Much of the employee experience—the perceptions your workers have for the duration of their employment with you—concerns the physical space they interact with throughout the workday. Research has shown that physical spaces influence employee satisfaction, so it’s not a surprise that organizations that want to attract and retain talent also invest in designing workspaces that employees want to work in.
This is of course complicated by the fact that many employees now work from home or balance hybrid work environments. Some employers are rethinking workspace design to entice workers back into the office, complementing home offices with spaces that prioritize social interaction. Employers that want to encourage in-office work may find themselves competing with the amenities and comforts of a home office.
Are you considering how to engage workers through their work environment? Here’s how the physical workspace impacts the employee experience.
How the physical workspace impacts the employee experience
In 2021, the International WELL Building Institute announced that over 13.6M people across more than 33,000 locations worldwide now benefit from WELL strategies. WELL is a certification model that supports people’s health and well-being in buildings, and it’s been adopted by 20% of Fortune 500 companies. WELL-certified companies have reported a positive impact on business performance and physical health among their employees, leading to higher productivity and staff retention.
Not all companies need to be WELL-certified to realize these benefits, but prioritizing wellness in the work environment can improve employee experience and this can be incorporated into your employee onboarding process. For example, companies can work toward WELL certification or promote employee well-being in their physical workspace by:
Retrofitting spaces to improve the quality of air, light, acoustics, and thermal comfort.
Using layouts that encourage physical movement.
Investing in ergonomic office equipment.
Offering spaces designed for stress management and mental well-being.
Integrating workspace perks such as gyms or healthy food options.
Productivity and engagement
How and where do your employees prefer to work? Workspaces are more likely to improve employee satisfaction if they align with their preferred work styles and the demands of their roles. Familiarizing yourself with how your employees already use space daily is crucial in creating a work environment that enhances the employee experience.
Progressive organizations understand that most workforces contain a blend of work preferences and build spaces with multiple floor plans to accommodate this. For example, a company’s sales team might prefer an open floor plan where they can easily interact and collaborate, while a software development team may be more productive in a quieter environment with cubicles and fewer distractions. Most organizations benefit from a combination of private breakout and conference rooms, quiet focus areas, and collaborative spaces for both work and socialization.
A 2022 survey by Employ found that one of the top reasons for leaving a job in the first 90 days was that the company culture was not as expected. Companies that prioritize a healthy workplace culture typically formalize their cultural values and invest in employee onboarding processes and workplace events that promote those values. Employees should also feel the company culture reflected in the space in which they work. For example, tech companies may integrate sophisticated tools and technologies to enhance the work environment. Companies that strongly value collaboration and discussion might prioritize social spaces.
Now that many employees are working from home, companies are transforming office spaces into culture hubs that foster connection. Consider what differentiates your company culture and translate that into the work environment. If you have 100% remote employees, supplying consistent workspace features and tools for home use can help unify an otherwise disjointed company culture.
Now that hybrid and remote work set-ups are normalized, many organizations focus on improving employee experiences virtually and incorporate these changes in the corporate learning and development structure. But as employers embrace hybrid arrangements or encourage a return to the office, companies are rethinking their physical workspaces. Workspaces have a significant impact on the employee experience, and a well-planned space can improve employee well-being, productivity, and culture—and even help you retain talent in a competitive hiring market.
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