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Marberry: Are people the new amenity in the healthcare office workplace?

Image courtesy of 30551488 / Office Staff © Rido | Dreamstime.com

By Sara Marberry — A few weeks ago I read a fascinating article by HOK’s Director of Workplace Kay Sargent in which she said that creating great spaces with lots of amenities isn’t the key to getting people back to the office. Instead, the workplace must be repositioned as a “destination that enhances how people work and enables people to reconnect, rebuild social capital and benefit from being together.”

Given that, are people the new amenity in the healthcare office workplace, as Kay suggests?

Of course, we all know that people aren’t amenities, so this metaphor may be heard for some of you to embrace. And I could argue that for those hospitals and health systems that haven’t paid much attention to creating great spaces with lots of amenities for administrative staff, the healthcare office workplace is the new amenity.

You know, kind of like the old “if you build it, they will come” mentality. That’s what Corporate America has done for years.

But it’s likely that most issues facing today’s workplace weren’t created by the pandemic. It just made them worse.

So, re-thinking the healthcare office workplace to focus on making connections and building relationships isn’t a bad idea.

Healthcare office workplace facing the same struggles

No doubt, hospitals and health system leaders are facing the same struggles as other companies with getting administrative staff back into the office. During the pandemic, people got used to working at home. They liked the flexibility. The casual-ness.

But, as Kay pointed out, many remote workers felt isolated and disconnected. And company leaders worry about the “erosion of social capital and company culture” and teams becoming more siloed.

Breaking down the silos in healthcare organizations has always been a challenge for those planning and designing facilities — especially large projects. That’s because there are so many groups within healthcare organizations that should provide input before decisions are made. But they don’t always get to because of those darn silos.

While bringing people back into the healthcare office workplace won’t solve the silo issue on its own (no pun intended), it can’t hurt.

Rich diversity of experiences needed

Former Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria wrote in the Wall St. Journal last year that he thinks the post-pandemic office should be a clubhouse.

Because its primary purpose is no longer to get actual work done, but rather bring people together to foster personal relationships, develop and integrate new employees, generate ideas, and build company culture. We don’t need offices and desks for that, he argued.

I’m not sure that hospital and health system leaders can embrace the idea of the office as a clubhouse, but it’s an interesting concept, isn’t it?

In Gensler’s 2022 workplace survey, employees said that having a rich diversity of experiences would be an incentive to work in the office more often. Not surprisingly, younger generations prefer a coffee shop/hospitality mix of experiences, while older generations prefer a more corporate experience.

Visit Sara Marberry’s Blog for this article and more reflections on healthcare design.

See also Marberry’s “Things I’m Looking Forward to in 2023,” which includes research and reports from 2022 pertaining to the healthcare and senior living design industry.