The Psychology Behind Modern Office Design & Workforce Well-Being
Have you ever tried to propose workplace improvements to the C-suite and been told it would be “too costly” or “not worth it”?
Fear not, we know that making a business case to upper management requires some hard facts to get their attention, and in this post, we’ve got them for you.
Most companies today know the value of creating a positive employee experience, but fewer realize how closely this is tied to the workplace and physical environment. Workers today have higher expectations of their workplace and experience at work, but when the “traditional workplace” (think: gray carpets, bland cubicles, stale coffee) remains the baseline, it’s not that hard to exceed expectations.
And when you pay closer attention to employee experience management, you’ll find the initial investment reaps rewards that exceed your expectations. Consider these metrics that show the power of improving your employee experience:
Flexible Workplaces Improve Productivity
A Vodafone survey found that 75% of companies worldwide have introduced flexible working policies, and of those, 83% reported increases in productivity as a result. If you’re reading this, you’re probably not surprised to hear that—but let’s look at why this might be happening.
First, employees feel better—physically, mentally, and emotionally—in an environment that meets basic human needs. We know that sitting at desks is terrible for our health, so a workplace that encourages people to get up and move around frequently, or that offers healthy food and drink options, improves physical health (and reduces absenteeism). Even the most introverted among us enjoy social interaction on occasion, so making it easy to meet and chat with coworkers (and not just those in your department) will create a better employee experience and help strong relationships develop.
Even better—how about giving the introvert the option to work separately from the outgoing extrovert, instead of forcing them to sit side-by-side in assigned cubicles all day, every day?
Second, workplaces that allow people to move around based on what they’re working on each day allows collaboration, teamwork, and innovation to flourish. You’ll get employees out of the “silos” that commonly form in traditional workplaces and start to see conversations between departments that lead to new ideas and initiatives.
Happy Employees Are Less Likely to Leave
Did you know that the cost to replace an employee ranges from 20% to over 200% of that employees’ salary, depending on their level of training and experience? Reducing the voluntary turnover rate can result in major cost savings—and while, yes, higher salaries can help, creating a better employee experience can go even further. In an EY survey, employees placed “a work environment that does not encourage teamwork” and “a boss that doesn’t allow you to work flexibly” in the top five reasons they would quit.
When employees feel supported and have the resources needed to do their job, their sense of satisfaction and pride in their work increases. A Gallup poll found that employees who are “engaged and thriving” are 59% less likely to look for another job. “Thriving,” in the study, refers to an employees’ well-being, an often-overlooked component of the employee experience. So looking at how your workplace fosters employees’ overall health and well-being, not just productivity, means higher retention rates and lower turnover costs.
Well-Designed Workplaces Facilitate Communication
Have you ever had an email chain that gets a little out of hand—someone misinterprets someone else’s meant-to-be-sarcastic remark, someone else who got looped in late didn’t realize what decision was being made? Have you ever stalked, eyes blazing, across the building to clear something up because 10 emails weren’t enough?
Wouldn’t it be easier if you were in a space that emphasized talking in person as a cornerstone of your employee experience? If it was easier to chat with someone face-to-face first, instead of trying to get eight people on an email chain to agree on something?
Fierce, Inc. conducted a survey in which 86% of respondents blamed lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures—missing deadlines or failing to meet department or company objectives. Is this a surprise to anybody? Probably not, but what may be surprising is how simple adjustments to the physical environment can go a lot further in fostering better communication than sending a memo with reminders about “how to communicate effectively with your team!”
There are many options for the work environment, all of which impact the employee experience. An activity-based workplace as one example can do more than just improve communication on projects and initiatives. The combination of open, shared spaces and those dedicated for brainstorming or creative work encourage both ad-hoc and planned collaboration. By bringing senior management out of offices and interacting with younger employees on a regular basis, you’re also creating the possibility for mentorship relationships to develop.
Attractive Workplaces and Culture Can Offset Lower Salaries
A study by HASSELL and Empirica found that 37% of respondents would accept a position with a lower salary if the workplace culture, environment, and technology offered was highly appealing. While salary has the largest single influence on a job’s attractiveness, when combined, workplace culture and workplace facilities had a greater influence. This means that a company that offers appealing workplace culture and facilities could potentially attract quality talent without having to offer top salaries.
If you’re seeking to attract top talent (aren’t we all?), these findings suggest that investing in workplace upgrades could be as beneficial as higher salary offerings. That can look like updating the furnishings and decor with a fresh, modern design, offering on-site facilities like a fitness center, bike parking, and outdoor areas, or implementing technology to improve the employee experience.
A Positive Employee Experience Means More Revenue
Jacob Morgan’s research on companies’ investments in employee experience management found that those investing heavily are listed in Glassdoor’ Best Places to Work list 11.5 times as often. And the Parnassus Endeavor Fund, which invests in companies commonly found on those “Best Places to Work” lists, has outperformed the S&P 500 with annualized returns of 12.2% (as of 2017). The idea is that companies that provide a stellar workplace culture will have employees who are motivated to work harder.
But as the rest of this post shows, it’s probably more than that—a great experience in the workplace is about setting it up to foster and encourage collaboration, creativity, and innovation. It also includes making it easy for employees to do their jobs on a day-to-day basis: ensuring their technology works and is user-friendly and providing spaces that specifically facilitate different kinds of work.
Now that you’re armed with hard numbers and facts, try pitching that workplace upgrade again.