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Building a Thriving, Adaptable Post-Pandemic Work Environment
By Jessica Bauer

Building a thriving, adaptable post-pandemic work environment

As a health care leader, we want our 70,000 team members to have a healthy lifestyle and enjoy work-life balance. Before the pandemic, boundaries between work and home were fairly clear for most team members. However, working from home tends to blur professional and personal boundaries. The same technology that enables constant connection with work 24/7, can become problematic for some. The pandemic encouraged us to set personal parameters and ask ourselves: When should I shut the laptop down and stop checking my cell phone?

Seeking elusive work-life balance
Advocate Aurora team members are encouraged to remain committed to their jobs, while balancing their responsibilities at home. The goal is to find creative ways to do both well. Having an adaptable work environment helps. Everyone’s personal priorities are different. This might mean blocking off time once a week to coach a child’s sports team or driving an elderly parent to a medical appointment. We all need to find ways to ensure our own work-life balance.

Advocate Aurora is exploring new options
Some team members may look forward to returning to the office, because they miss the ability to socialize and collaborate with others. Others might plan to return to the workplace, but don’t anticipate spending five days a week in their former office setting. Those who live a great distance from work may want to minimize a long commute to free up more of their time.

Throughout the pandemic Advocate Aurora leaders learned that thousands of non-clinical team members don’t need a permanent office location to be productive. Our organization is currently developing policies on flexible workspace options. This will likely include a “hybrid” approach, where appropriate team members can split time between home and an office setting (perhaps spending 60% of their time remotely and 40% in the office).

We are also exploring the option of office “hoteling” — an emerging workplace strategy that HR leaders may be familiar with. The hoteling concept is built upon the cornerstone of flexibility. It effectively supports hybrid working arrangements by eliminating permanently assigned seating in a workspace.

Similar to a hotel reservation, employees book workspace online – reserving an available desk or entire office – for a specific day or period of time. When team members are finished in that area (and it is cleaned and disinfected), other employees can utilize that same space. Having an online system to monitor use of communal spaces can reduce office density and maintain physical distancing as more employees return to the workplace.

Why is hoteling a rising trend? It allows for optimal office space utilization while accommodating team collaboration when needed. This strategy can potentially lessen the amount of office space needed by an organization. It makes financial sense to reduce the number of permanently assigned cubicles or offices for team members who will spend a significant amount of time working remotely.

Flexibility + adaptability = employee engagement
Many companies, including Advocate Aurora, are adopting a more flexible post-pandemic approach to office life. The pandemic taught us that no matter where we work, our team members are adaptable. They have successfully mastered the technology needed to work remotely. They want to feel engaged and have the organizational support needed to be productive — in any location they might find themselves working.

Advocate Aurora believes fostering a flexible workplace will be a key driver in attracting new talent and improving retention and employee engagement. An adaptable, nimble work environment can help us realize our vision of helping everyone — including our own team members — live well.

Jessica Bauer serves Advocate Aurora Health as president of the Central Wisconsin Patient Service Area.

 
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