3 Good Reasons To Invest In A Better Workplace Design

by Elizabeth Dukes on July 25, 2018

Your company offers competitive salaries, excellent management, a fun culture, and a generous benefits package. You invest in fun happy hours, learning and development and substantial 401(k) matching. However, you’ve noticed a general lack of employee engagement, or you’re struggling to attract the best talent.

Maybe you’re doing everything right on paper, but you have yet to consider your workplace design. Is it appealing to prospective employees? Does it cultivate productivity and make employees want to stay?

Typically, the facilities management department takes care of your workplace design, including where the cubicles and desks go, who sits where, which chairs you buy, and how you set up your meeting rooms. But workplace design is an HR issue, too. It can affect your recruitment efforts, employee productivity and retention. Here’s how.

What are the benefits of workplace design?

Workplace design impacts recruitment

Unemployment is at 3.9 percent, the lowest it’s been for nearly two decades. That means workers have the upper hand. Attractive candidates have their choice of which company they will work for, since there are so many opportunities available to them. And they’re not just looking at compensation, company culture and the benefits package. They’re also looking at workplace design.

One survey by Gensler, the largest architecture and design firm in the world, revealed that the most innovative businesses have great workplace design where workers can both focus and collaborate. These spaces also give employees the chance to work when and where suits their unique needs, as well as develop their creative potential.

When candidates tour your workplace during a job interview, they want to see an appealing design—one that allows them to work in a variety of spaces and feel inspired.

Workplace design impacts productivity

The workplace environment impacts the way employees collaborate with each other and focus on “deep work” that requires concentration. Great workplace design facilitates both, which is why many companies are using activity-based working (ABW). With ABW, there are a number of different areas in the workspace that allow for quiet work, collaborative projects or learning. They may include small rooms for one-on-one conversations, phone booths for deep concentration, breakout areas for collaboration and beanbag chairs and couches for relaxation.

These areas are perfect for extroverts who like to work with others and socialize, and for introverts who need more time to work alone. When employers invest in workspaces for all different kinds of employees, it shows they are accommodating employees’ needs.

Workplace design impacts retention

In addition to promoting productivity, great workplace design keep employees happier and more engaged.

The most recent Gallup survey data found only 33 percent of employees are engaged. That means almost two-thirds of employees are basically just showing up and collecting a paycheck.

Let that sink in for a moment. While there are many things that influence the employee experience, bestselling author Jacob Morgan found the physical workplace is one of three main factors.

In other words, if your employees are stuck in windowless cubicles under glaring fluorescent lights, they will start to become disengaged quickly, and productivity will suffer.

If employees look forward to coming into the office and feel comfortable there, they’re more likely to stay.

Great workplace design is a proactive step for keeping employees. This is good news, because it costs $15,000 to replace an employee earning a median salary of $45,000 per year. Investing in workplace design upgrades can save recruitment costs for years to come.

What workplace design elements do employees want most?

In a survey by Capital One Work Environment, two out of three employees said they believed workplace design is “equally as important or more important than workplace location.”

The survey outlines some of the most important workplace design elements that employees care about.

  1. Natural light (62%)

  2. Artwork (44%)

  3. Reconfigurable furniture and spaces (43%)

  4. Collaborative spaces (37%)

  5. Places to rest and relax (25%)

By incorporating the workplace design elements employees want most, you will positively shape your company culture and be more likely to attract the best candidates.

How to advocate for workplace design improvements

Even if you haven’t given much thought to your workplace design before, you can help build the business case for a better office environment.

It starts by owning up to the fact that workplace design is a critical part of recruitment, retention and employee satisfaction, so it’s part of your responsibility, too.

From there, you’ll need to show the return on investment of updating your workplace design. Look at what other companies have done and how they’ve demonstrated success. For instance, when Sodexo’s Stockholm branch moved into a new office to support activity-based working, service manager Magnus Löfsjögård shared that employees reported a 94 percent increase in perceived efficiency. This was largely due to the fact that the new workplace design enhanced spontaneous collaboration while reducing the need for hours-long meetings. Projects that would have taken a month or more are now being completed within a week.

To build your case, gather data on things like recruitment, retention and employee satisfaction and share it with the rest of your organization.

From there, talk with key stakeholders in facilities management, IT and on your executive team.

These days, it’s a job-seeker’s market, and many employees can work anywhere they have an internet connection. If you want the kind of workplace that sparks brilliant ideas and inspires employees to do their best work, you need to invest in a workplace design that stands out.


Elizabeth Dukes

Elizabeth Dukes' pieces highlight the valuable role of the real estate and facility managers play in their organizations. Prior to iOFFICE, Elizabeth was in sales for large facility and office service outsourcing firm.

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