By Larry Oberly
As the COVID-19 vaccine continues to roll out and we begin to lean forward from pandemic life, workers are starting to return to the office. According to Big Four consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, by July 2021, 75 percent of managers anticipate at least half of their employees will return to their desks. This compares to 61 percent of staff who plan to return to the office at least half of the time by July.
(Note the 14-point delta between management and employee expectations: Many individuals are so enthralled by the work-from-home lifestyle that according to a poll of 1,500 technology professionals from Global Workplace Analytics, “37 percent would take a pay cut of 10 percent if they could work from home.”)
Despite this newfound infatuation with remote work, most people want to be in the office in some capacity. In Envoy and Wakefield Research’s survey, 94 percent of respondents indicated they would like to spend at least one day in the office each week. Periodically connecting with colleagues in person is a highly-coveted benefit. However, it pales in comparison to having a comfortable, bright workspace where employees can be productive. Companies are reinventing workplaces to provide the type of environment employees want to work in.
Curious how important it is to cater to employee’s shifting desires for their office? In a survey by Management Today Magazine, “97 percent of respondents said they regard their workplace as a symbol of whether or not they are valued by their employer.” If a company doesn’t demonstrate its care for its employees, why would they go work at that organization?
The impact of the environment on employee happiness, and therefore productivity, is undeniable. Investments in the physical workspace enable employees to work at their peak performance, which translates into meaningful return-on-investment that pays ongoing dividends. Someone who works a nine-to-five job in a drab, concrete box every day is going to have a vastly different outlook than an individual who is surrounded by large colorful graphics, inspirational visuals and positive messaging.
Seeing a heartwarming, insightful image does more than simply provide some eye candy, it can shift a worker’s overall perception of their company, their office and their job. A study by Oxford University’s Business School shows that workers are 13 percent more productive when happy. Not only can these improvements strengthen company culture, but they can also bolster business success.
The impact of neglecting the office environment is illustrated by research results from the Gallup Organization. It found that disengaged workers had 37 percent higher absenteeism, 49 percent more accidents and 60 percent more errors and defects. In organizations with low employee engagement scores, they experienced 18 percent lower productivity, 16 percent lower profitability, 37 percent lower job growth and 65 percent lower share price over time.
One way to create a new vibe in the office is with graphics. From inspiring visuals and experiential branding to practical benefits, the ability for graphics to transform the workplace is limitless. A partnership with SpeedPro can optimize an office’s appeal in a customized, vibrant and cost-effective way by applying graphics and architectural finishes quickly and easily.
Here are some ways that workers are expecting their office to change, from commercial real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle Incorporated (JLL):
- Nearly half of respondents said they hope their office will prioritize socialization spaces, such as coffee areas, lounges, or terraces.
- As other experts have predicted with the post-pandemic rise of hybrid arrangements, workers may choose to use their remote work days for solo focused work, meanwhile, employers may dedicate their office buildings to gathering spaces for teamwork, collaboration and companywide networking events.
- Approximately 44 percent of workers also said having ample space dedicated to focus work, like concentration pods or phone booths, would boost their in-office experience.
Giving employees a voice in the design of the space they inhabit is one way to engage with workers. In addition to welcoming employee input, creating a collaboratively designed space enables people to grow and evolve. By investing in removable wall coverings, management can integrate a new form of functionality through touches like writable or magnetic surfaces. Wayfinding graphics and similar tools can help new employees assimilate the new workplace and navigate it faster. To increase privacy and create distinct focus areas, consider how window applications and imagery can provide separation, without completely isolating employees. Large-format graphics set the tone to achieve a particular mood or colorfully distinguish gathering areas from the rest of the office.
It will be a hard transition for some to leave the comforts of home, which means management has to put even more thought and effort into developing a space as inviting as a family room. Welcoming employees back to the office is a priority for companies in the coming months as the pandemic subsides, especially in order to compete with the offices that will remain remote permanently.
Wall graphics with positive messaging, practical value, and employee input can become the embodiment of a company’s culture. Such tools can create an atmosphere that influences the emotions and mood of a business’s most valuable asset: its people. Foster an environment in which people are excited to walk in every day. Don’t settle for workers dragging themselves into the office once a week. Craft a workspace that invigorates employees and nurtures a resolute and gratifying culture.
Larry Oberly is President and CEO of SpeedPro. With over 120 locations nationwide, Larry is responsible for setting the vision of the company, growing existing studio sales and profits, and awarding and supporting new studios. He is also a guest lecturer at the University of Colorado and Georgetown University and is a member of the Entrepreneurship Advisory Board of University of Colorado-Denver, IFA International Committee and Convention Committee.