Employee engagement is a hot topic and happiness and productivity in the modern workplace have never been more important. As working practices are becoming increasingly more flexible and remote workers are on the rise, it can prove challenging to keep teams engaged. In this article, we take a closer look at the powerful relationship between office design and employee engagement, and share tips on how you can create the perfect working environment to get the most from your team.
Control Over Environment
Workplace design trends are drifting towards open plan offices and away from the outdated, isolated cubicle. While the open-plan office provides many benefits that the cubicle does not, the truth is that many workers would prefer not to be in an open office plan all day, every day. A good example of this hit the news last week when Apple’s billion dollar ‘Apple Park‘ attracted mixed reactions to the open plan office style.
The Steelcase global workplace study which compiles data from 12,000+ workers in 17 countries, found that employees who have more control over their workplace environment – over where and how they work – are found to be more engaged, in general. Such individuals are empowered to find the optimum work environment for their personality and their workload, allowing them to work collaboratively when required, and also to take themselves off to a quiet, private space if they prefer.
To meet these needs, companies including SAP, Linkedin, Cisco and Airbnb utilise ‘mixed’ office plans which include collaboration hubs, co-working cafes, small and large meeting rooms and areas for presentations. Such designs may be beyond the scope of many companies, but remaining sensitive to the diverse needs of staff is something all businesses must consider if they want to increase employee engagement.
There is an increasing feeling among office workers and health professionals that the modern, sedentary, workplace is damaging our health, with the phrase ‘sitting is the new smoking’ commonly expressed. It goes without saying that a workplace which actively damages an employee’s health is unlikely to leave them feeling engaged – quite the opposite in fact.
To ensure office staff are healthy, happy and engaged, employers should allow their workers the flexibility to move around in the day to support their physical well-being. The ideal workplace should specify office furniture which supports a variety of postures, such as sit-stand desks, lounge style chairs and foot rests, as well as seating designed for interaction with mobile devices.
According to the authors of Ethonomics: Designing For The Principles Of The Modern Workplace, a revolution in workplace design is required to ensure employees are healthy and engaged. This can be realised by creating ‘healthy, inspiring, and sustainable places in which people can feel good about where they are and what they do.’ The authors also found that physical movement and flexible workspaces are key factors in promoting overall engagement, observing that ‘alert, engaged and healthy workers are most often those who are afforded a stimulating and inspiring work environment that encourages movement–to sit, stand and walk around.’
Human beings are social animals, and even the most introverted employee needs a space to interact and collaborate with fellow co-workers in an informal setting. If the workplace environment is rigid and inflexible, then employees may not feel comfortable socialising and interacting with each other. Employers would be mistaken in thinking that social interaction in the workplace in harmful for productivity, and that employees should focus exclusively on their work during work hours, and leave the socialising for their own time. The authors of Ethonomics found that “We are more alert after taking a walk with a coworker or friend–and perhaps having an insightful conversation. And that feeling of well-being is likely to affect the way we interact with others–less negative feelings and fewer expressions of anger, irritation, or resentment.”
To foster employee engagement, therefore, the workplace must provide social spaces for employees to interact and collaborate with one another freely. One such solution, suggested by Steelcase in their report on the global workplace is the ‘work cafe’; the work cafe aims to replicate the relaxed warmth of a cafe setting, while also offering the capacity for employees to work by integrating technology and ergonomically designed furniture. This space can be used for social gatherings, at lunch or on mini-breaks, and because of the technological integration, it can also be used as a collaborative workspace when required.
Clearly, the relationship between workplace design and employee engagement is extremely important and must be considered as a primary factor by any organisation sensitive to the health and happiness of their staff. This relationship also goes to the heart of the Accent philosophy, and we are proud to have created numerous modern workplaces which allow business to flourish, and ensure that employees are healthy, happy and engaged.
We’d love to talk to you about your next project and our specialist team can advise you on the best solutions to support your employee engagement strategy. Simply get in touch with us on 08456 595911 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s create something great together.