Fine-tuning your environment goes a long way to helping your employees enjoy their time at work. Here are our tips for making your workplace a great place to be
Even small improvements to your organisation’s working environment can make a significant difference to employee productivity, wellbeing, performance, happiness and engagement. Here are some factors HR teams should be thinking about when designing a workplace.
Bring a sense of the outside, inside
Here at the CIPHR blog, we’re big fans of using greenery to spruce up the working environment – just take a look at our previous post, Seven benefits of having plants in the office, to find out how living plants could change your workspace, too.
But there’s more to creating a natural-feeling environment that just plants; it’s important that employees can open the windows to bring in fresh air, and that the office has as much natural light as possible. Natural light is a great stress reducer; in a worldwide study undertaken to record the impact of daylight in healthcare buildings, it was found that exposure to bright morning light was shown to reduce agitation among elderly patients with dementia – and it’s likely workers experience a similar reduction in stress, too.
Enable multiple ways of working
Architecture firm Gensler recommends that organisations provide workspaces that enable employees to work in each of the four different ‘work modes’ it has identified:
- Focus – individual work that requires concentration, often on a single task or project
- Learn – acquisition of knowledge through education or experience
- Socialise – interacting with colleagues and peers to build trust, a sense of collective identity and create productive relationships
- Collaborate – work with another person or group, in person or via technology such as Skype
Gensler’s report suggests people are more easily able to collaborate in a range of different workspaces that they are able to concentrate – so HR professionals and facilities managers should make an effort to carve out quiet spaces where staff can carry out ‘deep work’.
“The workplace in any of its past and current iterations—open office, cubicle farms, warrens of private offices—has never been adept at supporting the delicate balance of intense focus and rich collaboration required by knowledge workers who aim to thrive,” says the report.
Create space to take a break
The average British worker takes only a 34-minute lunch break, and more than half of workers skip their lunch break altogether, according to a 2017 poll by flexible working space firm Workthere. The same poll found HR professionals to be the most guilty of skipping their break – with 70% admitting to regularly failing to take lunch – and that office employees eat lunch ‘al desko’ an average of four times a week.
Staff will be more likely to take a refreshing break – and therefore be more energised and ready for a productive afternoon – if you create an attractive space in which to eat, relax and talk to their colleagues.
You might even want to provide activities such as a games console, table football or pool table as a way of encouraging employees to switch off from work during their breaks.
Have the right technology in place to support flexible working
Advances in communications and technology mean, for many office-based workers, there are few valid reasons why they cannot work flexibly or remotely, at least part-time.
Many workers find that working flexibly – either by working at home, or shifting their hours – helps them to better fit in family demands, as well as reducing time spent commuting and associated stress. Escaping the office to work in a quieter location from time-to-time is also important for staff whose roles include a need to concentrate on deep work (which can be tricky in a busy open-plan office – as discussed above). Those who need to work collaboratively can still do so remotely thanks to apps such as Skype and Slack.
Employers will also reap the benefits of supporting flexible working. Some may find that, by encouraging workers to work away from the office, they can cut down on the amount of office space they need to rent. Organisations can also expect staff to be happier, more engaged, more productive and less stressed when given the option to work flexible. Flexible working can also be a useful part of your employer brand, too.
Treat the physical space like software
This final recommendation comes from author and futurist Jacob Morgan, writing for Forbes in 2015. “In software, you iterate, make changes, upgrade, and evolve,” he writes. “The physical space needs to be thought of in the same way.”
While your organisation might not have the budget for a full redesign every year, Morgan’s approach is still valid. Assess how your workplace operates now for employees, and make small tweaks. Did they improve the employee experience, or make matters worse? Keep testing and trying small changes, and they’ll eventually add up to make a significant improvement to your workplace.
This article was first published in May 2017. It was updated in July 2018 for freshness, clarity and accuracy.