Of all the business concepts that made waves last year—sustainable packaging, experiential flagships, and check-out free stores, to name a few—nothing seemed to dominate the headlines (and start-up job postings) more than state-of-the-art workplaces. From WeWork coworking offices to Bark’s dog-centric spaces, employers’ quest to level-up their work environments has reached new heights. And for good reason: only 13% of the global workforce is highly engaged and highly satisfied with their workplace.1 Gone are the days of beige cubicles and living in the office; companies, especially those born in the digital age, are striving to create a workplace that employees want to come into.
Adding to the pressure is the fact that workers are increasingly turning to nontraditional forms of employment. The freelance workforce has been growing at three times the rate of the overall US workforce since 20142. Coworking is becoming an attractive option for these freelancers; by 2022 the number of US coworking members is expected to rise to 1.1 million, up from half a million in 20173.
With innovation at the forefront of most business decisions made today, many companies are looking to reflect that in their office space through wellness offerings, active workplaces, and updated digital features. There is a significant link between the attractiveness of a job offer and work environment, so it isn’t hard to understand why 37% of job candidates will accept a position with a lower salary if the company offers an appealing culture, facilities, and technology.4 Moreover, one-third of employees have even considered leaving their job because of their office environment5.
Why should you care? To start, improved workplace design will bring improved productivity, improved work-life balance, and improved employee retention. With 87% of workers wishing that their current employer offered healthier workplace benefits,6 it is evident that a work environment can make or break an employee’s commitment to a company.
So we asked ourselves, how can companies win?
Invest in Me as a Whole
If 44% of employees are saying that benefits like PTO, parental leave and healthcare are keeping them at their job, not perks like free food, game rooms, and gyms7, what’s the takeaway? From the corporate headquarters to the factory floor, companies need to look at a day in the typical worker’s life to make sure their investments are addressing the more pressing needs in employees’ lives instead of tacking on frivolous perks and nice-to-haves.
Fit My Way of Life
Today’s workers are expected to be flexible when it comes to the shifting demands of the job. Always-on availability has become the new normal; in fact, 50% of employees check work emails in bed8. The problem is that employers aren’t reciprocating; 96% of U.S. professionals say they need flexibility, but only 47% have it9. To attract and retain, smart employers are flexing to fit their workers’ needs, not the other way around.
Give Me Something to Believe In
In a time when nine out of ten millennials would consider taking a pay cut to work at a company whose mission and values align with their own10, companies are striving to give employees a reason to feel good about working for them. Many brands fail to translate their energy, culture and brand messaging into their office space. Companies need to go beyond environmental design to incorporate and deliver content that continues to reiterate their brand story in a meaningful way in their workplace.
So where do you go from here?
Think like a retailer
Take inspiration from best-in-class retailers; reframe employees as customers and visitors as potential customers, discover their most critical unmet needs, and solve for them through human-centered design and messaging.
Consider the parts and the whole
Offer employees the flexibility to choose from a set of diverse working environments that solve for individual needs. Determine the most important elements of the employee experience and leverage a portfolio strategy to bring them to life.
Design for change
Adaptability and designing for flexibility and change is key. It needs to be about more than just flexible desk arrangements and collaboration space; companies should create spaces that serve multiple purposes and can be easily rearranged.
Learn your way forward
What works for one employer or work setting may not work for others. Identify KPIs, develop prototypes, measure employee engagement, test out new concepts, ideas and services in one location. And most importantly, iterate until you get it right.
At WD Partners, we are no strangers to the challenges that come with workplace design. We can help you bring your brand to life through content and key touchpoints connecting your brand story to your workplaces and scaling it appropriately. Working across our integrated services from strategy & insights to branding to operations design to architectural services, WD will develop brand-right experiences for your associates across your entire workplace portfolio. By taking the retail and customer-centric principles we’ve crafted over the last 50 years, we are confident that we can not only dream of a workplace solution, but also bring it to life at scale.