“I just want things to go back to normal.”
Perhaps you have either heard or uttered this phrase yourself during the pandemic. Then, normalcy was something we all craved.
However, now “normal” seems to be (in many cases) upon us. One of those aspects of normal has been the return to the office. The days of a suit jacket and your favourite pyjama pants are long gone as millions of employees across the country are ushered back to the office.
Forward From Normal
While some aspects of this are exciting and long-awaited, I can’t help but think, is normal really better? And if not, what could our new normal really look like?
As we transition “back to normal,” I hope we take full advantage of the office. I hope that it becomes more than just a place to work and that it fills the gaps of loneliness, wellbeing, and mental health struggles that many of us have experienced.
I’m not saying we need to be in the office five days a week, but for the time we spend working in the office, the intentionality behind the connections we build at the office is one of the biggest opportunities I see as we navigate the future of work. After all, the future of work isn’t just about where we work, it is equally about how we feel when we’re working. At the office, we should (read: must) feel that we belong.
Culture is Crucial
Take it from RingCentral, Inc.‘s Connected Culture Report. They study various demographics and factors contributing to healthy workplace environments. Their research found that workplace culture plays a crucial role in overall performance and productivity. On top of that, employees in environments that value connectedness report overall better well-being, including physical (58%) and emotional (55%), compared to organizations that don’t. Yet, despite this, the importance of employee wellbeing has existed as nothing more than a page in an employee handbook.
However, something has shifted. We are at a monumental tipping place in history where the needs and well-being of workers are at the forefront of our corporate conversations and organizational decision-making.
Well, simply put, because we have to.
Organizations are desperate for employees. The US Bureau of Labor Statics reports a labour shortage of approximately 4.4 million. So it’s now on workplaces to convince their employees to stay instead of the other way around when the talent shortage wasn’t as severe as it is today. It may sound obvious, but this is perhaps one of the key ingredients to the return to the office recipe.
Not only that, but according to Global Workplace Analytics, as many as 83% of employees prefer to work from home some of the time. This statistic should remind us of the simple yet profound realization: employees are people each with unique needs and preferred work environments. The sooner workplaces can realize this; the more productive the overall company can be.
The office is more than a building; it’s a space to build and cultivate a sense of trust and belonging. Prioritizing the well-being of our employees is no longer a “nice thing to do”; it’s the only thing to do. When we cultivate an environment that sees people for the people they are, as simple as it sounds, we create a win-win scenario. When our people are happy, we have a healthier (and more productive) workplace.
So, as we return to ‘normal’, let us ask ourselves, “what do we want normal to be?”. And if we want to take it one step further, perhaps we ask how we can continue to make normal even better than it was.Change is difficult- but it’s the only way to create a better future for ourselves and generations to come. So, let us move forward to a future of work guided by the understanding that people are the heart of a company and that the office can be a place where not only great work gets done, but true connections are built and incredible relationships are formed.
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