In recent years companies have expended considerable funds to alter the design of their office spaces in hopes to positively affect their workers’ output. Other spatial designs aim to improve worker creativity, while others look to boost recreational enjoyment with ping pong, razor scooters and massage chairs.
Recent research, like this study by Haworth, recently found, however, that these trends have largely failed to make workers happier.
The earliest attempts to manipulate workplace design for improved productivity were through functional elements of an office. This approached did show gains with members of the baby boom generation – a generation known for exerting high efforts at work when enabled to do so.
This approach was much less effective at motivating millennials to increase productivity. Millennials by contrast tend to blend their work life with their personal life and seek a sense of meaning from a job that provides a social and collaborative environment.
The Haworth study also helped reveal that workplace happiness is directly supported when workers feel they are valued, and that they can focus. A office layout that is intuitive to a workforce and enhances the rest of their lives – like socialization – will help worker confidence that leadership values their presence and contributions.
One way to socialize an office is to encourage less sitting and more chance meetings between colleagues through building common areas and private nooks next to high traffic areas, like elevators, kitchens and bathrooms. Placing nooks strategically nearby these social areas will encourage change meetings to break off into private conversations that may not only breed better relationships but may also produce better work systems, brainstorming, solve problems, creating ideas, collaborations and innovations.
Staircases are another social area that are being pulled from the backend of buildings and made into common highways where even more chance encounters can occur. Conference rooms are being brought from the corners to the center of rooms. Boring walls that put people to sleep are being scrapped for glass walls that look on to busy areas, which can help keep minds awake.
Focus improves when workers have control over their personal work environment. One example is adjustable desks that improve happiness by giving workers control over their own comfort and health. Research also shows that standing meetings keep groups more engaged and less territorial than sitting meetings.
Private booths are also important so workers feel they can reliably retreat somewhere to complete a phone call or complete some critical work, uninterrupted.
Finally, workers’ happiness is supported when workspaces are places they do not dread coming to. This is best achieved by maximizing function and decor through adequate storage, available sunlight, and visible art to stimulate energy and creativity.
Smart organizations that dedicate effort and funds to office design models that boost worker happiness are likely to reap long-term benefits of healthier, more-engaged employees and improved organizational performance.
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