Before COVID, you might have walked into an office and thought “I would love to work here every day.” If so, you were experiencing an office that was designed to be modern, comfortable, easy to navigate, and hassle free. Simply put, it was a great workplace experience.

Now, it’s a whole new world. Yet a good workplace experience still matters, even if it’s being redefined. Because that experience can still mean the difference between engaged, productive employees, and a company facing turnover and even more disruption.

Did you know: companies that rank high in employee engagement are 21% more productive and have 37% less absenteeism. They also have up to 59% less turnover than their less-engaged counterparts. Although the ultimate cost of employee turnover may be hard to measure, organizations can spend up to 2x the base salary to hire a new person. So every productive, engaged employee you keep is a win for the bottom line. That’s why today, we’ll focus on the workplace experience: what it is, what you need and  and how to reimagine it in a COVID-19 world.

Everything has changed for employees and employers

Despite the pandemic, there’s still competition for strategic talent, especially as the workplace itself is being redefined. Organizations – public and private alike – still need to find new ways to attract and retain their employees.

And as if the pandemic itself wasn’t enough to alter the workplace, another interesting phenomenon is that as digital natives join the workforce, they’re also redefining what it means to be “a great place to work.”

The 3 Ps of workplace re-entry: people, processes and productivity

Yet it’s not just Millennials who have higher expectations these days. Many employees who have successfully worked from home for the past year want to explore new arrangements, like flexible or hybrid working models. When they do come into the office, they need reassurance that their workplace is safe. And they want the same type of frictionless technology experience they have in their homes. If your organization can’t compete on salaries, like government and public-sector, or you’re searching for specialized or hard-to-find employees, then creating a space that addresses the physical and emotional health and well-being of its occupants matters even more.

Getting started: how to create that new experience

So how do you get started? If you’re ready to upgrade your workplace experience, you first have to understand the three components of which it’s comprised: space management, workplace services and user interactions.

Understanding space management

Real Estate is typically the second highest expense for most organizations. With many organizations looking to right-size their portfolios and reduce costs, understanding and optimizing your space has never been so critical. That’s why you need to have an enterprise-wide, easy-to-access view of all your spaces. And it’s not just the cubicles. You need insights into every space you manage, from data centers to cafeterias and everything in between.

You also need to understand the needs of each business unit within your organization. Collaboration is key to knowing how you can optimize your space while helping others meet their objectives, too. For example, have you discussed new working models? Once your facilities reopen, will everyone in each unit need to come into the office every day, or do you have flexible options? What about reconfiguring the space you have? Will you be able to comply with health and safety guidelines? Chances are, that model – whatever it is –  won’t stay static so you’ll need the ability to quickly adjust. Ultimately, you need data that’s both trusted and easy to access to understand how, where and when to best optimize your space.

Delivering the right workplace services

If you’re old enough to remember when there were more offices than cubicles, then you know how much the modern workplace has changed. Now, the services and amenities you offer an employee can be just as important as the actual space someone occupies. But it’s no longer about coffee and snacks.

Now, the right workplace experience is one that focuses on employee health and well-being. That means employees want a safe space – one that’s properly distanced and sanitary. And they want services that make an already-stressful world a little easier to handle. Like meetings. Booking that meeting shouldn’t be the hardest part of someone’s day. Yet, 70% of employees said “finding a place to meet is one of the biggest time wasters for workers”, and report 15 minutes lost per day. Run the numbers on your employees, and you can see how much more productive and profitable it is to make these common tasks easier.

You also need to provide frictionless services using technology like an AI chatbot that employees can access across applications they use daily like their messaging system. AI chatbots can execute everyday tasks – booking meeting rooms, reporting issues, or locating a colleague’s desk – saving your employees time and frustration.

What’s the user experience

Last but certainly not least, a better workplace experience means a better user experience. That means identifying the things that matter most to your employees. Processes that address physical and emotional health – like visible cleaning, easy-to-find hand sanitizing stations, simplified navigation of your facilities and the availability of protective barriers and equipment as needed. The need for these may lessen. But your employees need to see that you’ll put their health first. Then, that lets them confidently bring their talents, skills and innovation back to the workplace. And you’ll also need to offer technology options that simplify those tasks that I mentioned above. So consider offering customizable apps, responsive design and better calendar integration.

The bottom line: improving your bottom line

The bottom line: creating a workplace environment that keeps your employees safe and productive, with options for flexibility and creativity is no longer a “nice to have” – it’s a corporate requirement. It’s also why companies are breaking down the traditional silos and creating a broader set of stakeholders, including real estate, facility management, HR, CIO and COOs. The common goal? Developing a safe, flexible and productive experience for today’s pandemic-stressed workforce.

How you can create a different experience

The workplace may have changed. But organizations that embrace technology and digital transformation are better able to adapt, adjust and prepare for what’s next.

If you need to help in building your case for more budget, read the report from independent research firm, Verdantix, What Is The Case For Investing In Workplace Technology? Based on interviews with experts and industry veterans across a variety of sectors, they found that to succeed in a post-COVID-19 world, it’s time to rethink the office and refresh workplace technology strategies.

Download your copy of the report for trends, suggestions to make your facilities smarter and safer, and a four-step action plan for your organization.

To learn why an Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) is the single source of truth you need, visit our deep dive into the true value of an IWMS.

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