Your workspace is the foundation of employee engagement

by Axel • Sep 22, 2019 in Human Resources

The workspace is the thumb of employee engagement tactics: underappreciated but incredibly important. Discover why.

The workspace is the thumb of employee engagement tactics: underappreciated but incredibly important. In this article, you’ll discover why the workspace has a massive impact on your employees' engagement. And how you can turn your office into an engaging hub.

But first, a recap of how important employee engagement is.

Studies have shown that highly engaged teams show 31 percent greater profitability. That’s because those teams realize a 41 percent reduction in absenteeism and 59 percent less turnover. In turn, disengaged employees cost companies a stunning 400 billion euro across our continent. Employees who feel connected produce 400 percent more revenue and are 37 percent more productive. Plus, employees who stay engaged and have a close friend at work are seven times more likely to stay at the company.

Let these figures sink in.

Have they sunk in yet? Ok, let's move on.

Most of you know these stats and take steps aimed at improving employee engagement. You organize team-building events and organize mutual evaluation sessions to boost your employees' involvement in the companies’ direction. Great! But what about your company's workspace?

It’s one of the bedrocks of employee engagement. Workspace satisfaction and employee engagement go hand in hand. Only 13 percent of global workers are highly engaged. These happy workers are also highly satisfied with their workspace. Coincidence? I think not.

Inversely, 11 percent of employees are highly dissatisfied with their offices and thus highly disengaged. Seems surprising but think about it: would you be emotionally invested and engaged in a windowless office? I know I wouldn't.

"But how does the workspace influence employee engagement?"

Well, there are plenty of ways.

1. Control

Control is one of the determining factors of employee engagement. Your employees want control over how they work, and over where they work. Some of them could be apprehensive about asking for more control. You should help them overcome that hurdle and offer more freedom. Your staff can manage their need for privacy, concentration or collaboration better than anyone else. So, let them choose where they work. They'll reward your trust with more engagement, better performances, and long-lasting loyalty.

2. Connection

Gossiping improves employee engagement. Employees who frequently interact with their colleagues and peers are more engaged and are thus better professionals. That’s because gossip - and interaction in general - generates a sense of belonging, which is an intrinsic motivator for employees and employers alike. More on this later.

On top of that, connecting and interacting will be one of the most highly valued workplace skills for the future, according to Lee Rainie, research director at Pew Research Center. And what enables interaction? You guessed it: the workspace. The way a workspace is designed has a massive impact on networking, mingling, and collaboration. Cubicles are less suitable for conversations than shared offices.

The same goes for employees who work remotely or are on the road. The best way to keep them engaged is by frequently meeting with them. Online or offline. But also to allow them to work in remote workspaces where they can interact with other professionals.

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3. Motivation

There are two types of motivation.

1) Extrinsic motivation. These are external rewards, such as receiving money or approval from others.

2) Intrinsic motivation. These are rewards that resonate on a personal level, like work happiness, pride regarding the workspace or emotional connection with the company.

Money or other external motivators won't keep your teams engaged. These incentives don’t inspire an emotional connection. This is very apparent in workspaces that lack functionality and design. There’s only so much you can do to incentivize your employees when they work in a space that’s badly lit, loud or flat out ugly.

You can easily measure intrinsic motivation with trackable employee engagement metrics. These include recognition, feedback, happiness, personal growth, job satisfaction, wellness, ambassadorship, team friendships, and company alignment. Harvard Business Review also recommends metrics such as personal development, company loyalty, and recreation.

Most of these engagement metrics are directly related to workspace design. A workspace has an impact on wellness. If you adjust the acoustics to cancel out excessive noise you will reduce employee stress. Or you could create quiet spaces where people can concentrate. You also can improve air quality and temperature by upgrading the ventilation system, adding plants, and regulating humidity.

Lighting has a similarly big impact on employee wellness. Dr. Brandon Tinianov, chairman of the U.S. Green Building Council’s advisory council, shared that employees with enhanced exposure to daylight experienced a 2 percent productivity increase. This is an equivalent of an additional 91.000€ per year for every 100 workers. Enough reasons to be mindful of your workspace.

The physical workspace influences more than one aspect of your employee’s working experience. A suitable workspace will lead to increased employee retention, more successful employee recruitment and will improve your company's performance.

We've answered why. Let's find out how you can turn your workspace into an engaging hub.

1. Functionality and inspiration.

The ideal workspace is both functional and inspirational. It creates a sense of pride and it has a lot of ‘stickiness’ to it. Your employees should want to be there.

You’ll achieve this by creating a mix of spaces that reflect your employees' needs and wishes. It should represent your company's values, behaviors, and way of working too.

If you want an organization where everybody can chime in, you should tear down the walls. The best way to find out what you need is to involve your employees. Ask them and allow them to be directly involved in every step of the way.

Open-plan spaces got a bad rap. A bit unfair if you ask me. They still have a big part to play in modern workspaces. They will help create a non-hierarchical environment where open communication, collaboration, and sharing knowledge reign supreme. There are other types of workspaces too. Find the one that suits your team best.

2. Enable collaboration

Collaboration is paramount to any business. There are, however, different types of collaboration and your space should reflect that. What you need for a project room will differ from what you need for a training session. You’d need high chairs to support movement, and whiteboards and technology to share digital content for the first. And sleek desks and video tools for the latter.

Your workspace should enable different types of interaction. Allow your employees to share ideas, co-create and work in teams without interruption. If you design your office this way, you’ll create a culture of creativity and innovation.

3. Enable focus and privacy

A study performed by Steelcase has shown that highly engaged workers have more access to spaces where they can concentrate than disengaged workers. Neuroscience teaches us that we are not designed to multitask and that focus requires energy. We are open to distraction every three minutes, which has an impact on our ability to concentrate. That’s why employees should have access to spaces that allow focus.

Especially, those who work in open-plan offices. We all need to be alone from time to time. Open-plan offices must, therefore, be balanced with spaces for personal rejuvenation where staff can relax catch up on their Instagram feed and change posture. Your employees will be better for it.

4. Provide spaces for informal connections.

We are social animals and we need spaces where we can chit-chat with our coworkers. And your traditional meeting room just won't cut it. Your employees need spaces specifically for informal interactions throughout the day. It’s hard to create a vibe, but these spaces should feel like a bar and should also offer the support required for work, physical wellness, and privacy.

Give employees choice and control over when and how to work. As shown by this study and our trend report, those who have more control over various aspects of their workplace and work experience are more engaged. Empower your people to decide where and how they are most productive. It's essential to their engagement. They know best when they need to focus, when they need to huddle up and collaborate or when they need to mingle with their colleagues. Allow them to choose when and where to do those things.

5. Flexibility

This ties into the previous point. Workers are becoming increasingly mobile and workspaces are turning into hubs were a variety of colleagues, contractors and freelancers interact. Those same workspaces serve as an expensive business card towards external guests and potential hirings. The office represents your business and yourself. That’s why you should facilitate your employees’ and visitors’ mobility according to who they are and how they want to work. Create resilient workplaces, which encourage people to be more agile and engaged.

6. Keep technology in mind

Technology plays a huge part in giving employees more choice and control over where and how they work. Yet many organizations appear to be lagging because of fears over data security and a perceived lack of cooperation and cohesion among employees who would no longer be working side by side.

The Steelcase study shows how many employees are still working traditionally. With a fixed PC and telephone. Talk about restricting. This forces these employees to work at their desks. So, align your IT strategy with your workplace goals to succeed in building a more engaged culture.

Equip your conference rooms with the technology needed for easy video conferencing, such as high-quality microphones and web cameras. Make sure individuals have the means to communicate easily with screen sharing or video sharing tools.

7. Healthy employees are engaged employees

So, keep your employees moving throughout the day to maintain their physical well-being. Your space should support different postures and movements. Think about adding sit-stand desks, lounge seats or even birthing balls. These options will physical improve their well-being. Movement leads to brain regeneration thus to better ideas.

8. What does your workspace look like?

The way the leadership team’s spaces are designed matters. Your office's design should mirror the company’s culture and your employees’ expectations. Leadership spaces often reveal a lot about how a company wants to be perceived by its employees, what its values are and the behaviors that it encourages or discourages. These areas should be carefully designed with this in mind. Your team expects transparency, interaction with you and for you to lead by example. Design your workspace accordingly.

9. Make it personal

Encourage personal sharing among employees. This will help them connect better with each other, and ultimately the company. Remember, people engage when they have an emotional connection. Design an office and an engagement strategy that enables them to share professional experiences, private moments, knowledge, etc. Design a workspace in which all employees have an opportunity to provide feedback on the product, marketing or pr policies.

10. Make the space interactive

A little paint can go a long way. Paint some or all of your office walls with chalkboard and whiteboard paint. Employees will have an easier time communicating and brainstorming throughout the office. A fresh coat of paint can encourage your employees to work through complex challenges or simply share positive messages throughout the workspace.

11. Incorporate Nature

Natural elements make for a warmer and more pleasant atmosphere. Gray cubicles and beige walls rarely excite. Incorporate real flowers and plants. You'll be amazed at how your workspace will come to life.

12. Your office is more than a workspace.

The best part of the workspace is the people. Give your employees the chance to use the office beyond their professional purposes, and in the process, create a more engaging work environment. A desk can easily serve as a ping-pong table. Allow your employees to play ping-pong.

There you have it: a list of reasons why and tips on turning your office into a tool to engage your employees. We do have some ways to make your employees even more engaged. Click on the button below to find out how.