What a Difference a Workspace Can Make

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Dec 19, 2018

Editor’s Note: It’s an annual tradition for TLNT to count down the most popular posts of the previous 12 months. This is No. 13 of the 708 articles. You can find the complete list here.


When it comes to attracting new employees and retaining our top talent, we tend to roll out the red carpet in terms of pay and benefits. But what about the office itself? Workplace design has a role in making an impression on candidates and in retaining your employees, especially when it comes to the largest generation in the U.S. labor force — millennials. In fact, 76% of millennials feel  that office design and aesthetic influence their impression of a company, according to a 2017 study from IPSOS and National Business Furniture.

What can your business do to the look and feel of its offices to make a lasting and positive impression on employees new and old? From providing ergonomic workstation solutions to offering private and collaborative getaways, the key to selecting office furniture that encourages productivity and employee satisfaction is to put the choice in your employees’ hands.

Provide a mix of workspaces

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to your employee workstations. While most businesses place value on the outward appearance of their office design, it’s important to consider how employee morale and productivity will be affected by the layout of your cubicles. While some employees thrive in open concepts, others may require more personal space and privacy. In most cases, a blend of both is your employees’ best chance for success.

In a recent study on “Happiness in the Workplace” conducted by National Business Furniture and Kelton Global, employed Americans appear to value work spaces with a mix of openness and privacy. One in four employed Americans value flexible areas to work away from their usual workspaces, and 40% say having privacy screens or walls around their workspace is essential.

Ask what they want

One option to explore when interviewing top candidates is to have them sit with one of your current employees and observe his or her day. They can ask questions, explore the various processes and procedures, but most importantly, see themselves working in a similar space. This is a great opportunity to ask your candidates about their preferred workstyle and workspace. Do they prefer working on a laptop and being mobile? Single or multiple monitors? Do they have a preference on a style of sit/stand desks? Record the candidate’s answers so that the appropriate workstation can be provided prior to onboarding.

From your interviews, you should have a good idea of what type of environment your new employee prefers to sit at for the majority of his or her day. This may be a cubicle with full-height walls, or it may be a simple standing desk with no walls at all. In any case, it’s important to remember that no employee should be confined to a single space all day long. Give all of your employees the option to work away from their desks when the need arises. This may take the form of a company library where employees can retreat to complete focused work in a quiet environment. It could also be a pod of soft seating in your employee lounge where coworkers can gather to share ideas outside of a formal conference room. Just make sure that every employee has the right tools to work productively, no matter what type of workspace the project calls for.

Let employees choose their own chair

Typically, we see employees bringing personal items and décor for their workspace that represents their style. One thing employers can do to add a little extra flair for their new hires during onboarding is to have them pick out their own desk chair. According to the “Happiness in the Workplace” study, 54% of working Americans say an uncomfortable workspace or chair would cause them displeasure. Letting new hires select their own desk chairs, when possible, is sure to make them feel valued right from the start.

Not only will allowing employees to select their own chair boost their morale and loyalty to your business, but providing this option can have long-term health benefits as well. Whether the employee has chronic neck or back pain, is too petite for a standard size chair or needs an option with adjustable arms, a chair with correct ergonomics will only benefit them. Remember, healthy employees are happy employees. Workers will be much more willing and able to put in a job well done if they are comfortable in their own seat.

Make your office feel like home

Once you have new hires successfully onboarded into your organization the challenge is to ensure your top talent continue to thrive. Not only is retention crucial to the success of your organization, talented candidates look for a company with low turnover and happy employees. Beyond paying employees well and giving them an equal sense of challenge, take the next step in exploring different benefits, like your workspace design.

Offices are trending away from the stodgy beige cubes of yesteryear and gearing toward a more “resimmercial” look. That is to say, making your office furniture and décor look more like someone’s home residence will make employees feel more comfortable. From a breakroom that mirrors a home kitchen to conference areas with bean bag seating instead of office chairs, the options are endless. You may also want to consider adding artwork and other décor that reflects a more casual and less straight-laced mantra.

Unsure where to begin? Start by meeting with various teams and high performers to gather feedback and further understand their needs and limitations within your current workspace. Based on the information provided, you’ll be able to start creating spaces employees will use and appreciate — for example, converting an outdated conference room to an open forum room for collaboration and innovation. You could add a whiteboard, some fun chairs, and décor that inspires creative ideas; then, see what unfolds from it.