'Office peacocking' | The new workplace trend getting staff back to the office

The new workplace trend getting staff back to the office
The new workplace trend getting staff back to the office

In today’s candidate market, flexibility is one of the best benefits you can offer to keep yourself as a competitive employer.

However, for many businesses, flexibility just isn’t a viable long-term option. And so, mandating that staff return to the office has become a necessary evil – especially because staff are increasingly disengaging from work or leaving their job altogether in search of a more flexible role.

One way businesses are attempting to offset the consequences of their return-to-office mandate, is through a new trend dubbed ‘office peacocking’ whereby in a bid to get staff back to the office, employers are revamping their office interior to something more homely and attractive.

But ‘office peacocking’ isn’t only about getting employees back to the office with plush interiors, it’s about redefining what an office space can be.

Office innovation

Work as we knew it was redefined over the pandemic with remote work – and there’s no reason why the way we work in office spaces today can’t also experience a burst of innovation, especially considering employees are reluctant to go back in.

Employers may be wise to consider some of the factors that make working from home so beneficial to staff – they get to wear their comfy clothes, they have access to their favourite coffee and teas, and they can sit on their comfy sofa during their lunch break.

The return-to-office movement is in full swing, and as the professional world infiltrated the private homes of staff over the pandemic, perhaps now it’s time for our homely lives to invade office spaces.

“Creating an environment that is beautiful and energetically feels right undoubtedly has a positive impact on how we feel about being in the workplace,” says Claire Renée Thomas, who is a mindset coach and founder of Reaching My Best. “This is equally true whether we are working from home or in the office. A cramped space in a corner that is overrun with objects is going to make our minds distracted and encourage procrastination as we put off working in favour of tidying or getting to admin, whereas an office interior with plants, comfy places to relax and engage with others, will help with motivation.”

Read more from us

These comfortable environments can be recreated in a corporate setting. And the element of individualism associated with it leads to staff feeling as though their work environment is personalised to themselves.

Yet, no amount of personalisation in an office space environment will make coming back into the office compelling if staff aren’t aligned with your company culture, or if another benefit would be more enticing but is being ignored.

Renée Thomas continues: “Just as beauty can only be skin deep, so can an office environment. If an employee’s values are not aligned with those of their employer, or if the company culture doesn’t resonate, no amount of peacocking will make a difference. This is because whether employees can articulate it or not, they will never feel able to bring their authentic selves into the workplace. The key to getting employees back into the office is to create a compelling reason for them to be there. And the secret to knowing what this is, is to promote clear communication in all directions so everyone feels heard.”

Despite this, ‘office peacocking’ fails to recognise some of the reasons why many employees want more flexibility – which goes far beyond having a comfortable workspace. This includes having more time for childcare, not having to commute in busy rush hours, and having a better work-life balance. Not to mention the benefits associated with equality and DEI flexibility brings.

“The ongoing battle to force employees to return to the office has seen leaders use both stick and carrot, but the attempt to use plush interiors seems the most obviously doomed to fail,” says Natasha Kearslake, Director of HR consultancy Organic P&O Solutions.

“A tired workplace might become more appealing with new wallpapers and comfy chairs, but it’s never going to compete with an employee’s own home. Too many employers don’t seem to understand that employees value the flexibility and work-life balance created by remote working – not the quality of upholstery.

“The success of any return-to-the-office mandate hinges on addressing the underlying reasons why employees prefer remote work, such as eliminating long commutes, achieving better work-life integration, and increased productivity.

“Employees are likely to view ‘peacocking’ as mere window dressing if the core advantages of remote work are not taken into account.”

Clearly, ‘office peacocking’ has both pros and cons. If employers are investing more money into their office spaces to make them more comfortable for returning employees, then this is certainly a good thing. However, it may indicate a lack of awareness around the most pressing benefits associated with flexibility and the real reasons why staff want this. Only when employers recognise this can they adequately address it.

You are currently previewing this article.

This is the last preview available to you for the next 30 days.

To access more news, features, columns and opinions every day, create a free myGrapevine account.