Developing a workplace culture that puts employee wellbeing at its heart

Early on in his career, J. Willard Marriot, founder of the Marriott Hotel chain, was known for turning up late to meetings. The reason? Instead of hurrying to the boardroom, he’d be busy chatting with the housekeepers working in his hotels.

Getting to know them, checking in on their welfare, and asking questions such as: “How is your day going? What’s going well? What needs to be improved upon? Are they feeding you well?”

People first = business first

After all, your people are your most important assets. It’s their effort, energy and ideas that drive your business forward, generate value for customers and shape your brand. Take them away, and what are you left with? Bricks and mortar, no fresh perspectives, and no customer service. If you look after your people, other aspects of your business will look after themselves. You’ll be able to:

  • Attract and retain the best talent
  • Foster loyalty and commitment amongst your team
  • Allow creativity and free thinking to thrive
  • Remote working brought workplace wellbeing to the fore

During the pandemic, employee wellbeing rose to the top of the workplace agenda. People needed support to navigate their way through a global crisis. Companies across the world stepped up and tackled employee welfare in a way that hadn’t been done before.

Shopify gave employees a home office allowance. Culligan Water put in place an employee wellbeing package that included self-care videos and meditation classes. Intel established meeting-free Fridays, to combat online meeting fatigue. But the pandemic did more than just inspire employee wellbeing programs. It kickstarted the conversation around wellbeing at work. Zoom calls in bedrooms and kitchens introduced us to colleagues’ personal lives. It forced many of us to show vulnerability at work; something we’d not done before. It made it okay to be honest about how things were going.

Now, as we transition to a new, hybrid-shaped era, we’re presented with a choice. Do we go back to the way things were? Or do we hold on to this learning and make a people-first culture the norm?

The answer, of course, is the latter.

Hybrid: the ideal foundation for a people first culture

The pandemic has been an accelerator of change. The shackles of the five-day week sat at the same desk came off. No more office hierarchies, non-existent work-life balance, and two-hour commutes. We realized that work could be organized differently. A workplace structure that blends work and life didn’t have to impact productivity and creativity. In fact, it can enhance it.

The post pandemic, hybrid workplace has become more dynamic, flexible and focused on people. The gap between personal and professional life has been bridged. Jobs can now fit into lifestyles, rather than consume them. Collaboration and connection can still happen without making people come into a central office every day of the week. A hybrid office can provide a well-rounded, happy and cohesive workplace experience. It’s the ideal foundation for building a people-first culture.

7 tips to creating a people first organization

If a hybrid setup provides the foundation, what building blocks will help embed a people first culture in your organization?

1. Recognize effort and contribution

According to research by Gallup, workplace recognition motivates, provides a sense of accomplishment and makes employees feel valued for their work. In a people-first organization, contribution can take on a whole new meaning. What else, besides outputs, does a person bring to the organization? A flatter hierarchy gives everybody the opportunity to show up and demonstrate leadership.

2. Give employees a voice

A variety of internal communication channels, both informal and formal, will provide your people with opportunities to share their ideas and feelings. Give them access to c-suite staff. Include them at all levels in decision making, especially when it affects their area of work.

Helping people get heard will make them feel respected and valued. As an added bonus, you’ll also get valuable ground-level insight you can use to inform your business decisions.

Get our RTO survey toolkit to better understand how they prefer to work when they’re ready to return to the workplace.

3. Motivate by aligning employee roles to company purpose

If you don’t know why you’re doing something, it can be a struggle to feel fulfilled or motivated.
Human motivation has two distinct categories: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation is driven by external consequences, such as a pay rise. Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is driven by the personal satisfaction of achievement and effort.

Intrinsic wins out over extrinsic every time. It’s more powerful. It leads to a richer, deeper sense of satisfaction that fuels a person’s wellbeing. Consider a nurse motivated by helping people get better versus a nurse focused on getting a pay rise. Which one gets the most job satisfaction?

Leaders who can activate intrinsic motivation will create a happy and fulfilled workforce. Make sure your team understands the company’s purpose and how each of them individually contributes to it.

4. Enable personal growth

Employees are more than cogs in a machine. Acknowledge that they’re individuals with personal ambitions and they’ll feel valued and supported. Embrace personal growth and provide as many opportunities for career development as you can. It’s a win-win. You’ll benefit from an increasingly skilled and loyal team. They’ll revel in the fact that you’re prepared to invest in them.

There is, of course, that nagging doubt that you’ll train somebody up and they’ll leave for a competitor. That might happen. But chances are, if you’ve shown a commitment to them, they’ll show it back to you.

5. Provide flexibility and work life balance

People have lives outside of work, and in a hybrid culture the line is often blurred. Time exclusively for family, friends and relaxation is as important as ever. Give people flexibility when they need it. Embrace asynchronous communication and reject micromanagement. Judge employees on their work and their impact on your mission, rather than how early they start or how many hours they can sit at a desk in the office.

6. Build trust

Trust is at the heart of a people first workplace. A flexible culture relies on employers trusting that people will get on with their job away from the office, without being watched. Employees also need to trust in the workplace environment. They need to know that they’re in a supportive and non-judgemental culture. A feeling of psychological safety will allow people to be honest and show vulnerability.

Trust can be built by:

  • Taking responsibility for decisions and avoiding the blame game
  • Acting on feedback
  • Investing in your people’s personal growth
  • Showing emotional intelligence
  • Leading by example

7. Digital infrastructure to support flexibility

Hybrid represents a shift towards a more dynamic workplace culture. People are free to be more intentional about where they work and who with. Independence and autonomy to get the job done on their own terms. It’s empowering and has the potential to revolutionize work-life balance. But to get it right, organizations need to provide employees with the right infrastructure and technology to coordinate their working week.

Being able to easily synchronize time with colleagues, book desk space, and ensure access to amenities are all required to ensure their in-office time is a smooth and stress-free experience.

Kadence’s people-first mission

A people-first culture allows employees to thrive. It lays the foundations for a well-rounded and strong workplace experience in which people feel safe, valued, and empowered to do their best work and fulfil their ambitions.

Focusing on your people is a long-term strategy. It’s investing in a business culture equipped for sustainable growth. We’re on our own journey to embed a people-first culture. We realize it makes sense on an individual, business, and societal level. We also recognize that a people-first culture and hybrid working go hand in hand. Empowering employees with a workplace culture that removes friction from their working week and enables them to choose where and how they work. We won’t get everything right and we don’t have all the answers, but we’re committed to doing our best to grow our business with our people at the core.

How To Avoid Remote Employees Feeling Left Out & Becoming Second Class Citizens

Hybrid working promises to be a panacea for organizations planning their post-pandemic workplace. Agile and adaptable, it offers the perks of remote working without losing the in-person collaboration, connection and relationship building that a team thrives on. But it comes with a health warning. Without an inclusive culture, you risk sleepwalking into an unequal work environment where those who spend more time in the office enjoy extra benefits over remote employees.

Office employees vs remote employees

Us humans are social creatures. We’ve evolved to live in groups and we thrive off social interaction. From a night on the town with friends to small talk with the supermarket cashier, human connection is critical to our mental health and wellbeing.

It’s natural that we develop stronger bonds with people we’re physically with. Virtual communication fulfils the need to some extent, but it’s not the real deal. It’s harder to pick up on non-verbal cues, easier to get distracted and group dynamics can be different.

In a remote-first culture, employees stand to miss out on friendships and working relationships when compared to a workplace culture dominated by the office. Indeed, in our survey of  1,500 US and UK office workers, over 55% said chance encounters and spontaneous conversations with colleagues were one of the best things about the office experience. Working remotely, people will find it harder to build trust and emotional bonds with co-workers, because they don’t get as much face-to-face time with them. This can impact their workplace wellbeing, job satisfaction, and career prospects. From a business point of view, it can lead to a dip in productivity, engagement and loyalty. The challenge for employers is to balance the overall experience employees get, regardless of whether they’re in the office or remote.

6 steps to improve remote employee wellbeing

With some simple steps you can make sure remote staff don’t end up feeling like second class citizens. It comes down to awareness and making sure the leaders and managers who set the workplace culture understand potential issues and how they can avoid them.

In our hybrid working research, less than half of those surveyed had been offered guidance or support around flexible and hybrid working – so by putting in place some of these steps you’ll already be ahead of the majority.

1. Make your hybrid meetings inclusive

Hybrid meetings include remote and in-person attendees. But if in-person attendees are late because they were making coffee together, or are indulging in off-camera conversations, remote attendees can feel excluded.

Build in time at each meeting for small talk. It might seem trivial, but sharing stories about the weekend or the weather in different parts of the country will help cement interpersonal relationships between employees – a foundation for a high-functioning company.

Encourage an equal footing for all at the meeting by giving everybody a turn to speak on each point and discourage in-person attendees from talking amongst themselves. Use a virtual whiteboard or Post-it platform such as Miro so that everybody gets to contribute to idea generation.

Make sure technology is tested and working beforehand, and that the meeting starts promptly. A remote attendee can be left in limbo if a meeting doesn’t begin at the scheduled time or the tech doesn’t work.

With more of a focus on hybrid meetings, innovation in meeting room technology is blossoming right now. Telepresence tech aims to simulate the effect of remote attendees being in the same room. Large touchscreens and top quality cameras and microphones help bring virtual attendees to life. Google’s campfire meeting spaces use this type of innovation.

Finally, share the meeting agenda, details of decisions to be taken and other important papers or presentations well ahead of the meeting. This makes sure everybody feels in the loop, regardless of where they’re working.

2. Use the same communication platforms

Make inclusive communication a principle of your company culture and an integral part of your hybrid working model.

Encourage everyone to use the same communications platforms – even if they’re in the same office. That way, information is shared equally and remote workers don’t miss out on office conversations and updates. When leaders need to deliver a big announcement, make sure it’s done using a channel open to everyone.

3. Use remote messaging tools

Remote messaging tools help reduce the isolation that remote employees can feel. Less formal than email, they’re a great substitute for office chat. You might even find they’re better for cross-team bonding than being in the office, because it’s easy for people across different departments to connect.

Set up different groups or channels – some with a work focus, and others purely for socialising. How about a virtual coffee break channel, or a channel for people to share pictures of their pets?

4. Hold regular 1-2-1 meetings

Remote-first employees won’t benefit from seeing their manager every day. While that might be music to some people’s ears, there’s a risk they could become detached from the day-to-day company culture. Niggles won’t get dealt with and might snowball needlessly.

Some people won’t feel comfortable speaking up in front of everyone on a group call, so making sure everybody has regular 1-2-1 meetings ensures that all voices get heard

5. Talk to your employees

Remote working will suit some employees to a tee, others not so. There’s a big difference between having a garden office with superfast broadband to sharing a kitchen table and Wi-Fi connection with four other flatmates.

Job seniority plays a role too. When you’re starting out you want to establish yourself and start building a reputation, you want to make friends, and you’ll probably look forward to Friday night drinks more than older staff who have families to get back to. Remote working can hit younger employees harder in the pocket too, with a reported 71 % of 18–29-year-old office workers stating that it has cost more than they expected.

And let’s not forget the motherhood penalty, potentially exacerbated by the pressure to perform at work while simultaneously caring for children at home. It’s therefore important to recognise that remote working will impact employees in different ways. Ask each of your team what their needs are around hybrid working and what you can do to help them – from increased 1-2-1 communication to regular social events that get everybody together in person.

We’ve published an employee survey tool kit to help you ask the right questions and understand what’s needed from you to create a happy and productive hybrid working culture.

6. Promote hybrid collaboration

Just because people aren’t in the office all week doesn’t mean collaboration can’t happen, it just needs to be managed more carefully.

Document and share your organization’s expectations around in-person collaboration. If you work to a regular cadence and expect all staff to come in for a meeting once per month, make sure everybody is aware.

Be clear on how communication channels and collaboration tools are used too. Remote employees will rely more heavily on these tools, so it’s important everybody buys into them and uses them in a consistent way.

Virtual planning tools such as Asana and ensure all employees have access to the same information and can communicate updates from wherever they are. They also facilitate asynchronous collaboration, where employees can work together on a task at different times and keep each other updated on progress.

And a predictable information-sharing cadence helps as well. Knowing that a project update happens every Monday and Thursday morning provides a useful framework for remote-first employees to work around.

Create a company culture that considers all employee needs

A happy and engaged workforce is essential for an organization to perform well, retain its staff and attract new talent. As we move to hybrid working, it’s not just office space that needs to adapt. A company culture that’s inclusive, has an emphasis on communication, and takes into account the different needs across its employees will be vital in ensuring that remote employees don’t end up feeling left out in the cold.

The New Office Experience Is A Social Hub: Workers Weigh In

New Kadence study reveals employee expectations around hybrid working.

San Francisco and London May 6 2021: More than a third (37%) of US and UK office workers describe the prospect of going back to the office as the equivalent of going out to meet with friends, according to a new study by Kadence, surveyed over 1,500 office workers in the UK and US.

Over a quarter (28%) of respondents also said they are now prepared to spend more money and commute for longer to reunite with colleagues. Many also anticipate easier collaboration (60%), and better productivity (52%) once they get there.

Hybrid work to become the norm

The study also confirms recent Microsoft research findings which suggest that hybrid home and office working schedules are expected to become a widespread norm. Kadence’s survey found that over half (54%) expect to visit the office between two and three days a week. Approaching four in 10 (38%) also expect to choose when they come to the office and when they leave.

Concerns about returning to the office

However, it also revealed that many workers are nervous about workspace logistics, post-lockdown. A third expect the chance to book a particular desk before going to the office, and feel there will be more competition for the best seats and locations. Meanwhile, a quarter (25%) worry about being able to find the right kind of working or collaborative spaces. Over a third (34%) expect their employers to make more collaborative zones available (34%), while almost four in 10 want extra quiet working areas (37%).

Dan Bladen Co-Founder and CEO at Kadence comments on the findings: Many people are understandably excited about the return to the office, with over half (55%) stating that chance encounters and conversations with colleagues are amongst the best things about the office experience.

However, our study also exposes concerns around what they might find when they actually arrive. People are anxious about whether the work environment will be optimized for their needs. Also, many employees now expect the ability to control where they sit when they return to the office more regularly.

New desk and space software to facilitate collaboration

Kadence has launched Kadence Wx to enable teams and individuals to collaborate, connect and increase productivity in the hybrid environment without distraction. It enables employees to reserve particular desks or office neighborhoods before visiting. Designed as a new operating system for hybrid work, Kadence Wx empowers managers and teams to efficiently optimize and curate face-to-face collaboration in a hybrid environment.


Bladen continues: We’ve all become more intentional about when and where we choose to work. Organizations who can provide certainty and control for staff as they transition to hybrid working patterns will reap productivity and wellbeing rewards.

Despite this, over half (52%) of survey respondents said their employer is yet to provide guidance or support on managing these adjustments. Regardless of whether teams are synchronous or asynchronous in nature, when it’s time to collaborate Kadence Wx removes the friction around work coordination – allowing employees to focus their talents more productively.

To find out more about our research findings, watch our webinar here

Enabling a Covid-safe touchless meeting experience

As employees become more comfortable working from home or from anywhere, a clear “back to work” strategy is needed to ensure a safe workplace experience and encourage the workforce back to the office. In our recent webinar, we got together with our partner Envoy and joint customer Okta to discuss what this means for the future of workplace, new challenges around ‘safe return to work’ with an introduction and walk-through of our new touchless solution for meeting room booking, Kadence for Rooms + Envoy.

What will the future of workplace look like?

As we look ahead it seems that ‘work’ as we knew it, will become ‘work from anywhere’ and providing touchless, flexible technology will be crucial to enable a great workplace experience, allowing employees to work seamlessly across different spaces. Office will become a place to experience brand and culture (just think Apple store or Tesla gallery) and a hub for collaboration – watch our webinar here to hear more from our expert panel and how Okta is rethinking their office strategy with their technology-led Experience Centres.

How to give your employees the confidence they need to return to their workplace

Spaces will be reconfigured with social distancing measures. For example, limiting meeting room capacity, unassigned/clean desk policy and introducing touchless technology such as voice control and wireless charging spot to start video conferencing.

Visual indicators and digital signage will also be a big part of the return-to-work strategy for most – from low-tech options like adhesive stickers to indicate available seats to high-tech solutions such as Kadence Wx, to find clean and available meeting rooms.

How can smart touchless technology help improve experience and efficiency?

Experience is King – because a great workplace experience helps create an emotional response and connection between employees and their company, keeping them passionate about their work. Seamless and touchless technologies are now a must not just for building a safe work environment, but enabling a great experience from the moment you enter the office. From contactless door access control to booking and checking into a meeting room or desk, this should all be enabled easily, seamlessly via one single app/device.

Watch our webinar to find out more Kadence + Envoy can help create a safer, more efficient meeting room experiences.

Kadence help employees get back to work safely with new touchless meeting room experience

Launching Kadence for Rooms : The new touchless meeting room solution that provides employees with the confidence of a safe meeting room experience in a post-covid workplace.


San Francisco and London, July 22, 2020: Kadence, the leading provider of cloud-connected wireless charging technology, has launched a first of its kind touchless meeting room solution that helps employees feel more confident about returning to work and using collaborative workspaces. ‘Kadence for Rooms’ combines a light status indicator with touchless wireless charging that automatically triggers in-room experiences. The solution integrates with leading meeting room booking and scheduling software, to instantly check-in and start in-room experiences such as video conferencing in one seamless action.

One example is the Kadence for Rooms integration with Envoy, a workplace platform provider focused on creating tools that make the workplace safer, without sacrificing a great experience or product adoption. Employees returning to the workplace can find and book clean and safe rooms when the green light-ring signifies that they are clean and available for use. Once they are in the meeting room, the employee can  simply place their smartphone on a wireless charging spot to check-in or reserve the space. This action simultaneously launches a pre-booked video conference for a quick and efficient start to a meeting. For space planners, valuable data on room usage and occupancy is captured, which helps free up unused spaces improving availability.

“Kadence takes the meeting room booking experience to a new level by connecting touchless check-in and wireless charging. It helps us create safe, touchless experiences for our customers and their employees as they plan their return to the workplace. The integration also captures space usage and occupancy data for workplace teams without having to add another device in the infrastructure,” said Matt Harris, Head of Workplace & Technology, Envoy, about the value of the joint solution for both employee and space planner.

The global pandemic has brought new challenges for space planners and has accelerated many trends that were already gaining traction, such as mobility, flexible working and how spaces can be used more seamlessly with less friction. Now, the emphasis is on reducing physical touch points and ensuring clear communication to employees to show when spaces are clean and safe to use. 

“Meetings need to be safe, touchless and more productive than ever before. Less room capacity due to social distancing will increase demand, and reliable occupancy data from touchless automatic check-in is key to increase the availability of clean and safe rooms. Companies that deploy touchless technology show their staff that they have taken appropriate steps to provide great spaces that don’t compromise safety.” commented Dan Bladen, CEO, Kadence.

Kadence for Rooms is available today, and is a full end to end meeting room solution when integrated with your favourite room scheduling and video conferencing software. The Kadence LightRing will be available in Q3 2020. Get started today with Kadence for Rooms + Envoy and get up to 10 FREE Envoy Rooms licences when you buy the Kadence Starter packs.


Want to find out more? Join Kadence and Envoy in our upcoming webinar on “How to enable a Covid-Safe touchless meeting experience” on Thursday 6th August, to discuss the challenges faced by space planners, and how this unique solution helps employees feel safe and confident as they return to the workplace.