There was a time when employees were satisfied with living in a world of fluorescent lights and cubicle farms. That was an expected part of office life. But as the competition for talent heats up, that’s just no longer the case. As of the time of this writing, the national unemployment rate is only 3.7 percent. In the Twin Cities it’s even lower — just 2.7 percent! With so few available employees, employers are looking for any means at their disposal to attract and retain top talent. In fact, according to Glassdoor, 76 percent of hiring decision-makers say recruitment and retention is their primary challenge.
It turns out that a well-designed workspace is one of the least expensive ways to lure — and keep — the employees your business needs. As Brandywine Realty Trust’s Executive Vice President and Senior Managing Director Jeff DeVuono is known to tell his clients, “If you can get a better employee by paying $10 per square foot more in a building, it’s the same as paying them $2K more per year.” That’s a pretty cheap way overall to help you attract and keep top performers.
So, what about an office space will help you attract and keep top talent? Here are six things your employees are looking for out of your workspace:
1. Lots of Natural Light
Let’s start here: one of the easiest and best ways to make your workspace more attractive to employees is to make it brighter. Not, of course, big box artificial bright, but natural daylight. Natural light has been shown to increase energy, improve your mood, and even boost productivity according to recent research out of Cornell University. According to professor Alan Hedge, “workers in daylight office environments reported a 51% drop in the incidence of eyestrain, a 63% drop in the incidence of headaches and a 56% reduction in drowsiness.”
If you can’t easily access natural light, you can still design your office to get many of the benefits. Light-colored furniture and walls, plenty of glass, and well-placed greenery can help simulate the effects of natural light.
2. Different Types of Workspaces
As my colleague Brock Ray recently wrote about, your employees engage in a variety of different types of work throughout their day. They need different types of workspaces to accommodate that. From heads-down individual work to large-group presentations to extended collaboration, your office design must meet the needs of your talent. Younger workers, especially, want unconventional and flexible spaces, rather than being stuck in cubicles for the whole day.
3. Focused on Their Health and Wellbeing
Medical professionals say our sedentary lifestyles are creating major health concerns, causing people to seek out opportunities to get more activity into their lives. If your office can help, that will set you apart in the minds of your employees. For example: in addition to offering discounts on gym memberships, consider encouraging your employees to bike to work — and include bike storage in your office. Likewise, you can provide standing desks and even treadmill desks to help staff stay active while they work.
Noise pollution has also been shown to have negative impacts on health. Reducing noise pollution through strategic acoustic paneling, white noise machines, or even dedicated quiet rooms for meditation or silent work can greatly improve workspace wellness. In addition to improving your recruitment and retention efforts, these changes will help reduce absenteeism due to health concerns.
4. Resimercial Design
You can be forgiven if you aren’t yet familiar with this new buzzword, but you’ll be hearing it more and more over the next few years. The term refers to commercial workspaces that use residential interior design to make a space that’s inviting and familial. That is, making the office feel more like home. Resimercial design includes everything from couches and lounge chairs to indoor plants and Oriental rugs — anything to help your employees feel cozy and comfortable. In addition to making workers feel more at home, one of the major benefits of these resimercial spaces is the increased opportunity to socialize with one another. Which brings us to the next item on our list.
Wide-open office plans have been popular in recent years for their efficiency — that is, the ability to fit more people into less space. However, they also decrease conversation among staff, as people work to avoid disturbing their neighbors (or having their discussions overheard). This is one of the reasons most of today’s workers have grown to hate open office layouts. In response, savvy companies are purposefully crafting spaces where employees can have casual conversations. These exchanges are a critical part of office life and company culture. (That’s one of the reasons why remote workers have been flocking to co-working spaces.) It turns out that conversations around the old-fashioned water cooler actually help people form stronger bonds. That’s important to employee retention, because when people have friends at work, they’re more likely to stay on the job.
We’re also seeing an increased interest in branded workspaces — for even the smallest of firms. No one wants to work in a cookie-cutter white box anymore. Bland, default office spaces look like they could belong to anyone. They also tend to suggest the company may be a bit of a ‘fly-by-night’ enterprise. Branded spaces, in contrast, indicate success, which improves employee recruitment and retention efforts (not to mention client perceptions). After all, everyone wants to feel like they are part of something that’s successful. Moreover, strategically designed brand and motivational messages have been shown to actually improve performance.
Supporting Company Culture
Even the most casual offices need to be someplace your employees actually want to spend time — one that supports the company culture you’ve worked so hard to build. Only the most dedicated of staff will endure years of torment in a workspace that feels like they made poor life choices. To attract and retain the talent that will take your company to the next level, you need to make sure your office interior design demonstrates that you value them and their contributions.
Elizabeth Lari, CID
Elizabeth Lari is a Certified Interior Designer with more than 10 years of professional experience. Her practice is focused on tenant improvement and helping businesses create spaces that foster employee engagement and workplace culture. Elizabeth holds a BFA in Interior Design from Harrington College of Design in Chicago. She loves trying new restaurants, sports games, breweries, bike paths, and arts events with family and friends.