The COVID-19 pandemic has radically transformed the way we live and work, accelerating long-term workforce trends for many businesses over the past year – from the new era of digital everything we’ve been catapulted into, to the unprecedented shift towards home working and flexible practices that we’re now so familiar with.

Throughout the pandemic, businesses across the world have needed to really pivot and adapt, and now consider what changes may be here to stay in the post-pandemic ‘new normal’.

Like all companies, Nespresso quickly implemented changes to its workplace practices in response to the outbreak this time last year and continued to adjust as the situation evolved. The first of these was the move to remote working, which brought both new opportunities and challenges for our business and teams.

Flexible working has always played an important role in our ethos. This way of working can boost staff motivation and increase productivity, as well as help employees to balance life and work and flourish in their roles. It’s also crucial however that teams can communicate effectively and stay connected, especially while working remotely longer-term.

Research we conducted with OnePoll, found that 78 per cent of people need to interact with colleagues ‘face-to-face’ to develop a good working relationship, while 74 per cent agree that having a meaningful relationship with colleagues is important to delivering quality work. This made our investment in video conferencing technology, such as Microsoft Teams, and other digital tools incredibly important for colleagues to ‘meet’ and collaborate day-to-day.

We’ve also worked hard to foster social interactions, which is often what people miss most about the office. We’ve adopted shorter, quick-burst meetings and included fun activities within these where possible. We increased our use of social platforms such as Workplace by Facebook to spark exchanges between colleagues and hosted monthly all-employee calls to maintain a sense of community. We’re also hosting virtual events, such as coffee masterclasses and conferences, creating new shared experiences which help to lift people’s spirits and maintain motivation.

At the same time, many people are feeling video call fatigue, which is particularly draining for more introverted colleagues, so we’ve encouraged our teams to take regular breaks from calls, including adding a daily designated ‘commute’ and ‘lunch’ time into everyone’s diary to be respected as ‘meeting free’ times. In addition, we’ve provided flexibility for employees to work independently or collaboratively as needed.

Nespresso has also adopted different approaches to support staff emotionally. A key challenge of long-term remote working is the potential for employees to feel isolated or disconnected from their colleagues, so mental health support is a top priority. As such, we’ve invested in training volunteers across the business to become Mental Health First Aiders, partnering with MIND to provide online resources and training, and providing a free subscription to Headspace, an application focused on meditation that encourages mindfulness throughout the day.

A series of virtual resilience workshops to help people cope with the dramatic changes we’ve all been experiencing throughout the pandemic have been really well-received. Our staff orders of Nespresso coffee have also continued throughout lockdown, encouraging teams to still enjoy quality coffee breaks and personal time to disconnect from work during the day. We’ve also supported our business customers in bringing the same experience to their employees.

To ensure we remain focused on looking ahead, we recently conducted research into what the future of work looks like as part of a Post-Pandemic Workplace report, which is shaping our plans for 2021 and beyond.

The study revealed that employee expectations have shifted drastically over the past year – 30 per cent of UK employees are keen to continue working from home and 78 per cent of UK employees would be more attracted to a company based on the quality of their work-from-home package, for example. However, over a third (35 per cent) of UK employees want to return to the office if the conditions are right.

And while many see the future of the office space as vital for socialising and creative thinking, a similar number believe the office will be a mixed-space building used by the whole community, or an environment centered around food and coffee stations. Others envision a space that will enable remote teams to hot desk together.

To meet the new expectations of a divided post COVID-19 workforce, flexibility will be key, and Nespresso is reviewing how its workspaces and practices will flex and change to suit the variety of working styles that different people need to thrive in their roles. We see our future workplace strategy as a hybrid approach, offering employees the opportunity to work from home some of the time, as well as the choice to come into the office or a third space to work, connect and socialise on a regular basis.

Another key focus for business will be catering for new employee requirements – from premium amenities and dynamic spaces, to health and wellbeing initiatives and flexible locations. Our research shows that 53 per cent of employees expect employers to pay for new technology, and 80 per cent are interested in premium coffee solutions as part of a remote working package, for example.

It is clear that remote working is here to stay, however, this alone won’t attract and retain top talent in future. Whether teams continue to work remotely, return to the office or a co-working space, or all three, providing quality employee experiences will be crucial in 2021. All businesses, including our own, will need to define and offer a new thriving workplace experience for a post-COVID world.