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Using office design to improve the employee experience


Quality of Life Observer

- Corporate

- Apr 23 2014

Employees today seek engaging work environments – offices that foster collaboration, creativity and efficiency. Dutch architect Sander Griffioen discusses how companies can design these environments and ultimately attract top talent.


Rising expectations

Given that today’s employees spend more than half of their waking hours at work, their expectations of the work environment are on the rise. Research reveals that a positive workplace experience is “important”, “very important” or even the “most important” to 85% of the employees who participated in a CoreNet Global survey.

Today’s successful companies are learning to cater to knowledge workers by creating flexible office environments that are collaborative, open, comfortable, engaging, fun, energetic and efficient. This new approach to design will not only deliver greater value but it will also improve the quality of life of employees.

The new open space

“To successfully redesign a work environment, you must work closely with the client to best serve the needs and objectives,” says architect Sander Griffioen. For example, designers are addressing the vastness of open spaces: while visually pleasing, these environments, dating back to the 1950s, do not necessarily foster the optimal acoustic environment. New adaptations of the open space concept are required to answer the demands of today’s knowledge workers.

“Efficiency takes a hit when you mix people focused on tasks such as writing with those on the phone or chatting with coworkers. It is essential to create various spaces within an open space to perform specific tasks,” he says.

The generational mix

In today’s multi-generational office, it is important to consider every type of worker when designing a workspace. A 2010 study found that employees from the baby boomer generation (born between 1946-1964), listed acoustic privacy as the top workplace priority while Generation X (born between 1965-1978) and Y (born between 1979-1997) workers both listed an engaging workspace as their top feature.

So how do designers actively create spaces to respond to the opposing needs of workers? Variety. The most effective and attractive offices will provide areas dedicated to each mode of working while also supporting transitions between the various environments.

Low budget answer

While leading technology companies such as Google or Facebook as well as the banking sector have made headlines for creating visually stunning offices with numerous rooms and alcoves, they are still the exception rather than the rule, according to Griffioen. “These companies are either about innovation or about strutting their stuff, so their offices must reflect that.” For other companies, with perhaps a fraction of the giants’ redesign budget, the task of creating engaging spaces is in fact more challenging.

“It’s about the quick wins,” says Griffioen. “Any small factor can pull down the experience of an entire room – a worn carpet, a dirty ceiling, peeling paint.” For smaller budget projects, Griffioen suggests an analysis of the investments in acoustic performance versus the results. Acoustic issue is often underestimated while designing the proper acoustic environment enables employees to perform tasks better. As a result, an entirely new environment can be created without necessarily making a drastic investment and transformation.

 

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Using office design to improve the employee experience

Employees today seek engaging work environments – offices that foster collaboration, creativity and efficiency. Dutch architect Sander Griffioen discusses how companies can design these environments and ultimately attract top talent.

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