September Blog

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It’s hard not to blatantly see how quickly and drastically the workplace is evolving around us. From the efforts of offerings and benefits, like flexibility and a conscious community culture, we see large corporations like Google and Amazon showcasing the direction the concept of work is shifting towards. These corporations have created a standard that is causing us to yearn for the modern design and cool-factor in the place we call our second home. Now that employees can work virtually anywhere and technology is changing at the blink of an eye, employers that care to excel and grow have been making strides to keep up with the Joneses. With that kind of competition, the focus has promptly shifted to the employee experience and how we can create collaboration, culture, innovation, and community with an ever-evolving workplace, regardless of size, geographical location or field of work. This shift is causing even the most unlikely employers to put an emphasis on the daily experience of their employees.


But what does that look like?


There is an abundance of solutions to creating a better experience for your employees. Just like your company culture and mission is unique, the workday experience should be too! What works best for you, may not work for the coworker in the next cubicle or the office next door. I have seen many companies attempt to focus on the amenities they offer as a supplement to aid the culture they are craving. A catchy and impossible-not-to-love topic I’ve seen accomplish this is food! How many start-ups do you see or hear about that have sophisticated coffee services? This seems to be a basic expectation now. I mean, who doesn’t want a fancy latte at their disposal during the workday? (iced upside-down caramel macchiato for me, please!)

A good friend of mine lives in Salt Lake City and has lunch catered to her office every day, free of charge, which is a huge saving on her personal wallet. She recently began job searching, and, of course, is looking for a company with similar amenities. Another friend in Fayetteville has a sweet lady that brings in a food cart selling homemade tamales every Wednesday for 2 dollars apiece. Talk about a fun culture factor for your office. On the less loveable (by some) end of the spectrum, how about the focus on employee wellness by offering gym memberships or fitness programs? Or, productively creating more collaborative spaces with sophisticated lounge areas and places where employees can relax and refocus. Does your workplace offer any continuing education programs? The list can go on and on. If you’re a business owner, I’m sure you’re seeing the flashing dollar signs. At the exorbitant cost of amenities, what is forcing businesses to make these types of investments for their employees? 

I came across a statistic on Gensler’s website recently and nearly fell out of my Embody chair. It states, “91% of millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years”, [1]. As a commercial interior designer, I can’t tell you how many times a week someone tells me they want to attract and retain top talent. Not just talent, but the best talent. If you aren’t focusing on your employees and their day to day experience, what reason are you giving them to stay? According to a 2018 Forbes article [2], the average turnover cost to a business for a mid-level employee is 125% of their salary.  With that loss of money for each employee that could potentially leave a job every three years, how can you not justify updates to stay competitive? 


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Okay, so I’m not saying that a coffee machine or your own tamale lady will instantly make your employees happy and shield interest from looking for other opportunities, but I’ve seen a lot of progress surrounding the conversation of workplace design. There is now a major focus on redesigning your space to create a community-focused workplace to recruit and retain the talent you need. I can’t stress enough how important the holistic design of a workplace is. It’s easy to segregate each component that factors into the design process into five categories:

    • Architecture

    • Furniture

    • Finishes

    • Lighting

    • Amenities 

All too often these items are approached individually when they need to be done simultaneously. As one component adjusts so does the other, organically. If performance metrics are the only thing dictating the architecture of the space, are we really meeting the needs of the end user? Of course, space efficiency is important, but it’s only one piece to a much larger puzzle. We are designing spaces for people, not technology. Once we make an effort to do that, then each project will be approached with empathy and human consideration, as it should be. I strongly believe when a space is designed as a whole, with every component integrated together, we can create a powerful and meaningful experience for everyone in it. Throughout my writing series, I’m excited to share my take on these components of workplace design and share my passion for this approach.  

To wrap things up I want to share this quote from an article I read, whose source I can’t place but think it deserves to be shared. 

“We need to acknowledge the human need for continual transformation, to achieve personal growth and transcendence. The design of a physical environment can have a dramatic impact on a person’s spirit and sense that they are a part of something and making a difference.”

Mykayla Thompson

[1] https://www.gensler.com/uploads/document/614/file/Gensler-US-Workplace-Survey-2019.pdf 

[2] https://www.forbes.com/sites/billconerly/2018/08/12/companies-need-to-know-the-dollar-cost-of-employee-turnover/#79328394d590