Fitness centers. Meditation rooms. Pool tables. Only a decade ago, luxury office amenities like these were nearly unheard of or only offered at the most progressive tech companies. Many employers seeking to remain relevant and attract top talent took notice and adapted their workplace designs to incorporate unique services and experiential offerings for their employees. Now, the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted another evaluation of how to best attract and serve employees who have become adjusted to working from home and other remote locations.
The pandemic has revealed that some work can be accomplished in more places than just traditional office space. As a result, employers are searching for ways to motivate staff to return to the office and connect with each other and their organizations. Amenities like hazard pay, in-house meals and medical services, child care, outdoor walking paths, and improved technology are encouraging employees to return to the office in the short term. Employers are also seeking experiential long-term motivators for post-pandemic office life, including team brainstorming hubs, casual cafés and relaxation areas to provide an atmosphere for creativity and collaboration on site.
“For several years, we’ve been seeing retailers expand into this experiential space,” explained Shawn Stoneburner of Cushman & Wakefield Commercial Property Southwest Florida. “Now, employers are taking that cue and are trying to provide unique experiences at the office. As companies reassess their space needs for the post-COVID future, employee amenities need to be part of the total equation.”
Many companies have the luxury of planning these perks from the ground up. NeoGenomics’ new headquarters in Southwest Florida, for example, will consist of a three-story office building, a two-story laboratory building, and other support structures totaling 150,000 square feet. Also included in the design are a courtyard, an outdoor dining area, a fitness path, cafés on every floor, and team spaces to encourage collaboration once it is safe to gather.
However, creating a great workplace experience can be challenging. With five generations now in the American workforce, employees have widely varying tastes and expectations. Employee insights are essential to determine appropriate amenities. Workers need to share their needs, wants, preferences and current challenges, so employers can create meaningful experiences. After surveying employees, employers nationwide have started offering out-of-the-box amenities like personal errand-running and on-site childcare facilities.
Amenities should also mesh with an organization’s corporate culture. For example, many companies have made employee wellness a strategic priority. Those organizations can provide fitness centers or walking paths to aid in physical well-being, and relaxation areas or meditation rooms to promote emotional well-being. This emphasis on employee wellness also includes safety considerations with the pandemic in mind.
“A great example in our area is Scottlynn USA, who is focusing on health and wellness as it builds a new headquarters,” says Stoneburner. “Their plans include a walking path, fitness centers, and even a basketball court on premises. And they’re still adapting. When the coronavirus pandemic started, they improved their plans to add a new air filtration system.”
Producing a creative and inviting living space was vital in the design process for Seagate Development Group, the developer for both Scotlynn and Neogenomics, whose new headquarters opened earlier this year. “Seagate paid attention to aesthetics to help promote creativity in its team,” says Stoneburner. “In addition to amenities like coffee bars, lounge areas, and collaborative workspaces, they also made the facility warm and inviting with an outdoor balcony and floor-to-ceiling windows.”
As employers manage through the pandemic and work towards a post-COVID future, the way we look at our workplaces will certainly change. Encouraging interactivity, wellness and comfort will be high priorities for those who hope to retain their staff. Well-researched and strategic investments in these amenities today will pay dividends in terms of a more engaged workforce in the future.