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Catalysts Shaping the Post-Pandemic Workplace

Catalysts Shaping the Post-Pandemic Workplace

While vaccinations for COVID-19 are now rolling out amidst the persistent pandemic, we are beginning to hear hopeful conversations and see more reports about a “return to normal.”

While this is indeed encouraging, there seems to be an overwhelming consensus that the “normal” we return to will not be the same normal we experienced pre-pandemic. What does that mean then for the workplace?

We know humans have an innate desire to connect and socialize with one another. Having been distanced from others for the last 10 months, many are craving interaction with others at work and in other social settings. Some workers though have embraced working from home and wish to continue to do so moving forward. Some companies have already returned to work in some capacity, while some are planning for a full return to the office post-pandemic or considering a hybrid workforce. Even still, some companies are predicting a completely remote operation in their future. With the post-pandemic workplace still in flux, it is important to understand why the workplace itself is so important. Here we explore four catalysts that will ultimately draw people back to the workplace and give shape to the new workplace normal.

Workplace for Culture
“Culture is a powerful element that shapes your work enjoyment, your work relationships and your work processes. But culture is something that you cannot actually see, except through its physical manifestations in your workplace”1

While organizations are striving to maintain workplace culture through a virtual, work from home environment, ultimately, culture will thrive best in a physical space where people can engage face-to-face.  The impromptu “water cooler” moments that allow for connections among staff cannot yet be replicated by technology, despite our best efforts. In a thriving workplace culture, people enjoy engaging with their coworkers and will enjoy this benefit as they return to the office.  In addition, a company’s workplace culture plays a huge role in attracting new staff and retaining the best talent.

Workplace for Collaboration
Keeping employees engaged is part of workplace culture, but collaboration is key to maintaining that engagement. Collaboration drives energy and brings a liveliness into the workplace. While there are some organizations that are touting better collaboration in a web-based platform, there are still many that consider in-person collaboration to be highly valued for their businesses to be most effective and productive. As we continue to evaluate how the future office will look different from the past, collaboration will play a big role. The workplace will respond to the need for various types of spaces where people can work as teams, engage in training or interact with clients, and less to a dedicated desk space as they can work on focused tasks remotely.  Of course, maintaining employee health and wellness will be paramount to a successful collaborative environment. While large in-person gatherings, such as all-staff meetings, may be a thing of the past for now, many companies are proving that collaboration in small groups can be done safely through creative space planning.

Workplace for Creativity
Creativity within an organization can be both the creativity of individuals and the collective creativity of the organization as a whole. Bringing people together can boost creativity of both kinds.  Making space for collaboration fuels opportunities for brainstorming sessions and chance encounters that encourage creative ideas to flourish. Referred to as “creative combustion” by JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, having people in the office working side by side, bouncing ideas off each other and coming up with innovative ways to address problems creates a serendipity that cannot be found in a virtual space.2

As long as employee wellbeing is a priority and people feel comfortable, being in the workplace and engaging with coworkers can inspire creativity and innovation, which ultimately drives business success.

Workplace for Community
In a time of uncertainty, injustice and a pandemic, coming together in support of community can be powerful. Community can include many different groups, and each of us engage with these various communities in a given day, week or month.  Our workplaces are one of those communities. Returning to the office will reignite the support among coworkers as a community. We have all done our best to keep a sense of community through a virtual platform but, as a society, we crave the opportunity to actually BE together.  As we return to work and support other businesses who are our neighbors, colleagues and clients, we are excited to see that feeling of community return as we are together, in person once again.

2 AP article, “When Everybody’s Working at Home and the Magic is Gone” https://www.npr.org/2020/09/24/916211900/as-more-americans-work-from-home-some-ceos-reopen-offices-to-find-that-missing-s