Designing a Better Workplace Experience for Engagement, Productivity & Adaptability

Top-performing organizations are always laser-focused on customer experience, as it drives profit and long-term business viability. However, the most successful organizations focus on both the customer and employee experience because they realize that their people are their greatest asset. As such, savvy business leaders can prioritize externally on customers’ needs while simultaneously focusing internally on employees’ well-being to ensure that the workforce is energized, engaged, connected, and committed to serving the former.

Research shows that companies with highly engaged workforces are 21% more profitable than those with poor engagement, while those that deliver a great employee experience outperform the Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500 by 122%.

Leading organizations know that a strong employee experience is key to delivering great CX. Since the workplace experience has a strong impact on the employee experience, organizations today are doing their best to create a work environment that meets the needs and expectations of their workforce. There are several ways you can optimize the workplace to engender positive outcomes for your workforce. Let’s take a closer look at strategies for driving an effective workplace experience.

Design inclusion

Studies show that giving employees a voice in decisions regarding the design of their workspaces can be beneficial. Giving employees some agency in the design or setup of their workspaces makes them feel more valued and fulfilled when changes are thrust upon them seemingly arbitrarily.

The latter approach overlooks the psychological needs of your workforce and can cause employees to have negative views of the organization. Also, including employees in workplace design decisions helps them identify with the space, which impacts how they themselves feel within the organization. They are more engaged and feel a stronger sense of belonging and connection to the organization. By listening to and factoring employee sentiments into the design decisions, leaders can also discover meaningful information about what elements of a workspace help people do their best work.

Smart space utilization

For businesses with a fully in-office work environment, an effective, but often-overlooked, approach is the use of smart office space utilization to create a flexible and collaborative work environment. While the physical dimensions of your office space are defined, it’s up to you to determine how the space is designed, accessed, and used by different teams. Since such factors do impact collaboration, productivity, and employee satisfaction, these are vital considerations.

But first, business leaders should consider the impact of any approach on employees before deciding on workspace setup and utilization.

How data can help

Workforce analytics can help business leaders create more effective workplace layouts and setups. For instance, collecting, comparing, and correlating space utilization and collaboration data with engagement data can reveal insights that will help HR and Corporate Real-Estate leaders understand the relationship between workspace design and better people outcomes.

A recent case study of a large European bank found that a poor office layout was negatively impacting collaboration. Analysis of office layout data from high-performing and low-performing branches showed that something as seemingly insignificant as a multi-story layout was restricting communication patterns and limiting opportunities for collaboration throughout the day in the lowest-performing branch.

In this scenario, workforce analytics also helped reveal success patterns: employees at the strongest performing branches had significantly more face-to-face interactions throughout the day due to a better office layout design. These interactions increased the potential for knowledge sharing and teamwork — advantages that the lower performing, less cohesive branches were missing out on.

Sometimes, simply changing who sits next to who by rearranging seating charts or ensuring that teams that need to collaborate often are in close proximity can skyrocket productivity. This is because strategic seating and location techniques can help create more opportunities for connectivity and collaboration, thus improving the employee experience. Ultimately, this will help your organization hit its KPIs and achieve its growth and revenue projections.

For example, one sportswear company leveraged workforce analytics to evaluate whether newly-implemented building assignments were effective and fostering efficient, desired collaboration. The data revealed that the majority of collaboration was happening between groups in the same building or a building nearby. The further the distance from one another, the less likely employees were to communicate not only in person but also via email and other digital communications. These insights enabled the company to validate their recent re-stacking and re-location decisions and identify areas where they could better align team locations in order to drive better collaboration, as well as efficiency by reducing the amount of time required for employees to get to and from meetings.

The importance of data and analytics

Rather than make decisions based on supposition, business leaders can analyze hard data to understand how their employees perceive their work environment. This can include anonymous surveys with open-ended questions to ascertain how workers feel about their work environment and if they have suggestions on how to improve it.

Workforce analytics can go beyond the limitation and enhance the value of surveys, which are a single snapshot in time, to provide insight into the behavioral patterns of employees as well as how workspaces are used. Knowing what areas regularly receive heavy traffic or frequent usage and at what times of the day/week (such as dips and spikes in the use of conference room and other spaces) are just some examples of how business leaders can better optimize the use of space.

A leading multinational technology firm used workforce analytics to improve the employee experience by objectively measuring and quantifying the effectiveness of several changes, including a physical office expansion.

Data revealed significant collaboration gaps between two key departments (sales and R&D teams) as a result of poor space design. When the analytics also showed that high-performing sales team members interacted regularly with R&D employees t, the company strategically planned an updated seating arrangement at a newly-expanded office to bolster in-person collaboration between sales and R&D’s solution engineers. They also hoped to reduce “transition time” (time spent going from meeting to meeting, etc.) through thoughtful location assignments and a space design that promotes organic interactions, as well as areas for adequate “focus time” (uninterrupted, heads-down work) and concentration.

HR should align with and communicate such findings to other departments to ensure that employees have all they need to achieve peak performance. For instance, data could show that employees value an autonomous and flexible work environment. In this instance, HR could communicate to the IT department that the technology infrastructure must support such activity-based working. This could mean installing navigable systems, issuing laptops rather than desktops, and implementing Wi-Fi rather than cabled connections.

Data has always been and remains management gold. By collating and analyzing objective data, business leaders can make workplace setup decisions such as increasing or reducing the office footprint or designing the current space to better reflect employees’ preferences of the ideal workplace.

Designing a virtual workplace experience

One survey found that 96% of office employees are now working from home — and 63% are doing it without any kind of dedicated workspace. With most organizations adopting fully remote or hybrid work configurations, optimizing physical workspaces may no longer be as impactful at boosting the broader work experience. With less control over how remote workers set up their workspaces at home, it’s important for HR leaders to find creative ways to design a virtual workplace experience that effectively appeals to geographically distributed employees.

A holistic approach to creating an optimal workplace experience for remote employees combines technology, culture, and operational flexibility. Right now, your workforce’s ability to creatively exploit digital technologies can be a source of competitive advantage. As such, it’s important for business and IT leaders to work together to create secure, highly responsive, and cost-effective workplace platforms to augment human intelligence with technology and enable people to work in new and better ways.

Creating a digital workplace experience for employees doesn’t stop at ensuring that the hardware and software used by remote employees work seamlessly. Undergoing a paradigm shift in how organizations think about boosting workforce engagement can help create a virtual culture of productivity and collaboration.

One technology company with globally dispersed offices leveraged workplace analytics to understand how a sudden shift to remote work was impacting collaboration. They also wanted to validate recent efforts to maintain an engaging, productive, and adaptable culture during the transition.

The data revealed that the shift to fully virtual collaboration created a significant increase in communication due to greater communication dependencies, most likely due to the lack of face-to-face interactions. This type of increase can often be expected when an organization suddenly transitions to a culture of remote work.

These insights from workforce collaboration data show the importance of leveraging innovative digital technologies that support and foster collaboration as an approach to creating a better virtual workplace experience for your employees. You can also embrace cloud technology, outfitting employees’ home offices with all the apps and hardware they need (such as communications and collaboration tools), and enable employees through ongoing training and support.

Wrapping Up

Every business outcome (from innovation and growth, to productivity and efficiency) starts with your employees. As such, it’s important to close the gap between workplace reality and employee expectations to boost workplace experience. Designing a more effective workplace creates more opportunities for positive interactions and growth, which leads to a high-performance culture and a highly engaged and motivated workforce.

The smart use of workforce analytics and behavioral data can help create the scalable yet personalized experience that today’s employees crave. Use workforce analytics to deliver a game-changing experience for your workforce by transitioning from traditional office setups to flexible, agile workplaces of the future.

Last Updated 28 May 2021