How to get people back to the office? Know your workers, be hotel-like

Banks are focusing on employees’ specific needs to drive enthusiasm and attendance

Banking organisations facing surplus office space due to employees working from home are focusing on individual workers in a bid to lure their workforces back to big city buildings.

“We’re seeing success when the attention shifts from trying to understand the workspace to understanding the workforce,” says Nathan Sri, head of workplace experience at property advisory firm JLL.

Some banks’ corporate offices have only been achieving 20 to 30 percent occupancy since the pandemic, Sri says.

But as managers grapple with what workers want from the office, honing on worker cohorts is giving them a helpful starting point.

For example, the sector is attracting a new type of recruit to manage increased levels of compliance and regulation surrounding banks.

“Banks are operating in an environment that requires a different breed of individuals. Those working in compliance or regulation functions, dealing with the aftermath of royal banking commission are likely to require dedicated project spaces or secured environments,” Sri says.

“We are listening to workers directly about how often they want to come back to the office, and then planning space and services around their responses.”

Addressing their specific needs is less likely to get the lukewarm reaction that can be expected from a generalised approach, Sri adds.

Experience first

Banks are also adopting a model of hospitality used by hotels, with concierge teams, community managers and experience ambassadors.

“These are people that can really engage workers because making their day seamless and worthwhile, letting them know that’s their purpose, and being accessible is their core objective,” Sri says.

“Very quickly, workers see a tangible focus on the workplace experience and that drives interest, enthusiasm and ultimately, attendance.”

Other roles being created are addressing what Sri calls the ‘productivity and responsiveness’ of an office.

“If people are coming into the office on specific days, they need to be sure all systems are working. If something is broken, there must be a team on call to fix it ASAP, or even better, find the problem before they arrive. Otherwise, these are all barriers to encouraging people back in,” he says.

Team engagement

When attendance begins to pick up, coordination around who is coming in and when is often necessary as face time with colleagues is a significant factor in making time in the office worthwhile.

Encouraging certain teams to attend on specific days, is one approach, with Sri pointing out that clients are designing their offices and workplace services around ‘anchor days’.

“The creation of team days gives employees more impetus to talk to managers and team leaders. It can create camaraderie and a sense of belonging, and it’s the office’s role to support this when they come together,” he says.

Know your value

An employee value proposition should underpin all efforts around hybrid office design and creating optimal worker experiences.

“A value proposition spells out what sets your bank or organisation apart from the others. What makes it unique and why are people proud and motivated to work there,” Sri explains.

“One global bank has looked at its employee value proposition end to end. It has mastered it, and others are following,” he says.

Compiling an employee value proposition should start with HR discussing hybrid office arrangements and work-from-home requirements with employees. That information should then feed through to the workspace and inform the technology staff have access too as well.

“Experience has unequivocally got to be at the centre of how we design, build and operate workspaces in the future,” Sri says.

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