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Big tech companies have called employees back into the office and a survey from Resume Builder shows that 90 per cent of companies plan to implement return-to-office policies by the end of 2024.

At the same time, employees enjoy flexibility and want to prioritize wellness while companies are now seeing employee wellness as a business imperative, not just a nice-to-have.

When you bring these two desires together, you land on the concept of an amenity-first office – a workplace where health and wellness are prioritized and integrated into the office experience. An office that workers – hopefully – actually want to go to.

The rise of the amenity-first office

“We all know this, but people place far more importance on the quality of their office environment than they did prior to the pandemic,” says Brianna Van Der Mark, director of workplace strategy at CBRE, a commercial real estate services and investment company. A recent report from CBRE shows demand for quality office space is increasing and “tenants are prioritizing higher-quality, well-amenitized office buildings in nodes that minimize commute times.”

Ms. Van Der Mark says that because people are used to curating their own experiences at home, companies need to do more to make working at the office more appealing than the other options people are now used to.

She notes that not everyone has a peaceful at-home working scenario. Many people are still working in big cities without much space, or in less-than-ideal circumstances.

She says that what companies are looking to provide isn’t necessarily flashy, but is essential to a healthy in-office experience. These are things like ergonomic chairs, natural light, private meeting rooms, good quality air, outdoor spaces and nearby healthy food and drink options.

Many companies are also prioritizing location, according to their data, choosing locations that are in city centres and close to transit.

Once companies have the right space, Ms. Van Der Mark says companies still need to effectively communicate why the space is valuable to employees.

“Outside of baseline wellness, it’s about defining a purpose of the office that’s actually meaningful to your organization. So for some that might be a collaboration, for others it might be really socializing and cultural building,” she says.

All of this considered, Ms. Van Der Mark says “flexibility is here to stay” and companies need to be thoughtful about how they solve for the challenges they currently face when bringing people back into offices.

Okta Canada’s ‘back-to-better return-to-office approach’

In early October, Dan Kagan, country manager of Okta Canada posted on LinkedIn about the company’s “back-to-better return-to-office approach.”

He outlined how the identity and access management software company had designed a return-to-office approach that encouraged people to genuinely want to come back into the office.

A big part of that strategy was their new office. The downtown Toronto office was designed based on a survey from employees on what they wanted out of a workspace. Two of the biggest points were location – they wanted a space easily accessible to public transit – and more collaborative spaces.

“We sought to create moments of connection; from our communal working spaces to our games room to our family-style lunches, we’ve thoughtfully curated our space to allow for greater sense of community among our team,” Mr. Kagan says.

The office also had a Zen room and flex rooms that employees can use at their discretion.

Okta does not have a fixed mandate for how often employees are expected to come into the office, but and each team has its own needs and expectations.

“We understand that the future of work is hybrid and the office was designed to serve employees with collaboration and connectivity in mind,” Mr. Kagan says.

Okta has seen staff attendance increase 20 per cent in October 2023 in the new office compared to October 2022 in the old office.

What I’m reading around the web

  • What are your talents worth? Pricing consultant Casey Brown says you’re probably worth more than you think. Whether you’re looking to get promoted or work as a freelancer, her TED Talk will give you tips for communicating your value effectively.
  • It’s the holiday season and many people are thinking about what to buy the children in their lives. But, have you considered how to ensure they stay safe while they enjoy their gifts and holiday parties? Here’s a few tips.
  • Interviewing for a new job is always a lot of work and you want to make the best use of your time and the questions you get to ask. This CBC article outlines some key questions to ask, how to determine the company’s take on work-life balance and red flags to look out for when you’re doing research on a prospective company.
  • Every year Google puts out a list of their top search terms around the world. Take a look at the most-searched athletes, movies, games, TV shows and more from your Canadian peers.

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