There’s a big difference between needing to show up for work and actually wanting to show up for work. High living costs and ever-increasing professional demands are extending many workdays and sending stress levels off the charts. With three in four U.S. workers in less than optimal workplace environments, their struggle to work effectively has resulted in costly productivity losses, stifled innovation, and decreased worker engagement, according to Gensler’s Workplace Index.
The same study shows clearly that workplace density is on the rise while the square footage per person is getting smaller. But upgrading the square footage of your office space alone will do little to improve employee satisfaction – or productivity – if the physical workspace that engages our five senses isn’t utilized effectively.
Office amenities from wall art all the way to onsite gyms have a direct correlation with employee well-being. Employee well-being is directly tied to performance. As we’ll see, even incorporating incremental changes that employees value can better their relationship with the workplace.
Still, it’s important to remember that the office environment encompasses more than tangible amenities alone. Ahead we’ll explore how agents like choice and other shifts can help employers improve everything from office morale to talent acquisition.
Innovative companies with high performing employees are the ones offering one particular key asset: choice. The more autonomy an employee has to choose when and where he or she works, the more likely they are to actually, well, work.
Thanks to an abundance of mobile technology and omni-connected IoT environments, taking your work remote around the office or around the world is a distinct possibility if not an outright necessity in some cases.
Millennials, having grown up on a steady diet of connectivity, have also shaped the workplace in this way. Many of them don’t know a world outside the wired one we live in. This makes their expectation for flexibility paramount to their productivity. Many are unaccustomed to a work life that requires them to be chained to a desk for eight hours and isn’t willing to settle for this version of the status quo.
The Gensler’s Workplace Index reports that employees who choose the when, where, and how’s of their workdays are much more satisfied across a number of verticals. They also score workplaces as being high on work-life-balance and innovation.
Worried that if given a choice, your employees will consistently choose a work from home option? It’s interesting to note that even with flexible policies, many still elect to work from the office where they’re “more productive.”
Access to Nature
Nature is consistently shown to increase well-being and morale. The more greenery a human takes in within a day, the less stressed and more connected they feel. A 2015 report from The Human Spaces , titled The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace, showed that, “employees who work in environments with natural elements report a 15 percent higher level of well-being, are 6 percent more productive, and 15 percent more creative overall.”
Whether you prioritize roof and balcony access in your next office real estate search, orchestrate a walk to lunch day once a week, or simply bring in some indoor plants to help with air quality, the more nature you can incorporate, the better off everyone will feel.
Color experts agree that simply painting the walls of your office green can also help foster creativity.
Even the simplest of everyday activities can turn into impossible tasks if performed ergonomically incorrect. Seemingly innocuous acts like sitting or typing on the computer can lead to pain and additional health risks that result in lost time, or worse, can take an employee out altogether.
For years HR departments and well-meaning managers have touted the benefits of ergonomics in the workplace. It has the power to keep employees safe and simultaneously increase their engagement.
It’s one of the more visible ways office design can impact employee morale. On the flip side, pain is a debilitating condition that can send spirits, and productivity levels, plummeting.
Employees have a responsibility to enact some basic principles, but employers share the burden and can alleviate the potential pains by incorporating the following into their office design:
Provide ergonomic supplies. (mouse, raised keyboards, palm rests, etc.)
Purchase adjustable chairs or footrests so feet can rest flat on the floor.
Supply standing work desks to all employees, not just those who furnish a doctor’s note.
Pets in the Workplace
More than half of all U.S. households have pets – and for good reason. Animal interaction has numerous proven health benefits that don’t stop at home. Office pets are like a stress relief shot to the arm, decreasing cortisol levels, lowering blood pressure, and, you guessed it, boosting moods.
As the National Institute for Health (NIH) reports, organizations have even been using the power of pets to increase the concentration of ADHD children. Animals also naturally promote the tenants of mindfulness (attention, intention, and awareness), teaching and reinforcing these skills in their human counterparts by proxy.
Allowing animals in the workplace can also encourage employees from different departments interact with one another. This increases the sociability of everyone in the office, offering a low-risk way to make an introduction.
Some of the largest corporations on the planet, including Google, Airbnb, and the ‘Zon, have adopted pet-friendly policies. On the opposite end of the spectrum, small businesses also understand that allowing pets in the office can benefit their business
Reflecting Office Culture
It can be a tall order to decide which office amenities to include. Do you create a poetry room a la AppNexus, take a page from Google and create a nap pod, encourage video game breaks like Atlassian, or splurge on onsite counselors and coaches as Shopify does?
The answer is simple. See what your company culture is built around and adopt those extras in the office. For instance, if you’re a tech company, you might take care to ensure you work in a technologically advanced space.
If you’re an architecture or real estate firm, you might line the walls with the globe’s most iconic buildings to reflect your love of structure.
In the end, investment in office amenities is an investment in office morale. So long as you choose perks that align with the values of your organization and the wants of your employees, you’re making a strategic move that will likely yield more than a smiling workforce.