6 Ways to Make Your Office More Human
Like many California businesses, we’re anticipating our return to the office. And our internal COVID 19 Task force has been busy with research and planning.
We’ve evaluated technology to enable all our teams including communications, space reservations, mapping and usage applications. We’re designing new traffic flows and furniture layouts, schedule protocols and signage to support the physical distancing that will be required in our workplace. And throughout all this ‘return to the office’ planning, we’ve been thinking about our people. How will they feel? What can we do to keep them safe and connected? Are there ways we can help reduce stress?
Six themes emerged from our planning we feel would make working in the post shelter in place office more human, and we’ve shared these with all our team leaders.
Nothing is more human-centered than making employee health and safety the top priority. New safety protocols should include both standard and emergency guidelines. With each clear and simple instruction for a new workplace behavior, explain the WHY behind it to answer employee questions and relieve some of their worries. Example: What happens when an employee becomes ill in the workplace? What steps do we follow in what order? Consider a firmwide ‘comments + questions’ process to open the door to communications; let people express concerns and know others may feel the same way.
When communicating with employees and teams on CDC recommended cleaning techniques and company cleaning protocols, make it simple, clear and connected to company values. We’re all in this together. Imagine how employees will FEEL seeing the signs and reading the content. Example: Create graphics that ‘flag’ when a workstation or space has been used. This can help empower people to feel they’re contributing to a better, healthier environment. It can also increase safety and alleviate wasted time for our cleaning staff, allowing them to focus on the areas impacted most.
Design for the Senses
Introduce multisensory elements to better connect people to place and to offer unconscious comfort. When all our senses are engaged in positive ways, our stress is lowered. Example: consider the scent of citrus, a natural fragrance which evokes cleanliness, and music or ambient sound to help to enliven a quiet, perhaps lonelier workplace experience.
Fill the Voids
Relocate ancillary furniture, plants, and accessories to spaces now unoccupied. This helps fill the physical and psychological void from less people in the office. Wellbeing Note: Plants can reduce stress, create the calming connection to nature, and improve cognition.
While physical safety is the top priority, we also want to design for mental health and safety. If employees don’t feel safe in the workplace, they can’t be fully present. Creating mindfulness spaces with visual privacy elements to encourage meditation, mini getaway breaks or breathing exercises, will let your team know their mental wellbeing is being considered and is important to your organization.
In areas of the workplace that feel particularly empty, introduce personalized or branded graphics to increase connection. Example: inspirational quotes, song lyrics missing words to “fill in the blank”, or even a prompt to make a journal entry.
A big hurdle in returning to the office is how to keep team members connected to company purpose as well as to those WFH. Example: Playing games together vitually - share baby photos to guess “Who’s Who?” or home photos to guess “Whose House?”, or other whole team activities that connect to culture, can continue the efforts initiated during Shelter in Place. Continuity is comforting, and all efforts to build whole team connections reduce the dreaded fear of missing out.
Ultimately, we’re all adjusting to whatever the future brings, and we’ll learn more as time goes by. But if we can share some of our experience and research with you, please reach out. We think about this every day.