Designing a workspace that boosts employee encouragement or engagement may sound challenging, even idealistic, but it’s certainly a problem WeWork is on a mission to solve. It’s the foundation for how the company began — as a builder of communities that connects people, ideas and places. On this National Day of Encouragement, we are reminded of our greater community, and how we can encourage employees and co-workers in positive ways through the spaces we build.
Many of the companies that choose WeWork for their office space or headquarters are making a lifestyle choice. From the get-go, they’ve decided they want a modern, clean office design built to their specific needs. This likely includes many of the other pluses WeWork is known for like inviting indoor spaces, access to the outdoors, and a combination of connected and private areas that can transform from a collaboration zone to quiet pods as needed. Once the foundation or floor plan is established, it’s a process of making a series of smaller design decisions that inspire and engage teams to do great things.
Office space design matters to our health and productivity
In 2011, the Wall Street Journal reported the findings of a study from Ohio State University and the National Institute of Mental Health. Participants in the study worked in older buildings with low ceilings and loud air conditioners. Those environments created more stress than experienced by employees in newer buildings with natural light and open layouts. Even more interesting, the stress followed the study participants home. Their uninspired office space left them feeling discouraged when they weren’t even there.
The Journal writer sums it up this way, “Most of us spend a good portion of our waking hours in the workplace, often in uninspiring (and shrinking) cubicles without much access to natural light. But how the workplace looks matters, a lot, to our health, emotions and productivity.”
By contrast, WeWork and our clients want employees to feel welcome in the workplace in an office that amplifies employee engagement based on the design decisions we make. Comfortable decor, inspiring views and opportunities for me-time are all meant to engage employees and de-stress the work environment.
Encourage employees through sensory engagement
Incorporating tactile or visual details like art and photography draw employees into an experience that can be shared with co-workers or simply enjoyed solo. Textiles create atmosphere on the floors or walls and furniture. It comes down to what type of atmosphere suits your goals for the space. Is comfort number one? Go cushy and ergonomic. Warmth or cooling may be an issue based on the local climate. Also consider the impact of unused or vacant space on employee mindset and maintaining the flexibility to configure or even change spaces based on your headcount.
Get outside or bring the outdoors in
Teams need mental and physical breaks during the day to stay productive. In fact, these breaks are linked to higher levels of employee engagement and creativity. From Harvard Business Review, “Greenery isn’t just an air-freshener that’s pleasant to look at, it can actually significantly boost employee well-being, reduce stress, enhance innovative potential, and boost a sense of connection. Yet most of us don’t spend much time in nature.” Your office should provide access to pedestrian zones, bike trails, terraces or gardens that give employees a chance to take a breather and come back more inspired to work. Natural sunlight and living plants are also effective mood enhancers, air detoxifiers and stress reducers.
Encourage community and collaboration
Even companies that require seclusion like law firms, often find themselves in the company of other lawyers in the same building that they can connect with on a professional or personal level. Common areas are great for catching up with co-workers but they can also serve as event spaces for hosting clients or building neighbors. Branding your space also gives workers a sense of belonging to the community that is your company and ownership in the work you’re doing.
Andrew Baker, director of the Encouragement Foundation, says “The National Day of Encouragement is about inspiring Americans to make deliberate words and acts of encouragement a part of this day first, and then a part of every day of their lives.” Building encouragement then comes down to a series of micro-decisions that impact the macro. You could say the same for space design.
Let’s get together and talk about how WeWork can design a more engaging office for your company.