Navigating In-Office and In-Home Workplace Environments to Foster Collaboration and Contentment
The research is clear—employees are more productive and happier in workplace environments that have been intentionally designed to motivate them around a common purpose. From the days of the cubicle to the era of the open plan office, employers have endeavored to develop working environments that help workers engage more productively and find increased fulfillment in their work. Too often, however, workplace environments were optimized for “densification” and cost-containment vs. employee enjoyment and productivity. Covid has changed all that. Each of the office design principles that rose to prominence in the past were reflections of the needs, priorities and expectations of the era in which they were created, and the post-Covid office is no exception.
Living and working through a pandemic has caused a fundamental shift in the way we think about office design. Offices are now often created with the expectation that workers will only be in person a few times a week, or even a month, and new design priorities reflect their shifting use. Companies now need to plan for “work from home” participation mixed with “work from work” in-office staffing.
As work moves online, companies need to create digital environments that help workers focus and connect in an increasingly atomized work environment. So how can office environment impact worker satisfaction? And how can our design choices attract new talent and encourage our best employees to stick around?
Enhancing In-Office and In-Home Worker Satisfaction Through Workplace Environment
As recent research shows, office environments continue to have a huge impact on worker satisfaction and intent to stay. Employees who have a positive perception of their work environment are much more likely to stick with their employer—and new workers deciding between two workplaces will typically use the environment as a deciding factor.
Creating a Welcoming In-Person Space
There are multiple factors that contribute to creating a fulfilling environment that supports productivity and considers different working preferences, but as identified by generations of indoor environmental quality researchers, they tend to be categorized into eight groupings:
- Indoor Air Quality and Overall Cleanliness
Spaces should feel clean and well ventilated. This is especially true of post-pandemic office design, when concerns about air flow and general cleanliness can amplify employee discomfort with returning to in-person work.
- Thermal Comfort
Offices should be kept at a temperature that’s comfortable for all. Select a happy medium between varying needs and employee preferences.
- Lighting and Natural Light
Say goodbye to flickering fluorescence—workers need a space with lots of natural light to keep productivity at its peak. If that’s impossible, use lighting systems that can vary throughout the day to mirror the natural progression of the sun.
- Noise and Acoustics
Quiet enough to focus but with enough background noise to enable conversation is the ideal office balance.
- Office Layout
Finding an appropriate office layout largely depends on your employee and industry preferences, but a balance of privacy and open spaces is always ideal.
- Biophilia and Views
Workers are happiest in a room with a view, but where that’s impossible, plants and pleasant artwork can offer a similarly beneficial effect.
- Look and Feel
Color schemes, spatial features and textures all contribute to a space’s look and feel, all of which should be a reflection of your organization’s brand, culture and values.
- Location and Amenities
A convenient location with transport and amenity accessibility boosts worker productivity, as do on-site features like gyms and childcare.
When all these factors are aligned with your brand values, you’ll be able to successfully create a physical office space that incentivizes workers to return to the office, supporting employee satisfaction and reinforcing your brand’s purpose in a new era of workspaces.
Crafting a Focused Digital Environment
There has been a great deal of research into the qualities that make a successful physical workspace, but the question of what it takes to create a successful digital workspace has yet to be resolved.
As more workers strive to continue working from home, at least part of the time, it has become even more critical for companies to create welcoming virtual environments for collaborative work. The digital world is rife with distractions, so creating a workspace where employees can connect, handle tasks and feel productive within the confines of a welcoming online work environment is extremely valuable.
So what can employers do to create these spaces? Researchers into post-Covid online work have a few suggestions:
- Keep it Simple
There’s nothing worse than having to manage multiple work platforms. Keeping your digital spaces streamlined and results-oriented—but always consistent with online security requirements—can prevent employees from feeling overwhelmed and cut down on distractions.
- Listen to What Workers Want
Our online lives are highly personal extensions of our real life selves, and our digital work lives are no exception. Adopt a policy of soliciting worker feedback on digital spaces—it’s often easier than you’d think to implement changes that have a major impact on a worker’s tech experience.
- Stay Flexible
A hybrid model is the new normal, and it’s vital that your design of digital workspaces reflects that reality. A heightened focus on collaboration and conversation in the digital sphere can help workers feel that they’re part of a team, while introducing agility into workplace design reinforces that sense of connection.
Rethinking Environment in the Work From Home Era
Many of us have seen our work lives change irrevocably in the post-Covid era. Where once commuting to the office daily was an inevitability, these days more workers prefer to maintain the work-from-home lifestyle they developed during Covid. And while many companies are resisting this change, responding to our shared new normal by creating physical and digital spaces that incentivize worker productivity and collaboration is the key to continuing growth.
Southern California based animation legend, DreamWorks, is the perfect example of the great things that can happen when you create a welcoming physical workspace. Their 13-acre campus was designed to foster creativity among its team of designers, animators, writers and more, boasting education and training programs as well as a range of social offerings including artist workshops, screenings, speaker series, gallery exhibits, clubs, yoga and ping pong. The result? An employee retention rate that’s approximately 95%.
Times of change always lead to creativity, and today is no exception. We have been tasked to expand our understanding of the ways environment can impact employee productivity and satisfaction by examining the idea of what environment truly is, and expanding our definition of what it means for a space to be a workspace, digital or physical.
By reimagining the concept of environment, we’re enabling our employees to function in a new professional reality, creating engaging spaces both real and digital that welcome new talent and encourage established employees to stick around.
Help your organization create a more meaningful environment to engage and inspire your employees. Learn more about BrandCulture’s Culture Framework to help your organization reach its highest potential.