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July 24, 2023 Expert’s Corner

Return-to-workplace strategies: If you build it, will they come?

PHOTOS | CONTRIBUTED According to The S/L/A/M Collaborative, using glass finishes in the workplace can communicate the value of transparency in company operations, which in turn can influence employee engagement.

People have changed over the last few years, as have their needs and expectations regarding the workplace.

The average worker has become more introverted and less tolerant of noise, interruptions and other distractions — the consequences of performing work in physical isolation from their teams and co-workers.

There is a need more than ever to take a step back before developing a workplace design. Employers must clearly understand today’s worker, what they want out of their workday, and their point of view.

Companies with the most successful outcomes have involved their employees in the design process dialogue and integrated a variety of engagement strategies to draw them back to the workplace.

The hybrid workplace is a long-term reality, and employees are making choices based on what is a better place to work on a given day — home or office.

Reuniting with teammates and colleagues remains the No. 1 reason employees come to the workplace. The physical workplace must appeal to, attract and engage staff.

Understanding individual perspectives, bringing people together, and building community are more important than ever.

The physical workplace is just one aspect of the overall workplace experience.

To attract and engage staff, the physical workplace must appeal to employees’ desire to reunite with colleagues and build community, according to The S/L/A/M Collaborative.

A progressive employee experience model integrates workplace design with other factors that make a difference to the individual worker: talent management, career planning and mentorship.

These elements signify a company’s level of commitment to the individual; impact how a staff member feels about the company; and influence an employee’s level of productivity and personal commitment.

Careful attention to these components can provide a meaningful, powerful, integrated engagement strategy resulting in a positive effect on business performance.

Talent management

Companies that focus on ways to keep employees fulfilled and emphasize having a positive impact on the lives of their workers will reap the benefits.

The development of an employee-centric talent management process, with the goals of recruiting and retaining the best talent, will help an organization achieve its goals.

Talent management can help drive a consistent employee experience that encourages people to stay with the company.

Career planning

Career planning provides a roadmap to help employees stay focused and motivated.

A career plan is crucial for every staff member to become successful in their professional life.

When a company contributes to thoughtful planning and execution, the message it sends to an employee and their value to the organization can greatly increase employee engagement.


A learning culture in an organization helps employees stay committed to improve their skills and build valued, trusted relationships in the workplace.

These relationships encourage workers to be present and engaged, and to take advantage of the learning opportunities, support and encouragement in their personal development.

There is a hesitancy to invest in the physical workplace for many organizations without confidence that current employee expectations are here to stay.

Investing the time and effort to understand today’s worker and overlay a robust engagement strategy to enhance the overall workplace experience will provide a greater value and return.

Terri Finucane is chairman and national corporate market lead for The S/L/A/M Collaborative (SLAM), a national design firm based in Glastonbury.

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