The Experiential Workspace
This year will likely bring an increased focus on employees’ personal experiences of work. Understanding what your employees are thinking and feeling, and working with the best workplace designers, is now more important than it’s ever been.

As we noted in our recent blog on the “Top 8 Workplace Trends for 2019”, this year will likely bring an increased focus on employees’ personal experiences of work. Leading 21st-century companies like Google and Facebook build their whole organization around their employees’ experiences, and have dedicated managers overseeing those experiences and making sure their workforce is happy. Well designed offices provide better experiences for those working in them, which leads to a boost in job satisfaction, productivity and creativity; this is why Experiential Workspaces are so highly valued.

Furthermore, they’re also good for the bottom line: according to research by author Jacob Morgan, who’s an expert in this field, companies that focus on their employees’ experiences make a whopping four times the average profit, and more than twice the average revenue, than those that don’t.

The Psychological Approach to Design

Adopting a psychological approach to design is particularly useful for attracting and retaining talent, because employees judge their working experience against how they imagine it would be to work elsewhere. We tend to think the grass is greener on the other side, and frequently ask ourselves questions like: Do I really love my job? Does my workplace reflect my values? What about my friends, what are their offices like? A good Experiential Workspace will take care of these questions.

There are two steps to setting one up successfully: the first is to develop a detailed understanding of the needs of each employee, and how they work best; the second is to then design spaces and ways of working that will satisfy these needs. When your staff’s needs are met, they’ll feel in control, they’ll understand their surroundings intuitively, and they’ll naturally perform well. But given that today’s workplace is more diverse than it’s ever been, and we’re all unique individuals, how can one office provide a good experience for everybody that works there? The answer, of course, is variety.

Everything Everywhere

A recent study by Steelcase found that half of the world’s office workers feel that they need a change from working at the same desk every single day, so clearly it’s important to provide a range of spaces for them to choose from. But that’s not all. The same study also found that half of employees can’t find the kinds of space they need in their workplace. It’s just as important to provide the right kind of range of spaces: spaces for focus such as individual working pods, spaces for collaboration, and spaces for relaxation. It’s also important to consult with staff and get the ratio of these spaces right.

Leading architecture firm Gensler recently published its Experience Index, which included some startling facts: such as that 98% of employees admit to doing non-work activities while at work. However, we’re also doing a lot more work outside of the office, in our own free time. The boundaries between work and home and retail and leisure spaces have been dissolved. “Everyone is doing everything everywhere,” the report explains. “Not only is work happening everywhere, everything is happening at work.”

A good workplace has to satisfy all of our needs. This is one of the key reasons why co-working spaces (which we’ll explore in our next blog) have become so incredibly popular as of late: because they satisfy multiple needs in one building. For instance, informal social spaces help to create close bonds between colleagues, which raise trust levels, encourage more and better collaborative practices, and increase satisfaction levels. Likewise, spending time away from your desk to relax, or even just to waste some time, which used to be frowned upon, is now seen as highly beneficial for creativity. In fact, one of Gensler’s big conclusions is that we should make every space feel more like a public space: “Their diversity and welcoming nature prove to be key components of success too, a goal toward which every space should aspire.”

Some Closing Thoughts

With our increased focus on wellness and quality of life, attitudes to work have changed dramatically, and will continue to change as younger generations enter the workforce. Higher salaries are no longer enough to convince talented people to join a company, or to stay in a job they’re not enjoying. Instead, we want Experiential Workspaces that satisfy our needs.

According to Dr. Ron Friedman, the award-winning social psychologist and author, “The future of the workplace is a location that attracts employees who want to come there because it facilitates their performance. … The answer lies in building offices that optimize space for performance instead of just profitability.” And so, understanding what your employees are thinking and feeling, and working with the best workplace designers, is now more important than it’s ever been.

Dr. Ron Friedman