The Role of Workplace Design in Employee Engagement

Covid-19 has undoubtedly changed the way we approach workplace design and employee engagement. It’s become critical: employees are concerned about workplace safety and socially distanced work spaces.

Below is a blog we completed in February but never got round to publishing on our website. A lot has changed so we’ve updated the content accordingly – let us know what you think.

Source: INC / Courtesy DLG

Recent studies have found a direct correlation between workplace design and employee wellbeing. It stands to reason that the environment in which someone works directly affects how someone works but is it so obvious that there is such a direct link with employee wellbeing?

Wellbeing is a key metric that more and more companies, large and small, are becoming acutely aware of. Positive action towards improved wellbeing can increase employee retention, increase work rates and decrease the number of days off sick the average worker has.  These are some very good reasons to make sure employee wellbeing is high on the list of priorities but what is it specifically about workplace design that is significant in this metric?

What can a company do to increase employee engagement and wellbeing?

Be authentic – by creating a working environment that reflects company culture you increase the likelihood of colleagues endorsing their workplace. This process can also help a company to refine what it is that makes them standout and unique in a competitive environment.

Now: How many people do you know using the furlough scheme? Many companies are making use of Government funded retention schemes and a small minority of companies are making a dogs-dinner of sacking staff. If there’s a time to be authentic, now is it.

Build a space people want to come to – Would you paint the interior of your house grey, remove anything that suggests people live there and add a desk and computer screen and call it an inspiring environment? No, we wouldn’t either.  We do understand that with more and more people working from home investing in a well designed office space can seem an expensive thing to do but it is well worth it. Smart companies are realising that their offices are becoming destinations in which to collaborate and meet. Harbour this notion and embrace it. Increased collaboration can only be a good thing right?

Now: People used to crave WeWork vibe office decor *no comment* but covid-19 has clearly highlighted how remote working can work well for many companies. Workplace wellbeing is less about the appeal of a physical office space but instead building a safe place to work with socially distancing furniture.

lady working from living room table | makeshift home office
Are you perched on your kitchen table or have you invested in suitable home office furniture designed for comfort?

Provide Choice – as we highlighted in our ‘Office of the future’ blog people like to work in spaces that suit them. Whether that be a noisy coffee shop environment, a quiet space more akin to a lounge, or an open plan collaborative work space, by offering options you cater to the broadest range of people, again this can only be good for business and a great company culture.

Now: Sadly, choice is limited for everyone for the time being. But soon as it’s safe to do so, a new choice will be on offer to employees: do you want to continue working from home, or would you like to work in the office?

Example desk screens we’re installing for reception areas and desk space

Encourage healthy behaviour – Free beer and ping-pong is great but not necessarily for everyone. Simple things such as healthy snacks, a number of plants in the workplace and outdoor spaces can greatly improve morale through encouraging healthy habits. Encourage meetings that utilise the spaces you have in and out of the office and create a range of environments for all to enjoy.

Now: Just because office activities and socials are a no-go, there’s no reason why you should stop chatting with colleagues about non-work related matters. Share your working from home routines, yoga videos, have a virtual company bake-off or set up a Strava group to encourage colleagues to get active. On the work front: we encourage every employer to ensure their workforce are working from home comfortably i.e. ergonomic home office furniture, sit-stand desks and adequate storage where necessary. 

Biscuits are an approved Solutions4 Office perk 😋

Remain Connected – working from home is going to be a bigger part of everyone’s lives certainly given the current environment. This means that more of the workforce is going to be in a wider variety of places. This can be an opportunity if embraced. Facilitating greater communication and remote working helps pull people together in a way that fits their lives as well as their careers. Promoting this and providing technical solutions that fit mean a company is ready for anything.

Now: Company IT departments are earning their crust! Covid-19 has enforced remote-working and it’s highlighting 2 things:

  1. A digital divide – not everyone has access the internet which is a big issue (NetImperative)
  2. A preferred way of working: Employees are coming to realise remote working is not only possible but, in some cases, preferable. A shift to a new way of working might already be under way. (BBC)
Meeting Pod
Modular meeting room spaces – doubles us a isolated office space

Taking the time to think about workplace design and implement what is outlined above will take a lot of commitment as well as budget.  Justifying a budget to creating a positive space can be hard but as the misquoted film Field of Dreams puts it “build it and they will come”.  Create an inspiring and safe place and you will encourage people, employees to be inspired.

Things are changing very fast in lots of aspects of our lives but particularly our work. Staff that are able to have been told by “the Science” to work from home and thankfully technology is available so that is possible. This is evolving and a general return to office is underway or being planned as companies ramp up for a steady back to office strategy. Currently workplace design is focused purely on making sure that the working environment is Covid secure. Risk Assessments are updated and published to address any issues that could undermine the safety of staff as they come back into the office environment. Office screens that were a big feature of office landscapes in the 1980’s are making a dramatic return to workspaces, but the most popular are now clear acrylic screens or toughened glass screen versions. These are made at a higher height than previous incarnations since, this time, they are presenting a barrier to possible virus carrying droplet transmission. The social distance planning for office spaces is crucial and this needs to be planned carefully especially with possible muted adaptations to the distance measurement. The Solutions 4 team have been planning workplace designs for over 30 years and with our in-house science team we have particular skills in the technical space planning relating to covid-19. 

Richard Thomson – Managing Director, Solutions 4 Office

If you’d like some free, no-obligation, advice about your office plan – please drop us an email and one of the team will be in touch.

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