Over the last decade there has been a seismic workplace revolution – creative, playful and high-tech spaces have emerged as important tools to keep high-performing people motivated and productive.
At the very heart of this re-imagined workplace is the growing importance of the user-experience and now, organisations of all shapes and sizes are beginning to think about how to curate a positive work experience on a daily basis – from how colleagues interact with each other, to how they undertake their work and experience the brand.
Open and flat management structures are replacing dictatorial leadership and consequently, employees enjoy greater freedom and choice about how they work. It makes sense that, with the ubiquity of mobile technology and less hierarchical management, workplaces would become more fluid by extension, with work seen as an activity rather than a place to go.
Consequently, work now happens everywhere – in co-working spaces, coffee shops, on park benches, at railway stations, in home-offices and from client’s premises. With employees faced with such choice, a new challenge has emerged.
How can company workspaces compete?
To answer this, we have to first ask why competing is important at all. The simple answer is that there is infinite value in bringing a workforce together in the office – it is the one space where a brand is brought to life, culture is nurtured, knowledge is shared, community is established, and a sense of company-belonging is forged. With recruitment and retention a major issue for businesses, employers need to recognise workplace experience and design as means to keep talent close, loyal and engaged.
WeWork is an excellent example of how design drives experience. WeWork has given rise to a generation of occupiers who view space as a service, rather than a fixed overhead and has set the bar high with its creativity, innovation and commitment to making work as easy and fun as possible. Their environments give as much focus to sociability, networking and technology as they do a variety of well-designed activity-based work spaces.
There are six primary considerations for employers striving to curate a truly positive and compelling work
- Employees yearn for a clear sense of purpose and want to know their contribution matters. When they have those things, it translates into greater loyalty and productivity. A positive workplace experience relies on open-communication from business leaders who regularly articulate and share the company vision, bring employees together to learn and build relationships, express gratitude for a job well done and share success stories.
- Culture and sociability. The stronger the friendships we have at work, the more productive and loyal we are. Workplaces that provide a positive experience give consideration to sociability, relationships building and informal knowledge-sharing. The use of break-out spaces, staff canteens and wellbeing zones as well as organised social events help to create a sense of community and cultural belonging.
- Employees increasingly want to share the values of their employer and work for brands they respect and support. Therefore, if a brand is about giving a helping hand, it should be evident in the workplace experience. This could include how new recruits are integrated into the team, how knowledge and new skills are shared between teams, the way employees are involved with CSR projects and how the brand story is told through workplace design.
- Flexibility and agility. True workplace flexibility includes empowering employees to choose working hours, physical locations, work settings and how work is done. For this to be successful, employers need to offer the right technology and have trust in their employees. Workplaces with activity-based work settings (private work areas, huddle spaces, collaboration pods etc) as well as intuitive and remote technologies are integral to delivering workplace flexibility successfully.
- Knowledge gathering and sharing. Younger generations have a strong appetite to learn and actively choose employers based on career development opportunities. A positive workplace experience includes formal and informal opportunities to learn – with peer mentoring, digital courses, team training as well as the less formal knowledge-sharing that comes from working alongside like-minded colleagues.
- Wellbeing has moved up the corporate agenda and employees want to feel that their emotional, physical and mental wellbeing is invested in by their employer. Organisations with supportive and caring cultures will offer wellbeing-focused activities, health-care benefits and spaces such as relaxation, learning and tech-free zones.
Organisations with high performing workplaces have given due consideration to each of these elements and have created a cohesive experience that accurately reflects the way the organisation and its people work. The success of a modern workplace can be defined as one that employees actively choose to occupy – a choice they exert because they want the on-brand experience of working with high-performing colleagues in a supportive and well-equipped environment.
The modern workplace provides an opportunity to facilitate the face-to-face collaboration and relationships needed to drive innovation and unlock productivity gains. With the UK’s output at an all-time low and the aftershock of Brexit still unknown – people-focused employers must re-evaluate their priorities and ensure a compelling workplace experience that keeps their best assets close, loyal and productive.