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We spend nearly a third of our time in the workplace, yet the latest Happy Office Survey in November 2015 shows that 42% of office-based staff feel that their current working environment does not have a positive impact on their happiness. Project Director, Steve Taylor, shares his ideas on how to keep staff motivated and how office design can positively impact your business.
The physical workplace can affect things such as employee wellbeing, performance, collaboration, and productivity. Chris Moriarty, managing director at workplace effectiveness benchmarking organisation Leesman UK and Ireland, says: “If the working environment isn’t easy to use, if it isn’t free of obstacles and barriers, then it’s going to have a real impact on performance, which, in turn, will have an impact on motivation.”
If the workplace hampers employees’ ability to perform their jobs effectively, then it will not only hinder employers’ efforts to keep staff motivated, but it can also negatively impact wider talent strategies.
Offering a range of different spaces can enable staff to work in the environment that is conducive to performing at their best. This should include spaces that allow for concentrated individual work and areas that facilitate teamwork. An organisation can tailor these different environments to suit the types of tasks and activities that employees undertake.
A variety of meeting areas can also foster multiple forms of collaboration and motivate employees to work together in different ways. We try to encourage organisations not to have too many closed meeting rooms and not to have too many seated meeting rooms; so, things like stand-up meeting tables or stand-up benches that employees can huddle around for a quick conversation, whether it’s a project catch up or a brainstorm. That means people move a lot quicker, and they’re more likely to be creative.
It is not just spaces that are ostensibly geared towards working that are important; areas that support employees’ physical, mental, and social wellbeing also play a key role. This might include retreat areas where an employee can relax and take a break when needed or areas that facilitate play, such as a games room. If spaces are designed to be multi-purpose, then they could also host wellbeing activities such as yoga or meditation. Organisations could then hold social activities in these spaces to draw staff to them and help build relationships.
Incorporating nature into the workspace and ensuring the environment is light and open can also have a positive effect on employees’ performance and wellbeing. We’re pushing the point of biophilic inspiration which is taking inspiration from nature; anything associated with the outdoors such as grass and trees. We, as humans, respond to that.
This effect has also been felt where natural elements have contributed to motivating staff to improve their health and wellbeing. Moving to an agile working environment has also encouraged employees to be more active in moving around the office, while a 'no eating at hot desks' policy has meant that staff are getting away from their desks to take a break at lunchtime and to socialise with colleagues in the office restaurant.
When making changes to the working environment, it is important to understand both how the workplace is currently utilised and how this could be changed to enhance ways of working or encourage new behaviours. Organisations can work with consultants to gauge this information, ensuring that employees from across the business can provide feedback, for example, identifying any barriers they face and sharing how certain changes could improve their working experience or support their team’s goals.
The wider objectives of the business should also be considered; however, physical changes alone may not be enough to motivate staff to work differently; organisations need to help staff understand those new ways of working. This might include communications, a top-down approach from senior management, and physically demonstrating to staff how workspaces can work for them.