How to Boost Employee Happiness with a Thoughtful Workplace Design

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Your employees probably spend more of their waking hours at work than they do in any other single place. A thoughtful workplace design can help them feel more comfortable, inspire creativity, while also making them happier.

In fact, workplace design has been shown to boost employee happiness by 33 percent!

Happier employees also tend to be more engaged, boosting productivity and retention. Whether you’re on the market for a new office space, or thinking about upgrades to your existing space, investing in thoughtful workplace design is a win-win proposition.

Here are some things to consider:

1. Allow employees to make their workspace their own

personalized work space

Set your employees up to do their best work by customizing their personal workspace to them. Consider things like:

  • Equipment preferences: Some people are more comfortable on a PC, while others prefer a Mac. Some have a mouse or keyboard they prefer to use. Ask your employees about their equipment preferences before they arrive on the first day, so you can do your best to accommodate them.
  • Desk set-up: Four in five employees report experiencing some type of physical ailment at work. Make your employees more comfortable by using adjustable desks that can be configured for ergonomic support, and provide a tutorial on how to use them during your employee onboarding process. A standing desk may also be made available to employees who prefer to have the option throughout the day.
  • Chairs and footrests: Many employees are spending eight or more hours per day in their office chairs—so invest in high-quality, adjustable and ergonomic furniture (I like Steelcase chairs!) to make them more comfortable. You can also offer ergonomic stools or exercise balls to give employees more options.

While some employers can offer unlimited workspace customization options to employees, others may need to offer a set budget per employee to better control costs.

2. Create different spaces for different purposes

Loung area
Mindvalley’s office lounge area

Open office spaces are great for collaboration and creativity, but can be bad for productivity. Try creating different spaces for different purposes to get the best of both worlds:

  • Lounge areas with sofas, coffee tables—or even bean bags—can give employees a place to gather and collaborate on projects. The right elements, including bright colors and interesting artwork, can inspire creativity more than a traditional conference room might. You may even choose to add a white board for brainstorming.
  • Outdoor areas can provide a nice change of scenery, if they’re available to you. Put out umbrellas, tables, and chairs—and make sure you have a strong wifi connection—to help employees get fresh air while they work.
  • Communal dining gives employees the opportunity to unwind and recharge with colleagues during meal times. You could even use this space to gather a lunchtime walking group—exercise has been known to boost creativity.
  • Phone booths can give employees a private space to have phone conversations without the noise and distraction of the rest of the office. They may also use these spaces when they need to bunker down and concentrate on an important project.

Some companies even provide game rooms, gyms, and nap areas. These different spaces can provide employees with a change of scenery when they need to take a break and recharge, boost creativity, or get some heads-down quiet time.

3. Incorporate some feng shui principles

Feng shui is the Chinese philosophy for using energy forces to harmonize individuals with their surrounding environment. Applying feng shui can help create a vibrant and prosperous energy in your workspace.  There are many ways to do this in the workplace:

  • Design a lively, attractive entrance that helps employees feel welcome
  • Include a water element, such as a water fountain (In feng shui, water represents luck and wealth.)
  • Remove clutter to create a clean, open office space and to maximize the flow of positive chi energy
  • Avoid furniture with sharp corners (Sharp corners emanate negative energy.)
  • Add quotes on the walls that inspire employees
  • Include art or pictures that are feel-good, energetic, and bright
  • Incorporate plants that not only look pretty, but help purify the air

4. Get the lighting right

Daylight helps people regulate circadian rhythms, so they don’t experience unnecessary stress. A thoughtful workplace design maximizes natural light for this purpose, while strategically incorporating artificial light. This may include:

  • Placing open office spaces on the exterior walls, while placing offices and conference rooms toward the middle of the building, so that everyone can enjoy the sunlight.
  • Using glass windows, instead of solid walls, to define separate spaces.
  • Providing window coverings as necessary to reduce early morning or late afternoon glare.
  • Installing light bulbs which most resemble daylight.
  • Offering employees Gooseneck lamps for task lighting.

5. Align your workplace to your company culture

A great workplace design will be different for every organization, as it should reflect your company culture. For instance:

  • A company with a feedback culture might incorporate a physical “praise wall” in a public space, like your entryway or communal dining area. This could be a cork board where employees pin complements written on index cards, or a digital praise wall powered by employee feedback software.
  • A company focused on environmentalism should use more natural materials and colors in their design, and try to offer outdoor space to employees.
  • A fun company culture would incorporate brighter colors, funky artwork, and significant amount of open space. However, it’s even more important to include some quiet spaces for employees to accomplish important tasks.
  • A health-oriented company might include healthy snacks in the kitchen, a meditation room, bicycle parking, or even an in-office gym.

Think about your own unique culture, and interview your employees, to brainstorm ways your workplace design can reflect your unique values.

Final thoughts on workplace design

It can be easy to overlook workplace design—but that would be a mistake. Your workplace design is a critical element in your employee’s happiness, which also impacts their engagement levels, creativity, and productivity. In short, it can have a significant impact on your bottom line!

Be thoughtful about how you design your office, and know that whatever you put into it will be an investment in your company’s future. There are many things you can do, even with a low budget: removing clutter, adding a cork board praise wall, adding plants and beautiful furnitures, and painting the walls. Or, if you’re considering moving offices in the future, you can prioritize the spaces that already incorporate some of these things. Your employees will benefit, and so will your company.

To get more ideas to inspire you, check out Inc. magazine’s “Inside the World’s 10 Most Beautiful Offices of 2018.”

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