If you are creating a space for people to work in, you need to ensure that they feel happy and productive. Long hours, stress, isolation — all these can lead to unhappiness at work — but so can bad lighting, noise, and the wrong kind of working environment. One key strategy to help increase workspace happiness is to enable people to make the office into their home — all the cool tech in the world can’t make up for a real sense of belonging.
If people are able to put their stamp on a space, they will feel safe and protected, and will engage with the office space more. Here are some things that make people feel at home in an office space: help people feel comfortable to ensure your office is always a buzzing hive of activity.
The (Right Kind Of) Office Culture
The right kind of behaviors and values need to be instilled in your workspace before anything else. From the email language you use, to signage and socials — these early markers of office culture can easily divide and alienate people. You need to careful about how you communicate workspace rules and habits.
Here are some tips for fostering an inclusive culture that makes people feel wanted, heard, and appreciated:
- Celebrations are a great way to mix things up and bring the outside world into the office, but it’s important to balance festivities with cultural sensitivity and tact. Not everyone will want to be getting drunk and sing Christmas carols, so make sure that any office events take into account people’s differences. Using online surveys and anonymous polls can be a revealing way to find out what celebratory elements people like, and which ones they don’t.
- Celebrations are all about social bonding, and the right kinds of corporate and seasonal events can be hugely uplifting and rewarding. Monthly knowledge groups, book clubs, presentations — all of these are great ways to bring people together outside of the party calendar.
- Have a clear process for lodging complaints, upgrading office technology, and anything practical that is likely to cause people anxiety. A clear process will help steer people in the right direction, stopping any future problems in their tracks. Make your processes and policies easy to understand and access, and encourage more senior staff to share them with any newcomers. Word things in a non-stuffy, non-corporate way to improve retention rates. This will encourage people to have open and honest conversations, fostering an environment where everyone feels ‘at home’.
- Research recent employee engagement trends and studies, and bring some of that knowledge back into how you manage yours.
Flexible, Modular Workspaces That Spark Creativity
Office spaces are rapidly changing across the globe, and we are seeing an increase in flexible, modular spaces that spark conversations and foster creativity. In today’s social world, the old corporate environment made up of strip lighting and cubicles, has been superseded by natural light, and big open spaces with ‘work pods’.
Think about how you could foster a more creative, open workspace. Take down walls, bring in more natural light, give people more flexible spaces to meet and chat: all these will help upgrade your workspace into somewhere that people will want to be.
But people still need spaces for difficult meetings and video conferences — booths can help give people the privacy that they crave. Booths should be equipped with video conferencing facilities to offer workers a place to work away from prying eyes. These smaller spaces emulate the privacy of a locked room and are a sure-fire way to make people feel relaxed while making high stakes calls.
To compete in the current market, your workspace needs to provide workers with a place to let off some steam. Some workspaces have become almost legendary thanks to their recreational and social activities. Socializing is big draw for people who are new to the business circuit. Table tennis rooms, libraries and lounges are all welcome additions to any office space — try to include a wide range of spaces that are going to appeal to all age groups. Word of warning: pink flamingos on the walls and astroturf floors may work in a creative district and appeal to young ad execs, but they probably won’t appeal to lawyers. Make sure that your design is aligned with your team and their aesthetic needs and tastes.
You’ll want some design elements of the office to feel like a really great home office — a space that boosts both creativity and productivity. Think about how you can balance that need to ‘hide away’, with today’s social and collaborative work culture. The main thing your office design must achieve? Bring together all the different elements of people’s lives: from work and creativity, to fun and relaxation. People are increasingly looking for a one-stop shop where they can work hard and kick back.
Office Design That Creates Warmth
Too many office spaces make the mistake of looking pristine — almost too clinical —making everyone feel like they have wandered into a lab. Make your space feel specific and full of character instead.
Use a range of colors rather than one predictable scheme — colors impact mood — and a few color pops and accents here and there can be hugely inspiring. You should also feature local artists and quirky wall art to help newcomers to the district get a feel for the place.
Mixing up different textures and surfaces is a great way to add depth and character to a space, and you should change accessories on a regular basis. Warm lighting, a clean environment, and a nice smell (!) are basic ways to create a comfortable environment for all.
Adjustments & Needs Assessments
You need to listen to people and adjust the space to suit their needs.
Give people a chance to put their own stamp on a space, from bringing in their personal items to changing the color scheme. It can really help teams feel at home.
You should also allow people to adjust certain physical elements (chairs, tables, meeting rooms etc), so that people can create the exact work environment that they need and want. Being accommodating and flexible will cost you almost nothing, but provide a big boost to the people staying with you.
Social Bonds (A.K.A Other People)
The mix of people that you have at any given time has a huge impact on work happiness. Try to encourage people to form strong social bonds with each other. Having complementary skillsets in one space is a great way to encourage synergy.
Hosting cocktail hours and networking events can help people have conversations with each other. Stronger social bonds and real friendships will give people a huge positivity boost, and make everyone feel right at home!
Focus on the nature and character of the people you work with, and create a warm and welcoming space where people can come to work hard and unwind.