Office Redesign and Employee Engagement: What to Expect When Your Business’s Doors Reopen


Your office will look—and operate—differently when you return.                                                                                                   

Carter Liebscher|
May 13, 2020

Businesses are certainly eager to reopen their doors and (at least attempt to) return to business as usual, but the evidence paints a different future, one where offices won’t look the same as they did before.

The shift to remote work was, of course, necessary, and many organizations—including those that before weren’t entirely sold on WFH—have seen the benefits and may keep such policies active indefinitely.

Nonetheless, there will be employees who will need to come back to the office to perform their roles effectively, and the physical space will need to accommodate our new working styles.

Here are some possible your ways your office might look and operate differently when you return, including policies that your management team should implement that will help foster collaboration between employees and departments.

Physical (and metaphorical) transparency

While our desks will likely be moved apart, the physical distance will be compensated by more open spaces that attempt to maintain collaboration.

One idea that’s been presented is installing glass partitions between cubicles. It has twofold benefits: It allows the space to remain open and visible while, of course, limiting airflow and other contact between employees. They will also help employees communicate vocally with their teammates and observe their body language, reducing stress and improving both the literal and more immaterial meanings to the word transparency.

Regardless of how long our current health crisis lasts, this is a long-term plan that could curb the overall number of sick days employees take annually. It is, however, a costly plan that benefits only the small number of people who need a shared space to do their jobs.

Digital, efficient customer service

All employees have had to get used to communicating digitally with their peers. Others, specifically frontline employees, have also had to interact with customers through digital means (while maintaining an empathetic tone, even if customer outreach is down). While there’s something to be said about face-to-face interactions, organizations will have to pick and choose which interactions with certain customers are necessary for in-person meetings and which can be done virtually for the sake of safety and logistics.

While we’ve all joked about the occasional hiccups when teleconferencing (“Can you hear me?”), there is a sense of urgency and efficiency when holding virtual meetings. There’s less time spent making small talk, figuring out venues and seating, and, of course, commuting.

Gainsight, a customer success company, writes that organizations can also simply hold more virtual meetings in a day than in-person ones:

If you’re used to mostly face-to-face meetings, you may be happy with even just one client meeting per day. Experts in the virtual model might meet six clients per day. The lack of planes, trains, automobiles, and lobby sign-ins gives you back hours every day and week. Use that time to go deeper with your clients.

“10 Tips for Operating a Virtual Customer Success Organization,” Nick Mehta, Gainsight

One industry where digital customer service is most utilized and innovative is health care, where telemedicine is seeing lasting benefits. (At least if the health system is innovation minded.) Sixty-two percent of patients have the quality of telehealth care was the same as in-person, 21% saying it was even better.

Regardless of your industry, customers are increasingly interested in virtual experiences—. By offering digital customer service, you gain an edge over your competitors that are unable to meet under circumstances other than “normal.”

Encouraging employee input to address issues in real-time

The fast transition to digital work at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis was a feat for IT and management teams, from implementing virtual platforms to updating security policies to introducing new meeting types and styles.

This transition has, in a lot of ways, set a precedent for how organizations will address issues in the future. Perhaps not on as large of a scale, but recognizing how valuable employee insight has benefits at all times.

Your employees drive change within your organization. A platform that allows them to voice their opinions and for management to act on them allows your organization to thrive, even under stressful circumstances.

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