How Workplace Design Can Boost Employee Engagement
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  • How Workplace Design Can Boost Employee Engagement

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Patrick Isitt
Content Manager
Content specialist in office design and build.
  • Employee engagement is the key to creating a high-performance workplace. When employees feel valued, challenged and excited by what they do, workplace performance levels are known to rise.

    But many businesses fall short when it comes to designing spaces that facilitate engagement. As a result, a significant proportion of employees do not feel engaged at work, with major implications for workplace productivity.

    In the UK, the situation is particularly alarming, with 90% of employees feeling disengaged at work. Globally the picture is better, but still a cause for concern. According to Gallup, almost 60% of the world’s employees are disengaged, with a cost to the global economy of US$8.8 trillion. Time is money, after all.

    The most engaged employees are those who have a sense of agency at work – those who feel consulted and included in workspace design decisions. The most successful workspaces, therefore, are those that reflect the needs of the most important stakeholder in the building: the end-user.

  • Why is employee engagement important?

    Employee engagement has a huge impact on business-critical outcomes, such as talent attraction and retention, productivity and profit.

    A highly engaged business achieves around 59% less staff turnover, helping to save costs on recruitment and training, while reducing absenteeism by 41%. Happy employees are also healthy employees, with high levels of engagement making time off work due to illness 53% less likely for the workforce.

    In addition, an engaged workforce delivers better service, receiving customer ratings that are 10% higher than those of disengaged employees. They are also more productive and efficient. In fact, recent research suggests that companies with good employee engagement are 21% more profitable than those with poor engagement levels.

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  • How can workplace design boost employee engagement?

    As set out in our guide, 8 Design Tips for a High-Performance Workplace, we believe high-performance workplaces are created when people, technology and innovative design come together. Employee engagement lies at the heart of these intersections, which are not just about the physical environment but about creating a culture of involvement.

    Workplaces that are co-designed with their users encourage a deeper connection between employees and the spaces they inhabit. By enabling employees to play a key role in shaping their future workplace, companies can build a sense of trust and empowerment. They can ensure these spaces truly support the ways in which people work best – tailoring furniture, facilities, décor and design to employee preference, which in turn drives up workplace engagement and performance.

    By offering employees greater choice; by driving meaningful connections through unique experiences and interactions; and by balancing public and private space to maximise productivity, businesses can create the conditions for a thriving, engaged workforce and a successful, future-focused workplace.

  • Offering greater choice

    Empowering people to decide where and how they work through design is the key to enhancing workplace productivity. As any employee knows, no two days in the office are the same. There is a whole spectrum of work modes across which employees operate, depending on their own personal and professional needs.

    Companies that support the ad-hoc are able to offer a range of settings suited to diverse work styles. Some employees like to sit, others like to stand. Some like to have open space to walk around in and interact with colleagues, while others like to shut themselves away. The key principle is to offer employees areas beyond their individual desks which provide a change of environment during the working day. Breakout areas, collaborative zones and private pods for instance, enable employees to transition between different work modes, seamlessly and comfortably, depending on their task or mood.

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  • Driving meaningful connections

    The office needs to provide employees with unique experiences they can’t recreate when working from home. And workplace design has a vital role to play in shaping these experiences. When businesses leverage design to encourage movement, they promote employee wellbeing and connectivity. By encouraging staff to explore all available office space, they facilitate the chance meetings and creative interactions that keep a workplace vibrant.

    Movement also discourages siloes and nesting, which can create barriers between individuals, teams and departments. It enables the flow of people and ideas and promotes cross-disciplinary communication, helping to foster a sense of community and belonging. Spreading key spaces and amenities across different floors is a good way of encouraging movement, while the creation of working ‘neighbourhoods’ promotes collaboration between people who might otherwise not interact. In addition, the more people move, the less they will gather around desks or in work areas, which can cause noise and distraction.

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  • Providing retreat

    While work is often an inherently social activity, there are always certain tasks that require privacy, peace and seclusion. If there is nowhere in an office to take a call, think or be alone, employees can begin to feel overwhelmed. They can also become distracted. On average, 2.1 hours are lost each day at work due to distractions. People typically spend around 11 minutes on a task before getting distracted, and require a further 25 minutes to return to a task following the initial distraction.

  • By utilising workplace design to provide retreat, companies can create spatial sanctuary for employees away from the office core. They can balance open plan layouts with private space free from noise and distraction; space that allows employees to undertake quiet focused work or simply switch off. Some employees need to step away from the bustle of the office hub in order to recharge. Giving them the opportunity to do so will provide greater results in the long term, delivering a boost to productivity.

    But companies need to think carefully about where their ‘retreat spaces’ are located. Those that are tucked away from central work zones will provide greater privacy, and are far more likely to be used by those employees seeking solitude. Ultimately, the key value-add is a space that offers a different environment from the main work area – a space from which employees return feeling refreshed, energised and engaged.

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  • Good employee experience, positive business outcome

    While 87% of organisations cite culture and engagement as one of their top challenges, almost two-thirds of executives do not feel they are successfully addressing this issue within their business. Clearly, there is much to do and a long way to go before companies get to grips with employee engagement.

    Ultimately, good employee engagement comes from a good employee experience, which is achieved by creating environments where employees feel motivated, valued and able to work in ways that suit them best.

    Innovative workplace design can play a pivotal role in creating the right conditions for a positive employee experience, promoting connectivity, movement, meaningful interactions and, above all, choice and control. By ensuring employees have a say in how and where they work, and in the design features that will support their day-to-day activities, companies can help to ensure their workforce feels listened to and empowered. And this in turn will lead to positive outcomes for individuals, teams and the business as a whole.

  • The High-Performance Workplace Guide

    This guide details 8 tips for designing high-performance workplaces that will equip businesses with the knowledge and inspiration needed to create a culture of involvement in the workplace.

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