Five new employee expectations for the post-COVID government workplace

A recent surge in remote work has transformed the way government employees think about their workplace

A government office is no longer a place to sit at a desk trying to block out the background noise while balancing deadlines and constituent priorities.

The pandemic has shown government workers there’s an alternative – one that gives people the freedom to work in different spaces according to their needs and preferences. And now many don’t want to go back to the one-size-fits-all approach that was so common before.

The pandemic has hastened the realization that work is not somewhere you go, but something you do,” says Bob Hunt, Managing Director, Public Institutions, JLL. “The workforce is empowered by technology and looking for organizations to support their wellbeing even more. As the workforce asks for accelerated change, organizations need to reinvent themselves with the workforce front of mind.”

Many sectors from local, state and federal governments to financial services and tech are now moving towards more hybrid work models incorporating homes, offices and other remote locations. They’re redesigning their spaces and strategies to put people first and provide a better workplace experience.

“We’re entering into the golden age of the worker,” says Lee Daniels, Head of Workforce and Workplace Consulting at JLL. “We’re starting to see traditional work and workstyles move away from the office and the evolution of the workplace into a people-centric environment.”

So what do today’s government employees now expect?

1. There’s no need to be in the office five days a week from 9am – 6pm

With video conferencing and digital collaboration tools, many people can work from anywhere. JLL research shows employees want to work remotely 2.4 days a week once the pandemic ends – double the previous norm. Having a better work/life balance is now considered more important than a comfortable salary for many workers – especially meaningful given the financial pressure facing most government agencies.

What’s more, 71 percent say they’re expecting more flexible work schedules. For government leaders, it requires a mind shift in traditional people management, looking beyond presenteeism to new ways of keeping employees engaged and productive in their mission to enhance services while preserving tax dollars.

2. Workspaces should enable flexible workstyles

Flexible working requires more flexible space, so space is becoming more versatile inside government offices. As typical workdays involve various tasks from group meetings to private conversations to answering urgent emails, not all are easy to do in crowded offices where meeting rooms are in short supply. Workplaces are instead being transformed into different areas for collaboration, private work or relaxation and furnished accordingly. For example, shared conference rooms, focus areas and employee lounges can give staff a chance to change location depending on the task at hand.

3. Spending time in the office is also a social experience to connect with colleagues face-to-face

Many people like coming into the office to see their colleagues. In hybrid models, government offices will be the spaces where people interact, whether in group meetings or informal chats, with more focused work done at home. Organizations are increasingly introducing spaces and amenities to encourage interaction, such as breakout coffee areas. Indeed, some 49 percent of employees are expecting social spaces to boost their experience in the office, JLL found.

4. Inadequate equipment or poor Wi-Fi connections just don’t cut it

As the workplace becomes more digital, shared documents are stored on the cloud and more communication takes place on team collaboration software, weak internet signals and geriatric hardware are going to hit productivity and frustrate time-poor employees. And with hybrid models coming into play, that applies to equipment used at home as well as in the office. Indeed, 75 percent of employees are expecting their employer to support their work at home, JLL research shows.

“Investing in technology is a non-negotiable,” says Daniels. “Organizations need to have a digital first mindset as technology will be the dominant enabler of solutions that enhance the performance and productivity of both workers and the workplace.”

5. Health and wellbeing matters – and government leaders need to support them

Healthy workplaces are a priority – and employees expect their offices to be safe both in terms of air quality and cleanliness but also social distancing. Around one in three employees expect less density and some physical separation in the workplace, according to JLL.

Equally, organizations must show how they’re supporting employees in the workplace through the amenities and services they offer, whether it’s free health check-ups, flexible work hours or relaxation rooms.

“Now more than ever, the health and wellbeing of the workforce are paramount to fulfilling shared objectives,” says Hunt.