A Well-Designed Office Leads to Happier Employees
In our recent blog, “The Workplace of 2020: The Balance between Quiet and Collaboration,” we discussed the importance of giving employees a choice when it comes to where they work. Design, while obviously important for aesthetics and recruiting talent, plays a bigger-than-expected role in employee engagement. We looked at some outcomes of giving employees choices, such as increasing employee engagement, productivity, and ownership in their work. Today, we’re going to dig into two major ways you can improve employee engagement through a well-designed work environment.
In 2019, Capital One surveyed their 3,608 office professionals in the United States about different aspects of work environment, and its impact on productivity, the ability to collaborate, and overall wellbeing. While well-designed workplaces help attract top talent, the survey shows that design impacts productivity and is crucial for employee satisfaction and retention. A staggering 90% of survey respondents agree that they perform better in a well-designed workplace.1 The following are the areas of workplace design directly impact employee engagement.
Give them options
Capital One’s Work Environment Survey is one example of growing research around the current workforce’s need for flexibility in office design:
- 71 percent say it’s important for their workplace design to be flexible.
- 65 percent assert they are more productive when they can change their physical location while working.
- 73 percent profess to have their best ideas when they’re able to use flexible workspace options.
- 73 percent claim to work better with access to flexible furniture arrangements (different seated or standing options, e.g.).
Companies value diversity; however, it can be hard to provide options for all needs and preferences. Providing options in a dynamic workplace design encourages employees to work in the environment that is best for their needs, making them more engaged and loyal. And it’s definitely a selling factor in recruiting top talent.
Provide what they need to recharge
Let’s face it…we live in a culture where the workplace runs at a very fast pace. Everyone needs to take breaks, especially when you’re on the computer most of the day. In the Capital One survey, 89% of respondents say they are “able to work better when they have spaces in the office to take a break throughout the day.”
The problem appears to be even worse in the UK, with only a third of UK workers saying they take a proper lunch break.2 Psychology Today provides five reasons why taking breaks is important for your brain, which in turn helps spur creativity and productivity3:
- Prevent “decision fatigue” – Because today’s workforce makes frequent decisions throughout the day, they face what is called “decision fatigue.” Research from Princeton University supports the notion that decision fatigue actually leads to impaired decision-making and procrastination.4
- Restore motivation – A study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as well as many others, suggests that prolonged attention to a single task actually hinders performance.5 Even a five-minute break can boost energy and motivation.
- Increase productivity and creativity – John P Trougkos, a professor at the University of Toronto, shared a perfect metaphor with the New York Times. Just like any muscle becomes fatigued after a workout, your brain becomes fatigued after long time periods of working.6 Taking “brain breaks” increases productivity and even spurs creativity.
- Improve memory and learning – According to Bob Pozen, author of Extreme Productivity: Boost Results, Reduce Your Hours, taking breaks every 75-90 minutes actually helps the “brain consolidate information and retain it better.” 7
- Incorporate “movement breaks” – Get out of your chair and get moving. Constant sitting is bad for both your physical and mental health and puts you at higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity. It’s also imperative for you to take breaks from the computer screen as eye strain is a real thing!
Three recommendations that you can implement to help employees get the most out of their breaks is providing natural light8, green spaces, and adequate options for people to get away from their desks. These options need to be a mix of both collaboration spaces for those that want to converse as well as quiet spaces9 for those who need a break from the noise of the office – remember that people’s needs are as diverse as your employee base.
Educate them about the benefits of your workplace design
While many companies are considering the differing needs of their employees, and many are taking steps to address them, a lack of education may result in employees not even realising the efforts that were taken. If you are going to invest time and money into improving the office design for the benefits of your work environment, why would you not educate your employees as to what is available and why? They’ll appreciate the effort that you’ve gone to and are more likely to remain loyal to your company. Everyone wants to work for a company that cares about their employees – not just the bottom line. And to top it off – these aspects can greatly influence your ability to recruit top talent!
Stephanie Spurlin, Vice President of Workplace Solutions at Capital One, sums it up in one statement. “Dynamic and adaptable spaces that not only accommodate various work styles but also foster employee well-being give companies an edge when it comes to helping people achieve better work-life integration that ultimately enables them to create better products and services for customers.”
1 “The Need for Adaptability in Workplace Design: 2019 Work Environment Survey Uncovers What Top Talent Wants and Expects in the Workplace.” Capital One, 19 Aug. 2019, https://www.capitalone.com/about/newsroom/wps-survey
2 Barr, Sabrina. “More than One in Three British Employees Work through Their Lunch Every Day.” The Independent, 28 Mar. 2019, https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/working-lunch-hour-productivity-office-uk-a8843136.html.
3 Selig, Meg. “How Do Work Breaks Help your Brain? 5 Surprising Answers.” Psychology Today, 18 Apr. 2017, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/changepower/201704/how-do-work-breaks-help-your-brain-5-surprising-answers.
4 Danziger, Shai, et al. “Extraneous Factors in Judicial Decisions.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Princeton University, 25 Feb. 2011, https://www.pnas.org/content/108/17/6889.
5 University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. “Brief Diversions Vastly Improve Focus, Researchers Find.” Science Daily, , 8 Feb. 2011, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110208131529.htm.
6 Pinola, Melanie. “Take More Breaks, Get More Done.” LifeHacker, 20 June 2012, https://lifehacker.com/take-more-breaks-get-more-done-5919897.
7 “Want to Be More Productive in 2018? Take More Breaks.” MIT Sloan Executive Education Innovation@Work Blog, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 3 Dec. 2017, https://executive.mit.edu/blog/want-to-be-more-productive-in-2018-take-more-breaks#.XcBVKEVKhTY.
8 “Study: Natural Light is the Best Medicine for the Office.” View, Inc., Cornell University, 31 Jan. 2018, https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/study-natural-light-is-the-best-medicine-for-the-office-300590905.html.
9 Cooper, Belle. “The Power of Silence: Why You Need Less Noise for Work and Your Health.” Zapier.com, Zapier Inc., 2 Feb. 2017, https://zapier.com/blog/silence-health-productivity.
10 “The Flexible Workplace: Bending over Backwards for Top Talent.” Inc. Magazine, Mansueto Ventures, 26 Aug. 2019, https://www.inc.com/capitalonewps/the-flexible-workplace-bending-over-backwards-for-top-talent.html.