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Thought Leadership


Basic Needs at Work: The Changing Hierarchy

When it comes to personal or professional life, we have needs. Some needs must be met for mere survival, and some aren’t necessary for survival but are critical to thrive. Then there’s the pinnacle of needs—the ones that help you be the absolute best version of yourself and get to self-actualization.

Of course, it was Abraham Maslow who brilliantly summarized these needs for your personal life and categorized them into basic, psychological, and growth needs. And although he wasn’t the one who put them into a pyramid, it is the variation of his work that most of us are familiar with. At the Maslow Centre, we’ve been researching how Maslow’s work can be translated into your professional life. You can see our work so far here, and about halfway down you’ll see a table of basic, psychological, and growth needs for the workplace.

Now, in an ever-digital and virtually collaborative world (thanks, pandemic!), we are seeing some changes in what these needs mean and what employees expect. The structure and premise are the same, but the content within continues to shift as our world does. In this article, we’ll cover the changes to the corporate basic needs and what that means for your organization.

Tools and Technology

In a virtual or even hybrid world, collaboration is key. Beyond just having a laptop and an intranet, tools and tech now also includes the right meeting and collaboration tools. Do your employees have the right tools to connect with each other? Have they been trained on how to use them effectively? Setting your employees up with the knowledge and the access goes a long way in meeting tech needs in a remote world. 

What you can do:

  • Standardize your tools across your organization. If you’re a Zoom shop, everyone uses Zoom. Google, everyone uses the suite. Having everyone speaking the same tech lingo helps with adoption.
  • Provide actual training on the tools. They may seem intuitive, but that’s a dangerous assumption to make. Training ensures all employees start with the same understanding.
  • Establish and communicate guidelines for effective collaboration that can adopted across all levels of your organization.


Companies are struggling with training in a remote world.  It’s consistently showing up on surveys that newly onboarded employees are feeling more disconnected than is typical. This is a result of a growing practice of onboarding and training virtually, and while this was a need borne from Covid, remote work and remote hires are becoming more commonplace. 

In response, we are seeing a shift in culture practices in organizations to include more relationship and connection building time in their onboarding, both in volume and in intentionality. 

What you can do:

  • Deliberately schedule socialization, networking, and connection time (and lots of it) into your training plan.
  • Find ways to add personal touches to a remote world. Sending swag bags, getting lunch delivered to your new hire’s home, etc. can be a meaningful way to make them feel welcome.
  • Consider training your trainers specifically in remote facilitation. It’s a different skill than in person! 
  • Set clear standards for remote training, give space and opportunity for everyone to participate (no matter how quiet they seem), and invite colleagues from other areas of your business to have conversations.

Total Rewards

As pay is becoming more transparent through sites like Payscale and Glassdoor, employees are expecting both that transparency in pay and an equity commitment. With topics like the pay differential between gender and race becoming more open, employees are seeking organizations that are taking active, intentional steps toward achieving pay equity. 

Companies that aren’t transparent will have employees post their salary information online, along with any grievances they have about it. It is a better culture practice to be upfront about pay than force your employees to go down less savoury avenues. 

In 2015, the company Salesforce conducted an independent audit to evaluate their pay equity and, much to the CEO’s surprise, found a glaring gender gap. Commendably, they spent nearly $9 million correcting this issue, and set the stage for other large organizations to move toward a more level playing field.  

What you can do:

  • Post your pay bands publicly (or at the very least internally to all employees), so they can see where they fit in the payscale.
  • Dedicate resources and budget to finding and correcting inequities in pay.
  • Do regular audits of pay across your organization to ensure that bias is not creeping into your pay structure.
  • Don’t assume you don’t have a pay equity problem – many companies were surprised to find they had a (sometimes very large) inequity that they didn’t realize existed. 


A lot of companies are supporting employees working from home—do they have the right work space and are they ergonomically supported? Is their wifi speed sufficient for their work demands? Who pays for these things? The conversation has changed from just having working technology to also include remote work and what that means in terms of setup. Further, for those organizations adopting a hybrid work model where the office has shared and bookable space, consideration has to be given to sanitization of stations and easability of space booking.

What you can do:

  • Post ergonomic best practices to your organization and encourage all employees to do an ergonomic self-assessment
  • Incorporate movement breaks into your workforce’s day. There are many videos on YouTube that guide you through stretching and movement, right at your desk.
  • Establish a remote work protocol, including what the environment should look like and what is expected of your employee. Include any reimbursement or compensation information for things like office equipment (desk, chairs, etc.) and make sure each employee acknowledges this agreement before they work remotely. 
  • Encourage early health checkups for employees experiencing any pain or discomfort. In a typical office environment, repetitive movement injuries are the #1 reason for WCB claims. For both the employee and the employer, an ounce of prevention is truly worth more than a pound of cure.

Physical Wellbeing

We are seeing an increasing trend in both burnout and with lowered mental health and wellness. During the pandemic, everyone was all hands on deck and there was nothing to do and nowhere to go. As a result, employees didn’t take proper break time or vacation. Add in many people who had never worked from home before and didn’t yet have good boundaries for for doing so, the stress of a global pandemic, and other factors like school from home or spousal work layoffs, and you get stressed out, burnt out employees.

What you can do:

  • Leaders need to role model how to take breaks, both big and small. Leaders should practice and then articulate to their teams when they take lunch break, go for a walk, or stretch at their desk.  Leaders need to take their vacation and demonstrate what it’s like to unplug.
  • Leaders must also encourage their employees to take breaks and vacation. Reviewing vacation allotments with your employees and making a plan with them to spend it can be helpful.
  • “Zoom fatigue” is a real thing. Consider making video optional or allowing video free meetings. Many organizations are also declaring dedicated meeting-free time, like “No Meeting Mondays” or blocking off every Wednesday afternoon for the entire organization. These meet-free minutes not only help employees recover from burnout, they also increase productive time. 
  • A new demand is extended healthcare benefits and access to telemedicine. In fact, virtual medicine is one of the top in-demand benefits right now. Review your employee benefits plan to assess its scope and open up more access to your company. 

As the landscape continues to evolve, so shall your employees’ needs. The Maslow Centre will be here to keep you updated on the latest trends and how to stay ahead of the corporate need curve.

Keep an eye out for our next two articles, covering the psychological and growth needs that will take your corporation to one of self-actualization.

For more information on this topic, you can read my articles on International Coaching Federation (ICF)’s pages:

Our Research – Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs at Work

Coaching for Self-Actualization – Part 1

Coaching for Self-Actualization – Part 2