How does the design of a workplace attract employees? Why is workplace design so important towards retention rates? How have the needs of employees changed over time?
Christina Piper, Vice President of Workplace Design at Big Red Rooster – a JLL company explains.
“Since the pandemic, we’ve seen a lot of clients inquiring about hybrid work and kind of figure out their hybrid work strategies. The biggest change that we’ve seen in workplace design evolution is prior to the pandemic, clients who wanted workplace strategy were around 10 to 20 percent, very low, and now it’s really 50 to 60 percent and they want some bit of strategy to understand what’s lacking in their workplace, what could be different, and how to implement some of these hybrid strategies.”
Piper defines workplace strategy as “diving into the research side of their organization, focus groups, employee surveys, leader interviews, and more.”
The increase in client interest in workplace strategy shows how the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically affected the comfort elements and strategies of a workplace.
“Tenants are looking at standard things like parking but they’re also looking at restaurant options that are close by, things like dry cleaning, and even the ability to have parks and trails close to where they are for a lunchtime walk” explains Piper.
“Also, people are really saying, you know safety is a big concern, so do they feel safe in their building? Is there a security guard? Is there access control at all their doors? Do they feel like the building is well kept up?” Piper adds.
“Just in general tenants want a modern building and they want to feel like they’re in a space that’s been invested in and cared for.”
A property that has been invested in and cared for can look like many different things like dedicated green space, energy efficiency, technological advancements, and more.
In the last few years, landscape design has evolved from a domino effect of events. First, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted working from home which later evolved into hybrid work systems focused on combining in-office and home-office working schedules. From there a larger emphasis was placed on the wellbeing of employees and how workplace design can benefit and encourage employees to enjoying working in an office space.
“When we talk about a comfortable workplace, we’re talking about a place where people feel safe, where people feel they can be efficient, and where people feel like they can flex between several work settings is what I did was comfortable. A lot of that has to do with furniture, a lot of clients are bringing up points of ergonomic furniture” explains Piper.
Ergonomic furniture is human centric furniture that focuses on providing function and comfort. Piper gives an example of ergonomic furniture by mentioning the sit-stand desk she uses in her home office.
“Also, a comfortable workplace is one where people can feel free to utilize technology, whatever route needed to be efficient” adds Piper.
Technology has been increasingly important towards everyday life in the workplace, but different utilizations work for different employees, teams, and organizations. Emphasizing the notion of freedom to utilize technology that is effective and efficient for you can further encourage productivity in the office. Additionally, making technology adaptable and accessible for whatever method an employee chooses to utilize technology is crucial. If technology is not adaptable to the needs of each employee, the technology will likely go under appreciated.
For example, if an employee wanted a change of scenery to work in the common lounge space of their office, are there electrical outlets nearby that they can use for their laptop, is there enough natural light to make the space comfortable?
Many best practices in workplace design revolve around a human-centric design though process. It is essential to make sure your employees and tenants are comfortable and feel they can be productive in their space.
Piper says best practices are “thinking about the employee’s entire workday, not just aspects of it.”
“When we talk about best practices, it’s about how would we want to feel in our workplace and ultimately, what are the things that we’ve learned from working from home that we desire? One big thing is flexibility, the ability to go for walk over lunch time. Those behaviors and desires can be replicated in the office environment now, and so a lot of that is incorporating biophilia into the design” expresses Piper.
Biophilia design is incorporating nature in design elements based on human connection to nature.
“In my experience as a designer, I would say “best practices” means creating a space that is intuitive for everyone and anyone” says Madeleine Pickus, workplace designer at Big Red Rooster – a JLL company.
“Introducing natural elements which could be as literal as adding plants or a green wall. Or this could be done in a more subtle way, including naturally sourced materials, PVC free materials, light woods to warm the space, access to sunlight, etc.” says Pickus.
When developing an interior design plan, both Piper and Pickus mention the importance of a connection with nature. Research from the University of Copenhagen and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences confirms that there is a positive correlation between reduced stress levels and an increase in greenery or biophilia elements in the workplace.
Many studies have shown that workplace design focused on incorporating green space and biophilia show positive effects. According to a study by the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and Keio University in Japan, there is a positive correlation between increased productivity and creativity with increase access to natural light and greenery in the office.
In an office space, it is incredibly important to create accessible and functional spaces.
“A lot of it is increasing the amount of what we’re calling inclusive or wellness spaces, such as mothers, rooms and all gender restrooms to make sure that we’re building equitable spaces” says Piper.
Interior design has evolved to fit the needs of today’s workforce. A significant part of wellness within an office is access to nature whether it is accessible green space, natural light, or biophilia. A connection to nature is incredibly important to the productivity and comfort of an employee.
Want to know more about the evolution of workplaces in CRE? Check out the Commercial Real Estate Landscaping Guide to read articles on xeriscaping, water features, and more.
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