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Although the workplace experience looks very different from one country to another, most employees around the world want the same things. What makes a great workplace experience, and what can we learn from some of the best workplaces in the world?
At a time when employees have more options than ever—including the option to work for themselves in the gig economy—the workplace experience is a significant differentiator. A great one sets your company apart from the competition, making it easier to attract and retain top talent.
In short, the workplace experience is the sum of all interactions employees have with your organization.
Research shows employees who believe they have a great workplace experience stay at your company three years longer on average.
By contrast, a negative one leads to high turnover, reduced productivity, a negative public perception and poor business outcomes.
So what makes a great workplace experience? According to Marie Puybaraud, Global Head of Research at JLL, the workplace experience is based on three factors:
These factors are universal.
No matter where they live and work, every employee wants to feel connected to their workplace, have more freedom to choose how, when and where they work, and work in a comfortable environment that prioritizes their wellbeing.
It might seem difficult to objectively quantify what makes a great workplace, but there are researchers who analyze the data and publish rankings every year. For instance, the Great Places to Work Institute ranks the best workplaces in the world by comparing organizations in 58 countries with 5,000 or more employees.
Although the workplace is becoming increasingly global, with fewer distinctions between offices from one country to the next, the standards for what makes a great workplace experience are still influenced by cultural factors. Cultural differences in attitudes about work can impact employee happiness, engagement and even productivity.
For instance, Denmark, Norway and Sweden consistently rank top among the countries with the happiest employees, according to Universum’s Global Workforce Happiness Index.
We can learn a lot from these differences, so they’re worth exploring.
Denmark has been consistently ranked No. 1 for employee happiness worldwide. The country even has a saying that sums up its attitude toward the workplace experience: arbejdsglæde. Pronounced “ah-bides-glull,” this word means “happiness at work” and sums up the Scandinavian attitude toward the workplace. In her book, The Atlas of Happiness: The Global Secrets of How To Be Happy, author Helen Russell describes this idea in more detail.
The biggest takeaway is that it’s all about balance. Although the official work week is 37 hours, research from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development finds the average Dane only works about 33 hours a week.
Denmark’s “Holiday Act” grants every employee five weeks of paid vacation per year, and there are at least 13 national holidays. There’s an emphasis on flexibility and autonomy, too.
“Arbejdsglæde means you have the freedom to make your job work around your private life, which takes a lot of stress away and definitely makes us happier,” said one employee Russell interviewed for the book.
In return, employees say they are more motivated and focused.
Workplaces strongly encourage employees to take communal lunch breaks and leave the office promptly at 4 p.m.
Working until 7 p.m. is more likely to earn you a lecture on efficiency and time management than a pat on the back.
Does arbejdsglæde actually make Danish employees more productive? Research affirms it does — Denmark is the fourth most productive country in the world, according to Expert Market data.
China is tied with the United States for having the most engaged workplaces, according to The Marcus Buckingham Company’s Global Engagement Report.
Both countries have, on average, 19% of their workforces fully engaged, while most countries who participated in the survey hovered around 15%, according to the research.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the workplace factors with the greatest impact on employee engagement are different from one country to the next.
In both China and the U.S., the most powerful predictor of employee engagement is being enthusiastic about the mission of the company.
In the UK and India, the greatest predictor of employee engagement is being surrounded by people who share common values.
In France and Canada, it’s the belief that “my teammates have my back,” while in Australian workplaces, it’s “having confidence in my company’s future.”
Personal development is an important factor for employee engagement across many countries, but it seems to have particular significance in Spain. The greatest predictor of employee engagement was the belief that they are “always challenged to grow,” according to the survey. While there are some distinct differences in what motivates employees across the globe, some employee engagement strategies appear to be universal.
Europe has a number of countries ranking among the healthiest countries in the world, including Spain (No. 1), Italy (No. 2) and Switzerland (No. 5).
While dietary habits and cultural factors seem to play a significant role in overall health, European countries invest more in workplace wellness than most other countries worldwide, according to the Global Wellness Institute (GWI.)
It’s a smart investment, considering the economic costs of illness is estimated to be as high as 10-15% of global economic output, according to the GWI. The costs related to stress and burnout are also significant—estimated to be as high as $650 billion in Europe alone. Recognizing the need to take action, European workplaces have become more proactive about workplace wellness. Twenty-three percent of employees have access to workplace wellness programs, compared to just 9% of employees globally.
As companies compete for top talent globally, many are realizing they need to invest in this area. In a report on the future of workplace wellness, the Global Wellness Institute predicts today’s compartmentalized programs will be phased out in favor of a more holistic approach. We are already seeing this in many European workplaces. Here are just a few examples.
Smart buildings are enhancing the workplace experience in a variety of ways.
The latest intelligent building technology improves employee comfort by adjusting lighting, temperature and humidity levels based on occupancy, for instance. Intelligent buildings equipped with IoT sensors can be more responsive to the needs of the workforce, improving wellbeing and productivity in addition to optimizing costs.
Workplace leaders believe smart buildings will deliver measurable benefits for organizations, according to a survey by British Land. They expect a 51% increase in both productivity and employee wellbeing, on average, and they anticipate that smart office technology will provide the sort of appeal that attracts new candidates to the organization.
The United Kingdom has some of the smartest buildings in the world, including:
While these examples were built as smart buildings from the ground up, any workplace can use building intelligence to improve the occupant experience.
When it comes to building a better workplace, we can find inspiration everywhere. Building a workplace culture that emphasizes flexibility, connectivity and wellbeing leads to measurable gains in employee engagement and productivity, as we’ve seen in these examples of some of the world’s best workplaces.
The way our workplace is designed, the technology it uses and the policies that keep it running all play an important role. And at a time when people can work anywhere they have internet access, it has never been more important to create the kind of workplace experience that keeps them all connected.
To learn more about how iOFFICE Hummingbird connects employees to create the ultimate workplace experience, download the latest report from Verdantix.
Tiffany covers leadership and marketing topics and enjoys learning about how technology shapes our industry. Before iOFFICE, she worked in local news but don't hold that against her.