What are employees really looking for from their offices?

What strengthens morale in the office, makes employees stay at a company for longer and boosts productivity? You may be surprised to learn that a good office setup can make a big impact on all three.

Why the happiness of your employees matters

All good employers know that the happier your personnel, the harder they will work and the more benefits they’ll bring to the business. Highlighting this, research by the Social Market Foundation suggested that happier employers are around 20 per cent more productive than their less contented colleagues.

There are broader business benefits to be gained too, as it’s easier to attract and retain better talent if you’re known as a great company to work for (even if you aren’t necessarily offering the highest salary).

If you still need persuading that investing in employee happiness is worth doing, consider the fact that all the businesses on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list experienced growth in their stock price of 14 per cent every year from 1998 to 2005. For those not in the Top 100, stock price increases only amounted to six per cent.

How does your office affect staff morale?

Taking steps to improve and regularly assess the quality of the workplace sends out a clear message to your employees that you care about them and their happiness at work. New and prospective employees will pick up on this too. Research by Capital One supports this, revealing that 66 per cent of professionals will prioritise workspace design over location when considering a new job.

If you can create a workplace that is pleasant and comfortable to use, and that energises and motivates your team, you’re bound to see the difference in staff morale. It’s also important to consider the facilities and tools that you give your workforce, making sure that your office is fit for purpose.

Getting the essentials right

Before you can really start to innovate in your workspace and bring in new ideas that could really boost productivity and morale, you need to get the basics right. There are a variety of mistakes in office design and setup that many businesses don’t even realise they’re making, but which employees hate.

Get started by using the following as a handy checklist:

  • Ergonomics - do you have comfortable, practical office chairs and desks, and have your employees undergone ergonomic assessments on their workspaces? This is essential from a health and safety perspective.
  • Lighting - does your workplace make the very best use of natural light? Start by opening those blinds and bringing in the window cleaners, and then you can think about whether it may be worthwhile to replace some windows. When it comes to artificial lighting, make sure the illuminations you choose create a comfortable working environment. Flickering, overly bright or harsh lights can drag staff morale down and even cause health problems such as headaches and eye strain among your team.
  • The flow of the office - does your layout make sense? For example, are items that employees need close to each other, and is there enough space for all employees to move around comfortably?
  • Greenery and decoration - does your office look good? Offices don’t have to be purely functional. As long as you don’t go too over the top, there’s no reason you can’t inject a splash of colour or put up some artwork to improve the aesthetics of the space. If you don’t already have them, think about putting some plants around your office too. They can enhance people’s mood and are even thought to have a positive effect on health.
  • Maintenance and finish - is the office paintwork in good condition or could it be time for a fresh lick of paint? Ensuring that the finish of the office is in a good state of repair is a sign that you care about the space and the effect it has on employee morale.
  • Breakout spaces and staff rooms - are these spaces given as much attention as the rest of the office? The design and upkeep of casual spaces, as well as the choice of breakout furniture, is just as important as the main workspaces.

Key areas to focus on

While there are some general ways in which all workspaces can be improved, it’s also crucial to listen to what your employees really want from an office. Research can help too. For example, a recent Capital One study focusing on workplace design in relation to job satisfaction found that:

  • 85% of employees value flexibility in office design. This means having access to a variety of different spaces to work in, which promotes different ways of working. Eight in 10 survey respondents said that they were more productive and had their best ideas when moving to a different space while working. How can your office accommodate a wide range of work styles? There are lots of things you can do, from implementing a mix of sitting and standing desks to providing dedicated project work areas and casual spaces for the daily scrum or huddle meeting. Look at what your employees need and would use everyday (and ask their opinions), whether it’s comfortable places for an impromptu chat or modular pods for concentrated work in small groups.
  • Employees increasingly want workspaces which promote health and wellbeing. For example, the survey found that 72 per cent of workers are missing quiet, reflective spaces in their office, while 77 per cent wish their employer would implement environmental programmes (for example, recycling schemes, car sharing or secure cycle parking facilities). A further 71 per cent wished they had access to an onsite health centre or wellness programme at work.
  • Natural light is key. For two years in a row, survey respondents mentioned natural light as one of their top four preferred design elements in office space. This shows just how crucial it is to design a space that makes maximum use of natural light, which can play a big role in alertness, positivity and mood.

If you’re considering an office overhaul, take a look at the full range of ergonomic, adjustable and modern office furniture from Furniture At Work.

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