Industry Insights: Leesman – What’s your workplace why?
Leesman is the world leader in measuring and analysing the experiences of employees in their places of work.
We interview Tim Oldman, Leesman’s Founder and CEO, to capture his thoughts on how to rebuild a post-pandemic workplace.
The past 18 months has changed the way most people view the workplace. How has Leesman responded and adapted to this global shift?
In February/March last year, our Asian clients asked us to help measure the experience of employees who would be mobilised to work from home.
Our technology, research and insights teams managed to do about six months’ worth of research and development in about six weeks. By the time those clients were fully home-based, we had tools in the marketplace that could help in the crisis response phase.
Our response to the crisis was to mobilise the new toolset, and through using it, we sit on the world’s largest set of data of employees’ home working experience. To date, we’ve had around 225,000 respondents to the homeworking survey.
Right now, we don’t want to look too far in the rear-view mirror because that’s when you risk crashing into the obstacle in front. The challenge and opportunity now is to use data to inform the design of a future work landscape.
What headline trends are you seeing?
I suppose one of the most shocking trends we’ve seen is that, on average, the home is supporting employees better than the office. The majority of people can work from home more effectively than they could work from their offices pre-pandemic. That’s a pretty shocking indictment of the quality of most corporate workplaces, pre-pandemic.
The ‘traditional office’ that many saw as sufficient before wasn’t even fit for purpose in terms of understanding what the modern knowledge worker does in the corporate setting.
The majority of people can work from home more effectively than they could work from their offices pre-pandemic.
That neatly leads into the next question, which is, what do you think the new purpose of the office is?
The purpose of the office is to allow employees to be outstanding in their role. And it’s no more complex than that.
HR teams invest huge sums in attracting and managing talent but that same investment isn’t given to real estate teams to create space that is beautifully in tune with what those employees need. The differentiator shouldn’t be what it looks and feels like, but how it works.
So, how do you use data to curate a space that employees want to come to?
If you think of people in terms of square metres and design around that, it’s a risky path to go down. You’ll be left with a space that may or may not be fit for purpose. I think we’ve got to go back and reverse the equation so that it’s more about the user experience.
If you think of a museum, the curator is designing an exhibition that needs to appeal to multiple audiences. Kids, academics, members of the general public. The appeal of the exhibition is to get people in and viewing the exhibits. We need to approach offices in the same way. How do you curate the day so that it’s worth the effort of attending?
We need to focus on the employee experience. If you design the infrastructure around that person and the experience that they’re looking for when they come to an office, you’re off to a great start.
What do you think will be the biggest challenges in driving people back to the office?
I think we’ve got some challenges around the cost and time of commuting. People are going to be questioning why they need to travel for an hour when they’ve demonstrated that they can do the job effectively from home in eight hours. Why would they want to bolt on an extra hour either end of the day? But we need to be careful that organisations don’t adopt a ‘me-first’ focus.
What I hope to see is employers setting out to build a workplace that’s so amazing they don’t have to worry about those debates.
Employees can choose to work for any organisation, from any location. ‘Place’ becomes a part of that talent retention strategy. It’s not just about salary now.
I think by approaching it with the view that everybody is hybrid.
It’s not ‘home versus office’. It’s about creating a blended system of space. Even if an employee is office-first, there could be 10 or 15 days a year when they work from home because the organisation permits it. I think what we’re going to have to do is just accept that there is no home or office. Everywhere is blended.
What should organisations do before designing their new workplace strategy?
They need to know their ‘why’.
For example, if you’re finding that junior team members aren’t learning or developing as fast as you’d like, then you might want to create a space that encourages senior members of the team to come in and run training sessions.
When you know what you need, you can start to design a space to support that.
If you’re basing your design on trends or what competitors are doing, that’s not a ‘why workplace answer’. It’s important for organisations to sort out the root cause of the problem before they start tempting employees with free pizza and chill-out spaces.
Based on the data you’re seeing, is there any key advice you’d give to organisations looking to create a better work experience?
The data tells us that if you ask an employee post-pandemic how many days per week they would prefer to be in the office, the answer all comes down to the attractiveness of the experience they’ll get from that destination.
Out of all of the dynamics that we measure, the most robust indicator of post-pandemic preference is the quality of the workplace experience.
If you have an average, or below average, experience, an employee will typically commit to one day a week. If it’s an office that provides an outstanding experience, an employee will typically commit to four days a week or more. With that in mind, I would encourage businesses to be braver.
Many organisations mothballed their offices and have done absolutely nothing to those spaces during the pandemic. Now they’re asking employees to come back on a staggered basis. We have to remember that those employees have invested their own time, space and money in facilitating working from home. The world now has their own biggest benchmark – their homes.
I urge organisations to reciprocate with the same enthusiasm and actually create a space that people want to come back to. To start finding new solutions for a new time.
Workplace [R]Evolution: Issue 3
With many organisations now viewing hybrid working as a competitive advantage, it’s more important than ever to engage with people, to guide workplace decisions.
In this third issue of the Workplace [R]Evolution, we’re bringing you the latest data, exploring how to lead with employee experience and sharing the latest examples of hybrid workplaces.