In October, JLL, a global commercial real estate services firm, surveyed more than 2,000 office workers across multiple industries in 10 countries, analyzing how workplace priorities are shifting during the pandemic.
“The results uncovered a renewed focus on quality of life,” says Raymond Hall, head of HR, Americas at JLL, a division that oversees 32,000 employees. “There was a growing importance for human connection.”
Despite that, 72% of the respondents wanted the option to continue working from home after the pandemic ends. Another 50% preferred a hybrid working arrangement, while 24% hoped to work exclusively in the office.
Likewise, employees rated achieving work/life balance higher (72%) than securing a comfortable, post-pandemic salary (69%), he says.
The survey also addressed the impact of the pandemic on diversity and inclusion efforts. Historically, Hall says, diverse workers belonged to less secure personal networks when compared to non-diverse employees. According to the survey’s results, the pandemic has made it more difficult for diverse employees to connect, collaborate and socialize with peers.
The first tool for HR? “To help mitigate this [problem], we’ve been able to effectively leverage our business resource groups to help keep people connected and engaged,” Hall says, adding that such groups plan fun and meaningful activities ranging from virtual happy hours to periodic wellness checks on co-workers. “We established a new business resource group for working caregivers who share problems they’re facing and best practices.”
The second tool for HR? The pandemic’s impact has also been “very individual,” he says, explaining that HR leaders may need to strengthen their employee listening skills in order to implement policies or practices related to how and where people want to work.
In May, JLL created a marketing campaign called “Step Forward,” which removed much of the guesswork for employees about what their office would look like when they returned. The idea was that re-entry begins with a single step. The company developed and then posted a video on its website—a virtual walk-through of its corporate office—that featured everything from socially distanced workspaces to actual employees meeting in a conference room. Hall says it helps workers realistically visualize the physical office space and assure them that there will still be safe places for them to connect and innovate.
Meanwhile, he says, the survey reinforced commonly held beliefs among the HR community.
And the third way HR can help? “Flexibility is key,” says Hall. “We’re seeing more flexible work schedules to accommodate employees’ personal obligations. Workspaces will also be re-imagined as we emerge from this pandemic.”