Purpose not perks: the new era for workplace culture

The way we think about office space has changed. We’re at a pivotal point in the hybrid work conversation, and although it feels like we’ve been here before (which year is it?), this feels like the moment the narrative shifts for good.

With many now comfortable working remotely and enjoying the changes they’ve been able to make to their work-life balance, businesses have been tasked with proving the value of the office as they seek the answer to ‘what’s in it for me?’

The most productive, happy, and committed employees are continuously found to be the ones living their purpose at work and, with the great office return in full swing, that search for purpose has never been greater.

One thing’s for sure – workplace culture is under the microscope. If businesses want to create an organisation that supports this type of work, they need to communicate their what and why clearly from the outset.

Here’s how purpose, not perks, can lead the return-to-office. 

Productivity and collaboration

Although productivity was one of the silver linings for businesses when adapting to the initial challenges of remote work. Immediate goals were set and tasks defined to ease the transition. But the novelty wore off, and the need for collaboration and creativity outweighed the benefits of “focus” away from office distractions.

We’ve already started to see that people are feeling disconnected after such a long period spent away from colleagues, and we’re left with a sea of resignations as the search for a greater purpose to work begins.

Building a productive team relies on creating the right environment for people to do all kinds of work. For growing businesses, particularly at an early stage, having highly effective collaborative meetings and building a creative problem-solving culture is key to driving results.

Kitt's latest report on workplace happiness and wellbeing suggests that companies should invest in these interactions above all others, and ensure that when people come together they feel connected, productive and part of something bigger than themselves.

There is nothing worse than commuting to the office to sit on Zoom calls all day…

Read the full report

Purpose-driven space

Your space, your team, and the way they work within that space should align with your overall mission - what you do, and for who.

For example, creative, client-led businesses create attractive, brand-driven offices to bring people together to collaborate, and because their service relies on this. It’s what underpins their mission.

Others may use it as a showcase - to bring clients to a place that demonstrates exactly what they can do.

On the other hand, a development-led software-solutions company might focus on a remote set-up because its business needs and mission are different. The bottom line here is clarity on your what and why.

Be clear on what the office offers that the remote set-up cannot, and be clear on why that’s of value to your team.

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A new way of thinking about perks

According to McKinsey, 70% of employees now demand purposeful work. The pandemic has given people time to reassess their career, their lives, and what matters most to them. That’s why purpose now trumps perks as a culture priority.

It’s even valued above pay, with 9 out of 10 saying they’d be willing to accept a salary cut to find more meaningful work. 

This isn’t to say there’s no place for perks; the right ones can support culture, and underpin purpose. Perks, however great they may be, will be short-lived if they’re not grounded in something deeper. 

A team lunch, for example, is a great perk (who doesn’t want free food?) but also brings people together and opens up the space for collaboration, socialising, and those all-important in-person connections.

Make perks collaborative and inclusive - the more connected people feel to the wider mission, and understand how that applies directly to their role, the more they’ll engage. 

The road ahead

The overall success of your business is dependent on multiple facets. There are many benefits to remote work which the pandemic has shown, and your team may always perform better at home for certain tasks.

Likewise, the office environment invites new opportunities and challenges which are far harder to replicate at home. You need to harness both.

If you can get clear on your purpose - the reason you exist, and therefore, why people want to work for you - you’ll have your answer when asked ‘what’s in it for me?’ 

You can see our Office Policy here.

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