Work environments are often described in the elusive terms of culture. It doesn’t have to be an intangible concept, it just requires a commitment to ensure employees are happy, engaged and productive.
Workplace culture has been found to shape attitudes and behavior. Developing an environment that meets employee needs whenever possible can drive positive organizational outcomes.
There is at least one tangible and often-overlooked influencer in the business environment — physical surroundings. To create a positive work environment, it is necessary to design one that accommodates employees' functional and emotional needs.
In 2015, the Leesman Index, a global business intelligence tool that captures employee feedback on how effectively the workplace supports them and their work, published its 250K Report, which summarized findings of surveying more than 250,000 employees in more than 2,000 workplaces.
Mobility is listed one of the top five key factors influencing productivity. Specifically, the more an employee uses multiple locations within a workplace, the more they report that space enables them to work more effectively. Certainly, there are roles that place limitations on an employee's access to mobility: customer service, call centers, and sales are a few examples. But considering possibilities to help serve employees better will benefit leadership, staff, and the business.
Design firms specializing in office environments have found commonalities that reflect the requirements of the workforce and establish the fundamentals of a positive work environment.
Here are some features to consider:
Meeting and conference rooms
Meetings are often held in conference rooms designed to accommodate 10 to 14 people. Not only can the space feel oversized and awkward, but it also becomes unavailable to others who have similar needs. Increasingly, a company's workforce consists of a combination of full-time employees, part-time staff, and freelancers who need places to work, learn, and collaborate. Offer spaces that accommodate these smaller, more frequent gatherings.
These are break rooms, coffee stations, and other informal gathering spaces. But thriving businesses have evolved past lunch rooms and water coolers. Engaging places can encourage staff members to interact across departments, socialize, build relationships, and recharge. When employees are relaxed, spontaneous flashes of creativity are most likely to happen. Ideas for affordable spaces can come from staff; they have a good sense of amenities, seating, and ambiance that would serve them best.
Wellness touches can include living plants, ergonomic furniture, spaces to stretch and move, natural lighting, multiple chair options, standing desks, and access to healthy foods.
Everyone needs to get from point A to point B. Consider how sightlines, adjacent rooms, and hallway spaces influence how an individual visually and physically moves through an office. It should provide a sensible flow that does not feel disjointed, disconnected, or disruptive.
There will always be a need for a dedicated, private workstation. But that does not mean a person will do their best work if mandated to be at the same place day in and day out. Technology has freed employees to work from nearly anywhere. Offer options to staff to chose what works best for their task at hand.
Privacy for all
Too often, quiet spaces and privacy are a luxury amenity available only to a select few in the office. Ideally, it should also be accessible to anyone who needs it. One possibility is converting underused offices into designated open access areas that give individuals the quiet time they need to think, create, draft, read, and organize their thoughts independently.
There are many compelling reasons to improve the health and wellness of your workforce. Living plants, ergonomic furniture, spaces to stretch and move, natural lighting, multiple chair options, standing desks, and access to healthy foods are a few ways to help staff maintain their physical and mental fitness.
Have unused or underutilized offices? Consider converting them into designated open access areas that give employees the quiet time they need to get their work done.
Color and textures
Colors, textures, and patterns work together to influence the mood and energy of a space. Consider the possible calming effect of natural textiles and patterns compared to vibrant colors and busy, geometric patterns.
Ultimately, office spaces are there to serve the people who use them. A high-performing workforce and prosperous business demands a positive work environment.