Redefining Return to Work in the Energy Industry

How do you return to work in an industry that never stopped working?

Refineries running, drills drilling and innovation have continued to progress throughout the pandemic – so, why is "return to work" so important in the energy industry?

The issue isn’t the return to work or whether someone will sit at a hot desk or an office, it is about human behavior, says Brie Entel, vice president of marketing for Sodexo Energy & Resources in North America, who has been studying workplace trends for over 15 years. 

Humans are social creatures. We learn from observing and interacting with others. Thirty-second conversations in the hallway or at the coffee machine can tell you more about a person than through a year of conference calls. We need these moments to build stronger working communities.

The clock is ticking on 2050. The energy industry needs the best and brightest to come together in pursuit of a lower carbon future.

Redefining the workspace

But how do you convince engineers to come back to the office? Or for refinery workers to travel to a plant every day? Or upstream workers to choose a life of extraction rather than delivering for Amazon?

It’s not with hot dogs and balloons, noted a relationship manager from a major energy company based in Houston, Texas. We need to offer a reason to return to the office. [Knowledge workers have] been working at home for almost two years. How can we make our spaces feel like places they want to be rather than have to go?

Sodexo is working closely with this oil supermajor to define what the value is of a workplace — whether in an office, a refinery or on a rig — hosting visioning sessions, bringing in workplace strategists and helping them to define the new worker journey.

There are no pingpong tables or slides in this road map. The goal of tomorrow’s workplace is purpose. Everything is purposeful, authentic and designed around natural human behaviors, such as the need to meet in person or having quiet spaces to think. Space branding is as important as the layouts. We want people to feel aligned to a greater purpose as they walk in the door, to know that when they come to the workplace — whatever or wherever it is — that they are contributing to something greater than themselves, Entel says. 

And it’s not just space-solving for knowledge workers at a headquarters. We are rethinking the work experience in field offices, refineries, onshore and offshore rigs. To understand oil and gas, you must plot the course from upstream to midstream and downstream. Every touchpoint and person is as important as the next. That’s why the entire ecosystem is included in the plan.


Learn more about how Sodexo is raising the bar for companies in the energy and mining industry.