businesslady with laptop is working in a field full of poppiesOne area that we don’t often cover here is the relationship between office design and its subsequent appeal or lack of appeal to talent. It’s a pity as there is a growing body of research and articles which are beginning to show that good office and workspace design can have an extremely positive effect on staff morale and well being. And if your deliberate office design makes staff feel good then there is no doubt it will become a positive aspect of your employer brand that will help with attracting and retaining talent.

So, what areas of your office design can you change or improve to attract and retain more talent?

1. Flexibility

A Staples survey has revealed that the second most popular change that staff wanted to see in their offices was the ability to work flexibly (wanted by 41%), which means being able to telecommute. While a telecommute policy is the first step toward working flexibly, to really allow employees to telecommute effectively you need to introduce mobility to the office, providing employees with laptops, tablets, smart-phones and enabling BYOD (Bring your own device). Provide hot desks (or neutral work spaces) and docking stations where full-time telecommuters can work comfortably when in the office.

Also, a Career Builder survey showed that apart from salary and benefits, flexible schedules were the best way to retain talent, cited by 51 percent of respondents. So, consider making your office available for physical access and use 24/7.

2. Let employees design their own workspace

A study by the University of Exeter in the UK of over 2000 workers has revealed that staff who have some control over the design and layout of their physical workspace are happier, healthier and 32 percent more productive. So, why not work with your teams to enable them to input on the design of their own workspace and help to create a more engaged team.

3. Personalization of the workspace

Many offices operate a clean desk policy and discourage personalization of the desk with personal effects, but a study from the University of Kentucky shows that personalization of an employee’s workspace does contribute to increased employee well being. So, both encourage and allow people to personalize their workspace.

In fact, the study also found a link between the company’s personalization policy and well being. Think about the overall office design in order that it reflects your culture as opposed to it being a uniform workspace that you can find anywhere.

4. More comfortable and nicer office furniture

Thirty-seven percent of those surveyed by Staples cited more comfortable and nice offer furniture as a key improvement that would help to improve well being. So consider an office furniture overhaul. But, once again, consult your teams to get their input and to inject realism into the discussion from a budgetary perspective, e.g. “you can have nice desks and chairs but we might not be able to offer as much of this etc…” Use it as an opportunity to consult/engage with your teams.

5. Make sure there is plenty of daylight in the workspace

A study by Ivy Cheung of the North Western University in Chicago found that workers in offices with windows received 173 percent more white light exposure during work hours and slept an average of 46 minutes more each night than workers in offices without windows. Workers with windows reported more physical activity, feeling physically and mentally more effective in the day. It shows that lighting will have a dramatic impact of the engagement levels of your workers so take a good look at your illumination levels (perhaps bring in a consultant), to see what improvements can be made.

6. Private work spaces

The move toward more collaborative working has led to open plan offices. This is fine, but there are times when employees need to be able to concentrate and work on something in private or in isolation. In fact, the Staples study revealed that 34 percent of employees wanted their employers to provide more private work areas. So, where possible, set up some more private work spaces, which can be booked by employees on a rationed basis. Also, where possible, allow employees to wear headphones (with good sound two way sound insulation), so they can shut out external disturbances if necessary to help concentrationwhile at the same time not disturbing others.

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