How workplace design impacts employee engagement

By Bev Attfield

4 min read

How workplace design impacts employee engagement

Although the nature of work is changing, many employees still spend a significant amount of time in a physical place of work, such as an office building. Considering how much time the average employee spends at work during a 40-hour work week, what impact do these workspaces have on employee engagement, well-being, and culture?

I recently chatted about this with Alan Hancock of Space at Work. Alan has spent his career learning about and applying best practices for optimizing workplaces for human engagement, comfort, and satisfaction. We talked about the growing future of work movement (deftly led on many levels by Jacob Morgan and Brian Solis) and how the workplace will continue to play an important role in employee happiness and interconnection. A great physical workspace helps deliver greater productivity, more effective teamwork, quality interaction, more cohesive culture, and likely greater profitability.

If your office space is not conducive to effective work, connection, and collaboration, or is physically uncomfortable or unsafe, the employee experience will be negative. That makes the road to engaged employees a much harder journey. So, what can be done? Alan pointed to a few ways that organizations can harness their physical space to improve engagement. He set out these ideas in a recent blog post, shared below. Are you ready to engage?

For more inspiration, you can also check out these tips on building workplace vitality by paying attention to the physical environment of your workplace.  

How workspace design affects employee experience, engagement, and culture in the workplace

By Alan Hancock of Space at Work| originally posted here 

Employee experience exists at the intersection of the cultural, technological and physical environments in the workplace. A great employee experience is assured when these factors are in sync. Here are 5 things to think about when designing your office to maximize employee engagement.

Be authentic - make your space reflect your culture, not someone else's

Take the time to understand what makes your company unique. Develop some guiding principles and ensure that both your workspace and culture are supportive of them. If new ideas generated by collaboration are critical to your company's success, then build in spaces where staff can take time out to meet and engage with each other in casual settings and make sure this type of behaviour is not only permitted but encouraged.

Build a space where people want to come and work

Thanks to digital technology and mobile communications, fewer and fewer people need to undertake the daily commute into the office. Many of us no longer need to be at our desks to get work done because work can happen anywhere. Don't worry though, the office isn't going to disappear because enlightened companies are turning their workplaces into destinations where staff can come together to get the kind of face time that FaceTime™ can't replace. Offices are becoming places where staff come to focus, collaborate, learn, and celebrate. The most successful workplaces will be designed to maximize employee experience by providing 'fit for purpose' environments to carry out these activities more successfully.

Provide choice

There's recently been a lot of negative press about the open office and the truth is that the majority of people don't need to be in a collaborative environment all day long. Most need time to conduct focused work and certain personality types need more still. The secret is to build a workplace that provides a variety of places, spaces, and postures that employees can move to throughout their day and that best support the work mode that they’re in at any given time. When combined with supportive technology and culture, this type of agile workplace has been proven to enhance employee engagement.

Promote healthy behaviors

Sustainability has become a given when it comes to the built environment. The LEED™ standard and public demand has prompted manufacturers to provide products that have recycled content or don't off-gas. Energy conservation measures have been written into the building code and property developers are focusing on locations accessible by transit or providing eco-friendly options such as electric vehicle charging stations and bike storage/changing facilities.

The next logical step is for employers to promote employee sustainability through WELL™ certification which explores the connection between the buildings where we spend more than 90 percent of our time, and the health and wellness impacts on us as occupants. WELL™ Certified spaces can help create a work environment that improves the nutrition, fitness, mood, sleep patterns, and performance of its occupants and therefore promotes employee engagement.

Be inclusive

Our workplaces are becoming more diverse and if you want to attract the best talent then you need a workplace that allows them to be their best. Traditional offices often appear to have been designed for extroverts but clearly many of us don't thrive in those kinds of environments and do our best work away from the hustle and bustle of the open plan. Why not create quiet spaces that are conducive to focus and concentration so that everyone can find a space that works for them? These same spaces could double as nap rooms or even quiet contemplation/prayer rooms allowing staff to address their spiritual needs during working hours.


Implementing all of the above would require some fairly significant commitment from an organizational leadership standpoint, however the potential rewards from an employee engagement perspective are huge. 

About Space at Work

Space at Work are specialists in designing workplaces. They take the time to understand each client's requirements and by asking the right questions and listening to the responses, provide solutions that incorporate best practices, current and emerging trends to create spaces that are agile, adaptive, and ready to accept whatever change is around the corner. 

Thinking about employee engagement?

Check out our People Engagement platform!


Bev Attfield

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