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Workspace Wednesday: Taking Employee Experience Seriously

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Someone using a tablet for employee engagement
Image: ink drop - stock.adobe.com
Without video conferencing and team collaboration apps, many businesses wouldn't be surviving the COVID-19 work-from-home (WFH) situation. But these come with a flip side. WFH employees are experiencing great levels of fatigue and burnout, as well as loss of motivation, by the sudden switch to being virtual, all the time. Employee experience and workplace wellness have become such major concerns that they’ve brought renewed attention from technology companies like Microsoft.
 
At Microsoft Ignite this week, Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, painted the employee experience in stark terms, stating that 30% of knowledge and first-line workers are feeling burnout because of COVID-19 and working from home, Beth Schultz reported in her latest WorkSpace Connect post. Nadella followed up the sentiment by sharing what Microsoft is doing around wellness. He introduced a new “virtual commute” feature that provides employees with “cognitive breathers” at the beginning and of the day, available for Microsoft Teams next year, and announced a Teams integration for Headspace, a wellness app.
 
But Microsoft and Headspace aren’t alone in trying to address wellness and employee experience concerns in the enterprise. Other wellness software providers include CoreHealth and Snowfly, and many others also provide ways for enterprises to track and improve employee wellness. Some app providers are even going as far as to help tackle sensitive workplace issues, like harassment or diversity gaps, that increase stress and hamper positive experiences. In a recent WorkSpace Connect article, I explored how companies like Speakfully are providing teams with a way to track discrimination, while companies like Blendoor and Applied are being used to reduce bias in reviewing job applicants.
 
Ensuring a positive employee experience goes beyond technology though; it comes down to the spaces themselves. Earlier this week on WorkSpace Connect, Schultz explored WELL v2, the latest standards from the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), which provides guidelines for ways to optimize health and well-being through building/office design and procedures. IWBI has seen nearly 3,500 projects registered for its WELL v1 and v2 certification, which touches on everything from air and water quality to effective light and community spaces.
 
The other component of ensuring that employees feel safe and productive comes down to HR. As IT departments wrestle with the logistic of making sure everyone has remote access and the tools to continue with WFH into the indefinite future, for many in HR, the old way of thinking about remote work has quickly become obsolete. So, throw out the HR rulebook on remote work, WorkSpace Connect and No Jitter associate editor Dana Casielles suggested in an article last week.
 
While many top enterprises value a range of different working styles, COVID-19 really served as a "gut-check" for sustainable consulting firm EcoAmmo, Casielles wrote. Andrea Pelland, operations manager at EcoAmmo, expressed how workers embraced different hours while working from home and adjusting to these hours proved challenging to the organization.
 
Wellness apps, office design, HR policies… these are all crucial elements to ensure a positive employee experience. And Casielles's article reminds us that these aren’t simply “nice to haves” anymore. As she shared from Amy Rosen, a social-spatial designer at PLASTARC, “It’s like the happiness and the engagement and the feeling of being listened to correlates to this direct return on investment.” So, maybe it’s time to start taking the phrase “employee experience is the new customer experience,” to heart.

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