Can you remember the last time you were really excited to go somewhere? We have a lot of that pent-up energy right now as we all begin to reschedule vacations we canceled over the last several months. Vacations are an “easy out” when thinking about a place we are truly excited to go, but what other destinations excite us? Maybe restaurants, coffee shops, the mall, but what about a hardware store or the grocery store, the dentist … what about the office?
“How do we inspire and motivate our workforce to actually want to come to the office?” This is the number one question we are researching right now. The answer is incredibly complex and unique to each organization. And there can also be a straightforward answer to this question (I will give you a hint) that has nothing to do with things and everything to do with people.
A few of us at DORIS were talking about this question and laughing because our office right now is pretty shabby. It’s so shabby, in fact, that we are in the process of moving to new digs—but shabby or not, we all convene in the office several times a week.
Our office and its physical items do matter—they help us do our jobs more effectively—but that is not what motivates us to come in. Our true motivation is knowing we will see our colleagues. What inspires us to come in is us!
And we are not alone in this thought process; everyone seems to know this inherently. We see it in our data all the time. When asked what people miss about being in the office, we hear, “I miss seeing my friends at work,” or “I miss grabbing coffee with a colleague to have an impromptu chat.” People certainly don’t say, “I sure do miss that 64-inch monolithic panel divider at my desk separating me from the person next to me—that really inspired me.” (Note sarcasm.)
To the leaders reading this, contemplate how your office might now be a tool supporting your workers in doing their best work instead of a container to hold them. Consider how and, more important, why they will convene. Of course, there are considerations of space allocation: Do you downsize individual space and add collaboration space? What else might be important? How might you budget to fly team members in to be together? Could you deepen their experiences with things like special snacks or other amenities?
We know it’s complex, so we will keep our ears open for additional ways people are inspired to come to the office. For now, our best advice is to stick with the basics. Figure out how to encourage people to coordinate with their colleagues to come in on the same days. Once they get there, the real fun begins: determining how to uncover new challenges and truly build the workplace of the future.•
Julka is founder of Indianapolis-based DORIS Research, which uses design thinking to organize workspaces.