Great workplaces are driven by a shared vision—the blend of an organization’s culture and a strategy for how people can do their best work. This shared vision inspires people to thrive, and as a result their organizations thrive. Placing the wellbeing of people at the core can create a happier and more productive workforce, increasing the chances for people to succeed within the organization’s culture and “live out” the vision.
Within an organization’s workplace vision, many factors are in play, including the shift from employee wellness (fitness) to wellbeing (holistic health), equity and inclusion, technology and smart buildings, multiple generations, and visual branding and design aesthetics. Balancing emerging trends and key design issues is at the core of a well-researched workplace design—achieved through a continuous dialogue between the project owner/leader, user groups, designers, vendors, and builders.
Below, we share insights on four pillars for how to plan and design effective workplaces. These pillars can be used to establish a dialogue between your internal team members and your design team as you envision changes in your office space.
People at the Core
People are at the core of all workplaces, and the most successful workplaces reflect the unique culture of the individual company and the unique make-up of the workforce.
While each company or building owner approaches workplace design differently depending on mission, priorities and location, they all share common goals in recognizing their workforce as their most valuable asset. People make the company—the leaders, customer-facing staff, internal individual contributors, and project-based teams. Everyone from the C-suite to college interns is an important piece of the business, to be listened to and accommodated.
When placing people at the core, consider the following strategies for the ever-changing workplace:
- Plan for spontaneous interactions, in which serendipity and casual collisions bring people together from different departments. Look for ways for people to bump into each other in casual gathering places and along circulation routes, such as an office café or expresso bar, commons area, stairways, or touch-down spaces.
- Plan for a multigenerational workplace, with five different generations working together and sharing knowledge—the younger generation learning from the older, and the older learning from the younger. Find ways that the workplace can facilitate the active transfer of tacit knowledge from experienced staff to future leaders.
- Plan for diversity of backgrounds, with different generations, races, genders and life circumstances sharing spaces, ideas, and successes.
- Plan for diversity of intellectual capabilities and work styles, including work that requires collaboration versus concentration and processes that are creative versus transactional. Each person or team may function differently and adapt in various ways to the work spaces you provide. Recognize the cognitive range in your workforce and design a workplace where all people can contribute.
- Plan for flexibility and change, both physically and organizationally. The workplace is dynamic and always evolving. Look for ways to adapt, change and evolve to generate and embrace new ideas, new work styles, and new technology.
Recognizing, respecting and designing for diversity can create environments in which everyone’s ability to succeed is enhanced.
Wellness and Wellbeing
Employee wellness and wellbeing are increasingly recognized as valuable in the workplace. While seemingly interchangeable, wellness and wellbeing address distinct issues when planning workplaces with people at the core.
Wellness is about incorporating health-related functions into the workplace, such as an in-house fitness facility, outdoor walking paths, health counseling, or fitness club-membership discounts. Wellness centers—often planned in partnership with health insurance providers—can offer a variety of on-site programming and services tailored to an increasingly diverse workforce. The corporate benefit is a healthier workforce, resulting in potentially lower health insurance costs.
Wellbeing, on the other hand, is a holistic view that integrates emotional, spiritual, physical, psychological and health-related factors into workplace design. Access to light, fresh air, outdoors, quiet spaces for concentration, commons spaces to build social relationships, and a variety of work settings to accommodate mobile work styles all contribute to a person’s sense of belonging and control over their environment—and ultimately their wellbeing.
Smart workplace planning integrates wellness and wellbeing.
Thriving People for a Thriving Business
All businesses exist to succeed. Placing people at the core inspires people to thrive—which in turn enables businesses to thrive. But for businesses to thrive, people must thrive at all levels.
Successful workplaces follow an integrated, multi-level planning strategy that addresses three core business levels—the leadership level (C-suite), which generates the vision; the operational/tactical level, which deploys the vision; and the individual team-member level, which actualizes the vison.
Workplaces that enable a continuous flow of information between all three levels create productive, thriving workplaces.
Work activities and the workplaces where they occur are continuously evolving as people, technology and processes change. To remain nimble, companies will continue to operate in a constant state of evolution as they develop new and better strategies for their work. To provide a path toward the future for clients, workplace planners and designers must benchmark current conditions, anticipate future trends, research the impacts of workplace activities, and accommodate the effects of constant change on the workplace and the people within. Workplace research depends on curiosity, always asking how the workplace can better serve team members, customers, and business goals.
Employee surveys are an easily deployed research tool to determine what team members think about and anticipate in their workplace environments. In addition, primary research using socio-metric tracking tools can now map how, when and where people interact and use workplace resources. Secondary research can reveal insights into industry trends from analyzing the wealth of research information produced by universities, industry trade groups, and vendors.
Structured research tools and a healthy curiosity can lead to innovation—placing people and their behaviors at the center of work processes.
The challenge for business leaders, workplace planners and designers is staying relevant and forward-looking—recognizing trends, looking to the future, providing facility flexibility at many levels to keep businesses nimble, and remaining nimble themselves in their design approaches and uses of technology. The four pillars of workplace design noted above provide a framework for seeing and evaluating the myriad of issues facing your business today. While the topics within each pillar continue to evolve, the structure gives us all a way to bring relevant issues together into beautiful, healthy, flexible and effective workplaces.