If you are reading this, there is a good chance you have a place of work outside of the home, and I am going to speculate you have spent more than a few minutes during lockdown pondering over what it might look like in the post-Coronavirus new normal.
You might have seen speculative images of individual desks with metre high plastic shields around them, directional pedestrian lanes, standing-only meeting spaces with “standing spots” 2m apart, designated individual waiting points at communal areas…
Safe they may be. Conducive to creating a dynamic, happy, healthy and therefore productive team environment? Possibly not. And we haven’t even got into handshaking or elbow bumping or one-in-one-out lift policies.
As a former Director of Workplace Services (Facilities Management in old money) for a national retailer, who was responsible for implementing one of the largest agile workspaces in the UK, I don’t mind mind telling you this breaks my heart. I spent three long years of my life working with design and engineering teams to create an award winning open plan, agile, BREEAM outstanding workplace with the vision of community at its heart.
Workplaces are communities like any other. Some are better than others. But they are all communities of people working together for a common purpose – whether it is profit driven, not-for-profit driven, in the private or public sector.
And community is one of the things which keeps a business alive and prospering. It is why lone workers seek social media groups to hang out in, or attend breakfast meetings like the Celtic Community group.
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller
And why the water cooler chat is so important to your organisational culture; it’s where strong connections between employees are formed. People have informal water cooler chats at close quarters about topics other than work – sports, kids, hobbies, holidays and this matters. Because a relationship based on shared interests, deeper insights into personalities, enables a better understanding of the people we work with. How many people would be happy sharing their kids’ potty training story or their plans for the weekend from a distance of 2 metres? 2 metres is quite far when you want a private chit chat.
The Maslow Hierarchy of Needs
This notion of Community brings me onto The 5 Levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is one of the best-known theories of motivation. According to human psychologist Abraham Maslow, our actions are motivated in order to achieve certain needs.
Picture a pyramid with the following headers in ascending order:
- Physiological (e.g. food, shelter, sleep)
- Safety (e.g. job, resources, personal security)
- Social Needs (friendship, family, social groups…..and yes you’ve guessed it, community).
- Esteem (e.g. status, recognition)
- Self-actualisation (desire to be the most one can be)
So as we can see, Community is slap bang in the middle of this pyramid. The physiological and safety needs are covered through the perspex and pedestrian walkways but when it gets to Social Needs, ergo community, things get a bit more challenging.
Why does it matter? Simply put, Maslow argued that the failure to have needs met at various stages of the hierarchy could lead to illness, particularly psychiatric illness or mental health issues.
Good mental health at work and good management go hand in hand and there is strong evidence that workplaces with high levels of mental wellbeing are more productive. Addressing wellbeing at work increases productivity by as much as 12%.
And productivity and profit aside, as businesses we have a responsibility to do the right thing.
What can be done?
Getting support on the Health & Safety aspects of the Covid-19 secure workplace is also a must, and I’d invite any H&S providers out there to comment with their details in this blog on how they can help.
In addition, just a few weeks ago I had a Zoom with a group of workplace experts on the topic of how to deliver a community oriented workplace whilst maintaining safeguards.
Facilitated by Intrisic the group included a Wrexham based design team and based on this discussion and previous experience, I know North Wales has some great workspace design companies who would be delighted to work with a business to collaborate on how they may create a workspace which addresses the Community aspect of the post-Covid workplace. If that is your company, please drop your details in the comments below.
Kate Morris-Bates | InsideOut Wellness Ltd. | 07927 895415 | firstname.lastname@example.org