition and increase productivity. The companies that accelerate such efforts are the firms that won’t be left behind.