As pandemic-related health and safety concerns at work decreased and the desire for human contact grows, employers are taking stock of the effectiveness of their ways of working and investing time in the workplace plan for 2022. Read the article to explore the key insights from WorkTech 21.

For companies who have been surfing employee sentiment for almost two years, a real need to lead expectations has arrived. To help businesses navigate what has been referred to as "The Great Return", events like WORKTECH, which bring innovative ideas and inspiration about the future of the workplace, have played a crucial role. 

We were delighted to be at Worktech, amongst innovators at the forefront of workplace transformation discussing how to design a future-proof workplace. Here are the key insights from the event:

 

Hybrid workplace experience: A new reality

smart hybrid working spaces

Employee expectations are shifting. After more than 18 months navigating new social and professional norms from home, on site or from a third place, employees are taking control of their working practices and putting flexibility at the top of their priorities.

We’ve moved from traditional allocated desk, to the elastic workplace, to fit the demands of a frictionless and activity-based environment. At Sodexo, we are seeing a significant reduction in expected office floorspace and corresponding OPEX reduction. Our focus has therefore turned to the deployment of smart working technologies that could look at space utilisation by hour and even predict employee burn out.

Another rising trend is the consumerisation of workplace. People in the workforce—more than half of whom are now millennials—look for an employment experience that empowers them to make at least some of their own choices about tasks and goals. To retain talent, there is a need for embrace a growth mindset as the line between employees and consumers are blurring.

Meanwhile, the world is experiencing a reshuffle. Our research reveals that flexibility holds the key to attracting and retaining workers. This is key insight for businesses as they look for new ways to incentivise their staff and sidestep the Great Resignation, which has seen millions of people leave their posts already in search of better opportunities.

 

Stop the workforce divorce

One of the main reasons behind the Great Resignation is a lack of employer support. According to our research, two out of three employers say that maintaining employee morale has been a challenge during the pandemic and 79% of businesses have reported a surge in employee requests for mental health support

The mental health crisis, coupled with the rising feeling of disconnection from company culture and their team, makes it more important than ever to look at well-being in the workplace. However, only 44% of the employees surveyed claimed their employers have done nothing to support them.

After early indications regarding good productivity and contentment working from home, employees are now expressing their detachment from company culture and never-ending demands resulting in engagement challenges.

Companies are now considering how to motivate employees to return to the office, to avoid losing their culture and to encourage “watercooler moments” which is a key components of workplace connectedness. However, employers know they cannot force people to come back. Instead, they need to provide a strong incentive to create some excitement and interest in the return to the workplace. 

 

Embracing change: 6 steps to a successful return to workReturn to work guide

As businesses across the UK and Ireland prepare to welcome back employees, employers are questioning how they can successfully create a safe, smooth and flexible return to work, for all.

Download our guide to uncover how to achieve a greater balance in the workplace.

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Recognising that these dramatic shifts were in the making, Sodexo developed a new 'ecosystem-led' approach to services called Vital Spaces. Vital Spaces is designed to provide team leaders the tools and understanding to enhance workplaces with the right components to make talent attraction easier through an engaging and appealing workplace experience.

 

Create flagship office experience

Smart employers are now starting to appreciate that the key to retention is to apply a 'consumer experience lens' to their workplace. But what should this include?

According to BrandZ’s global consumer survey, companies need to facilitate and provide human connection, care and joy, opportunities to learn and grow, and magical moments of serendipity. All are essential to retain top talent.

employee in the office

To achieve these, food and office design have been shown to be key enablers. Sodexo’s latest Harris Tracker shows that food will play a pivotal role in contributing to that overall experience and feeling of being valued, with 51% of employees surveyed listing a subsidised meal as key employer benefit.

Companies need strategic approaches like Food Connection, which offers food outlets that reward employees with premium dining experiences from the likes of Good Eating Company. Leading technology and media companies are increasingly engaging agile central production kitchens like Fooditude who are the pioneer of delivered-in catering, all within flexible dining spaces, that encourage those much-needed casual collisions.

Somewhat surprisingly, space and design matters and 36% of employees listed workplace design as a top reason to switch jobs. Now that the purpose and function of an office has changed, the design must match new hybrid working behaviours. By doing so they can create an employee experience that meets demand and flexes for varied usage, delivering a frictionless environment offering a choice of zones for varied, activity-based experiences.

 

Efficient change management

In the post pandemic era, a selection of workplace obstacles have come to the forefront.

  • The unbalanced use of workplace resources, such as over-scheduled meeting rooms and unused lockers or lunch dining areas, has raised concerns.
  • Digital equality has also become a paramount consideration to connect employees, as it is a significant pain point, with some people at home and others in the office joining the same meeting.
  • Energy usage and how workplaces can track emissions in a hybrid working world has resurfaced as a key concern. Employees might no longer be making their carbon-intensive commutes, but many of their ‘saved’ emissions are simply shifting from the office to the home. Firms, meanwhile, are having to respond by turning to sustainable energy initiatives that allow them to report those dispersed emissions accurately – and reduce them where they can.

To successfully embrace the new reality and to retain talent, companies need to future-proof their workplace strategy and embrace and implement efficient change management. With this in mind, Sodexo has worked extensively on ecosystem service solutions to revolutionise workplaces and practices that are also technology enabled.

 

The solution

In the hybrid working era, is office dead? On contrary, we’re seeing the Renaissance of the workplace. We believe that the office will continue to thrive, but radically changed and in the meantime will likely shrink in size, but become a higher-quality, better-located, experiential and sustainable hub, that employees will love to progress within.

At Sodexo, we have worked extensively on our services to support new workplace strategies and practices that are technology enabled. Here are a few examples on how we help businesses transform their workplaces:

  • Workplace Strategy – assisted by consumer experience experts, Wx Solutions, Sodexo can deep dive into your current employee journeys and dig into their pain points and how we can address them together and create a space that optimises your footprint.
  • Workplace Design – partnering with design experts, TSK, Sodexo brings strategies to life through a full or partial redesign of your workplace to meet those new employee needs. We have repurposed thousands of underutilised square feet for clients since the pandemic.
  • Workplace Management - everything you need to keep your space working as it should. Whether this is Sodexo’s new cleaning solutions that provide assurances to your returning workforce to our expertise in asset management. We make sure your space just works how it was designed to.
  • Workplace Services - from a revolutionised reception to food at work. Through Sodexo’s partnerships such as VPOD, Ricoh and Dynamify (hyperlink) - we put digital at the heart of employee experiences. So that their interaction with the workplace is simple, easy to use and creates value for them. Sodexo’s WasteWatch Program (hyperlink) has also saved clients almost 50% of food loss.
  • Tech & Analytics - using the latest in IoT technology and Sodexo’s KPI dashboards in collaboration with partners such as WX Solutions, we constantly review your workplace and offer insights and advice on how to further develop and optimise it based on working patterns and more importantly your employee need.

 

Learn more about how to successfuly plan a future-proof workplace.

Learn More

 

November 26, 2021