Employers used to evaluate their workplace environment according to one metric: efficiency. But recent findings by Gensler Research have provided additional insight into how employees perceive their workplace experience—and the effect that has on performance, employee satisfaction, and talent acquisition and retention.
It’s simply not enough to have an “efficient” workplace anymore—employees are looking for a workplace experience. The average U.S. employee spends 9.4 hours or more per day at work, and they crave an environment that provides a work-life balance, inspires their creativity, enables them to learn and grow, and supports their personal and philosophical goals. For example, 76% of Millennials view business as a source of powerful and positive social impact. To attract and maintain talent in today’s competitive marketplace, employers must be prepared to meet these new expectations.
However, organizations often focus too much on recruitment efforts and neglect to create a workplace experience that meets employees’ needs after they complete onboarding.
1) The workplace is increasingly diverse
For the first time in history, five generations are in the U.S. workplace—and Millennials are the largest group. By 2020, 86 million millennials will be in the workplace—that’s 40% of the working population, and Generation Z’s integration has already begun. With unemployment rates at an all-time low, younger workers have many options and are often drawn to workplace amenities and differentiators such as collaborative workspaces, flex hours, and professional development opportunities.
Workplace diversity is also on the rise. Millennials are 16% more diverse than baby boomers, and as of December 2019, women held 50.04% of American jobs (excluding farm workers and the self-employed).
The takeaway: Employee expectations and needs are more varied, and employers must be ready to change the workplace environment accordingly. Adopt an open, teachable mindset and be ready to make necessary changes.
2) Co-working spaces are gaining in popularity
Today, 14% of employees at large companies use coworking spaces. Various factors, such as long commutes, remote working, and travel are contributing to this trend. According to Gensler’s study, most people who use co-working spaces are there less than one day per week and typically spend more time at their company’s workplace. The study also found those employees have the highest performance scores.
The takeaway: Cast aside those old-school beliefs that employees always have to be on-site to be productive. Allow your employees the flexibility to work remotely—they’ll thank you for it by using their time efficiently in exchange for a better work-life balance.
3) Collaborative work environments—and private workspaces—are equally important
Remember cubicles? Those are becoming a relic from the past, as the majority (70%) of workplaces now feature an open design. Do people like this environment? Yes, and no. Gensler found people want collaborative workspaces, with 43% citing team building as a key benefit. Yet many also want more privacy and enclosed workplaces. Only a fraction of people would prefer working in a totally open or a totally private environment, and more than two-thirds (77%) say that striking a balance between these two extremes is ideal.
The takeaway: Ditch the cubes and embrace the bull-pen, but make sure you have rooms set aside for people to reserve when they need a quiet space to focus.
4) Employees associate choice and variety with great work experiences
In keeping with the preferences of younger workers entering the workplace, Gensler found that 79% of survey participants who have access to a variety of work settings, and 71% of those offered choices for where to work, report a great workplace experience.
What’s more, people who work away from their desks are higher-performing than people who tend to work at their desks. As an added bonus, workspaces that provide variety and encourage in-office mobility have higher effectiveness and experience scores.
The takeaway: Employers who provide choice and variety in the workplace will benefit from increased employee retention and higher output. Consider providing standing workstations, small conference rooms with comfortable furniture, and “zen” rooms with no-talking signs.
5) Workplace technology increasingly impacts the workplace experience
Technology permeates the workplace, but too much can be distracting, and the wrong technology can frustrate employees and impact performance. Tools and apps that integrate seamlessly with the systems people use every day can simplify workflows and increase collaboration.
For example, a robust visitor management system can help front-desk staff provide a great first impression to visitors while shortening wait times and ensuring employees’ are notified of a visitors’ arrival. A delivery management system can ensure boxes aren’t cluttering up the lobby while enabling workers to receive packages at work without worry or hassle. Room scheduling software eases the stress of booking meetings for employees and admins alike.
And, The Economist found that having mobile technology in the workplace makes employees more productive, creative, satisfied, and loyal.
The takeaway: Re-evaluate your workplace technology and look for areas that could use some updating. Start with apps that simplify everyday workflows, and make sure to choose solutions that integrate seamlessly with existing systems.
6) The role of a dedicated “Head of Workplace” has emerged
Given the workplace experience trends we’re seeing, it’s no wonder a new corporate role has emerged: Head of Workplace. This role may be designated by a number of different titles, including Workplace Experience Manager or Chief Employee Experience Manager, but they all point to the growing imperative to create an optimal workplace experience.
Workplace experience managers oversee all aspects of the employee experience. They may take on responsibilities traditionally associated with HR, marketing, facilities, and social corporate responsibility—or collaborate closely with these teams to ensure employees have a workplace environment in which they can thrive.
The takeaway: You can’t leave the workplace experience to chance anymore. Designating a Head of Workplace or assembling a workplace experience team ensures you’re providing employees with an environment that inspires their best work.
Get the ebook, “The workplace experience blueprint for Gen Z––and every employee,” to learn how you can attract and retain new talent in 2020 and beyond.