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Retaining employees might be hard now, but it's not impossible

In the past two years, workers have become more vocal about their needs, offering firms a good opportunity to rethink the workspace

In the pandemic era, more employees are actively voicing their concerns and issues when it comes to bad working conditions.
In the pandemic era, more employees are actively voicing their concerns and issues when it comes to bad working conditions. (iStock)

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In the prime of the pandemic, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans published a book called Designing Your Work Life: How To Thrive And Change And Find Happiness At Work. The book’s premise revolved around how one is the designer of their life and job, and with design thinking, how one can make it much better. In the past two years, our relationship with workspaces has evolved, with flexibility and more “me” time taking the central role. With return to work, employees are first focusing on their priorities and if they don’t match their expectations, employees are willing to quit the organisation.

Also read: How to manage the changing dynamic of workplace stress

The worldwide phenomenon of “The Great Resignation” has certainly highlighted that employees are now more than ever looking at factors beyond compensations to find their employer of choice. This unprecedented churn has largely been fuelled by burnouts, and factors like workplace infrastructure, outdated policies, and low morale among employees.

These high attrition rates, however, are an essential building block for companies to redesign their model and emerge as more employee-centric.

In other words, it is important for companies to take a step back, zoom out and revamp the idea of a workplace.

Make it more collaborative

Workspaces define the work culture of a company and thus, the wellbeing of an employee. While every business and their way of functioning is different, organisations with remote staff faced the same challenges during the pandemic. The past two years of virtual communication were mentally challenging for employees as well as for employers as there was no real-life connect with the overall team. But, as physical workspaces are back to life, employees are craving for an increasingly “vibrant” work environment. Therefore, the modern workspaces aren’t confined to a four-wall setting with doors, pillars or cubicles. An office space with open floor plan makes it easier for the employees to interact with one another, allowing them to meet people outside of their department, broadening their horizons and building a culture of inclusivity, especially for Gen Z workers who have only recently joined the workforce.

In fact, adding elements like common workspaces, meeting rooms and cafeterias gives employees more places to engage beyond work, building a happy and efficient office community.

Build employee centricity

As a result of the Great Resignation, more employees are actively voicing their concerns and issues when it comes to bad working conditions.

Checking in and checking out, working from a fixed desk, responding to late-night office mails —these are some of the issues modern workers are pointing out as reasons for lack of enthusiasm towards work. Some of the ways companies can show support to employees include offering remote office flexibility, adoption of decentralised/co-working space model, mental health counselling, and more listening to the employee than talking.

Besides this, there are two aspects companies often don’t pay too much attention to: hygiene and safety. More organisations need to invest in technology to keep their employees safe. Think automated attendance scanners, touchless doors, soap dispensers, digitalised ventilators. People want to stay in a company longer if they know they are being cared for.

An aspirational office

In the current situation, the idea of physical offices is no longer limited to a specific floor, building or desks. Companies are looking beyond designated workspaces and focusing on the larger picture, that is, how to design a workspace that can have a direct impact on the daily productivity of the employee.

Modern office spaces encompass both functional and decorative elements, inclusive of indoor-outdoor spaces to provide more space efficiency and create a positive environment for employees.

As India Inc is revolutionising its approach towards workplace design, modern offices are now offering nap or energy pods. Napping on the job, which was once a reason for getting fired, is now actively encouraged for employees to rejuvenate themselves at work.

Given the increasing importance of an aesthetically pleasing work environment, even co-working players are providing the option of customisable interiors to clients, where the flex space can be modified, right from lighting to wall colours and seating plans in accordance with their line of work and preferences. They are also redesigning spaces with a play on flexibility and ergonomics, to better engage in the post-pandemic era.

Going forward, if leaders and organisations want to retain and engage with their staff effectively, they will need to put employee well-being and their changing preferences and demands at the core of every decision.

Also read: Why workplaces need to match technology with work goals

Amit Ramani is the founder-chief executive officer of Awfis.

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