If they have to leave home, employees want top-notch office spaces
Over two years ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) sent out a Covid alert and advised quarantine mandate, requiring employers to scramble and shift toward remote work. The lengthy pandemic tested the global workforce to its core, changing people’s collective views about working from home, homeschooling, separating work from home life, burnout, the need for social interaction, company culture, feelings of isolation, and mental health awareness, as well as the total value of engagement, collaboration, teamwork, face-to-face human interaction, and what all this means for innovation.
The modern workplace is evolving—a trend only accelerated by the pandemic. As a part of this evolution, employers are turning to psychologists to help retool their workplace environments and develop strategies based on empirical data and researched-based evidence to attract, recruit, and retain a globalized workforce.
The American Psychological Association (APA) says workplace innovations spurred by the global pandemic have only begun. The following year proved to be a mixed bag for many people working from home in 2020. While one-third of employees and half of the employers surveyed by the APA reported higher productivity due to remote work, “concurrent isolation, loneliness, and work-life issues” took a significant toll. And ask most employers—they’ll admit that culture and collaboration struggled tremendously.
Charles Calderwood, Ph.D., directs the Work Stress and Recovery Lab at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. He told the APA that another problem is how to foster the sort of connections and hallway conversations that percolate in the office. He says those informal interactions not only knit a workforce closer but can lead to new insights.
Calderwood says that pandemic life has illustrated how running from video call to video call is a poor substitute. “There’s not much chance for small talk. Many perfect ideas come out of that small talk that people have more casually.” For this reason, Calderwood believes that the “death of the office space is a little overrated.”
“Psychology Drives New Office Designs,” authored by Selby Frame for the APA, is a farewell to massive, open-plan workspaces. Instead, Frame says, “Those designing offices now describe thoughtfully contained, well-ventilated configurations, such as pods or living-room type lounges…There will be increased space between workstations, more hands-free technology, and emphasis on creating outdoor spaces such as green roofs, patios, atriums—or even just windows that open.”
It’s been more than a year since we’ve been working in isolation at home, and if it’s taught us anything, “it is that we are profoundly emotionally affected by our physical surroundings,” Frame writes.
Innovate and collaborate
Because employees have proven that they can work from home, companies have flocked to more excellent office buildings to entice their employees to come back. Why would you want to leave your house and spend the day in a run-down office instead?
John S. Petersen, EVP of Colliers, says the trend is returning to the office. “People need to be together to learn, understand, and communicate,” he says, and if your company is not doing that, you’re behind. He knows that’s a bold statement, but that’s the narrative—people are going back to the office and are excited to return. “How do you create a culture when you can’t be together?” Petersen says.
So how are employers luring employees back? Petersen says Utah’s top office parks and spaces include open ceilings to the grid, K-13 noise reduction applications, polished concrete flooring, open breakrooms, and full glass-front offices and conference rooms.
“One and two-person portable huddle rooms provide privacy for conference calls and personal calls. Spaces have evolved from very traditional law office looks to very tech-oriented openness with natural light penetrating the core of the premises,” Petersen says. Amenities include full on-site fitness facilities with private showers and lockers, secured bike storage, and common areas with barbeques, sports courts, and play areas when children visit.”
Thanksgiving Park and Thanksgiving Station in Lehi, Utah, have changed their current second-generation spaces with total renovation bringing these spaces into the light, bright modern buildouts that tenants desire, Petersen says. In addition, all new shell buildouts are designed with the same modern flair that entices tenants looking for the high-end tech buildout with lots of natural light for employee morale.
Listen to your workforce
Lora Munson, EVP at Colliers International, has this advice for companies trying to create an office space employees want to be in: Don’t design your space in a silo. Elicit input from each function of your business. She says the type of space executives think their employees need varies significantly from their workforce’s needs.
“Ultimately, I think companies need to focus on the culture of their companies alongside their physical facilities. If you don’t like who you work with, there is no amount of on-site gaming that will make you want to come in and see them,” Munson says.
And what does a top-notch, fun workspace look like nowadays? Munson says she’s seeing more hoteling of space and the addition of lounge areas, gyms, and game rooms, which coincides with the APA’s findings.
According to the APA, “Workplaces might encompass office, home, coffee shops, and nature—an interconnected set of settings that support productivity depending on a person’s work style and the tasks they need to complete daily.”
Petersen’s advice to companies looking to create top-notch workplaces for attracting and retaining top talent is to look for spaces with natural light, limit the size of executive offices, and create an environment where teams and groups can gather for conversation—ultimately creating culture and innovation.
Utah has no shortage of quality space. As companies pick up pre- and post-pandemic growth plans, Utah has the real estate backbone business fundamentals to house some of the highest-class office headquarters in the world.