Increasing Employee Engagement Through Design

the design of your office shapes your company's culture

Employee engagement is a challenge for most businesses. When a disengaged team can so dramatically hurt your bottom line, it’s worth putting some effort towards improving it.

Research has shown that disengaged employees cost companies between $450 billion and $550 billion every year, and that organizations with high engagement outperform their competitors by an average of 202%. That means that the return on your engagement efforts is worthwhile.

Getting your team engaged takes a plan that involves all areas of your business. In this post, we’re going to focus on one of those areas:

Designing Your Office to Increase Employee Engagement

The design and layout of your office has a greater impact on culture and productivity than you might realize.

Culture is really the key to designing for productivity – when your office interior design matches your culture, good things happen. When it impedes your culture, you’re just working against yourself.

There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to creating a culture. Just because open workspaces and creative environments are trendy right now doesn’t mean they’re right for you. Build your culture around your goals and processes, and be intentional about it.

No matter what kind of culture you have, though, certain design features will always help drive better engagement.

Start With Ergonomics

Ergonomic workspaces are a lot more than expensive chairs and squishy wrist rests. Creating an ergonomic space is all about paying attention to the way humans move, act, and feel, and then designing a space that works with them instead of expecting people to adapt to the tools they’re using.

Putting it more simply, an ergonomic space is designed to be easy and intuitive to use.

By making little tweaks like putting frequently used items where they can be reached without much effort and installing well-designed tech that doesn’t take much training, you upgrade your space. Intuitive spaces reduce strain and make it easy to be productive.

Look for opportunities to improve wherever your team spends a lot of time. Is everyone walking back and forth to a printer several times each day? Install software that makes paperless work easier than printing, or move the printer to a central spot.

An ergonomic workspace is a comfortable, productive workspace.

Remove the barriers that make it difficult to engage, and you’re likely to see an improvement.

Now, let’s talk about some of the ways you can use your office design to enhance your culture and promote more engagements from your employees.

Collaborative Culture

A collaborative work culture is built around close, effective teams. If these traits suit your culture, you might fall into this category:

  • You keep a long-term view
  • You value people over processes
  • You focus on positive customer relationships
  • You prefer a flexible approach that can adapt to meet human needs

In this kind of culture, having spaces for teams to work together is really important. Design your office with lots of private or semi-private team rooms for group meetings that don’t interrupt the workday.

Individual work stations can be semi-private, too.

Cubicles with high walls discourage people from working with peers, but a completely open work area might cause distraction. Find the right balance for your preferences and goals.

Creative Culture

Cultures that thrive on creativity embrace flexibility, ideas, and innovation. This might be you if:

  • You need to be the first to innovate
  • You’re open to experimentation in your business
  • You encourage employee individuality

Creative cultures thrive in spaces that get people bumping into one another and crossing department boundaries.

It’s still important to provide spaces for focused, private work. Team members should have quiet places to retreat and get things done without distraction, though this format isn’t your primary layout.

Open spaces, shared surfaces, and lots of relaxed areas for informal meetings help enhance your creative culture.

Structured Culture

Many “traditional” businesses embrace a highly structured work culture. The focus here is individual productivity, task management, and the success of systems. Here are some indicators:

  • Your business model is designed for private, production-focused work
  • Your management hierarchy is very important to you
  • You believe in clearly defined job roles and discourage employees from taking on more or less
  • You stick closely to scheduled tasks, including breaks and recreation

In a structured culture, stability and procedures are all-important.

While your employees will need places to meet or have private conversations when appropriate, shared spaces aren’t a huge priority.

To get the most out of this kind of culture, create a space that limits distractions and keep recreational areas separate and clearly distinguished from workspaces. Cubicles designed for quiet, focused work will probably dominate your space.

Competitive Culture

Companies with a competitive culture focus on beating their competition through rigorous focus and quick decision making. Rather than inviting creativity to drive innovation, these companies strategically choose how they want to innovate. You probably have a competitive culture if:

  • You’re tightly focused on competitive advantage
  • You hold employees accountable to the results they produce
  • You plan for innovation

Like in the collaborative culture, meeting space is important. In this case, though, structure and intention is more important than new ideas. Meeting space should be optimized for planning and sharing strategic ideas.

If this is your culture, make sure that your office design is modern and equipped with all the tools you might need to reach your aggressive goals.

Tweaking Your Office Design

Remodeling your entire office probably isn’t practical for most businesses.

When you don’t have the budget to start fresh, opt for smart upgrades that suit your culture. Switching from old cubicles to a new, open desk system to suit your creative culture is a relatively small change that can have a huge impact on engagement.

Prioritize your design decisions based on what’s currently most out of sync with your culture.

As a growing company, it’s also wise to consider that your needs are going to change, and you’re not always going to be able to predict how. Installing modular systems might cost a little more than you want to spend on office design right now, but the savings next time you need to make a change will be substantial.

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