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How to Improve Staff Engagement With Office Design

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

Employee Engagement and Office Design

In today’s changing environment, keeping your people happy, motivated, and productive has never been so difficult. It’s also never been so important. A crucial part of this is staff engagement – how connected staff feel toward their organisation.


If your staff aren't committed to your company, they will be unmotivated, less creative, and less hard-working. On the other hand, if your staff do feel enthused about your company, they will be always looking for ways to improve performance.


There are many ways to boost staff engagement. However, one often overlooked aspect is office design. As the place where your staff spend most or all of their working lives, your office has a huge impact on how engaged your people are.


At Zentura, we’ve been designing offices since 2008, for companies in a wide range of industries. In this article, we’ll explain 5 ways that your office design affects your staff engagement, and how to improve them. But first, what actually is staff engagement, and why should it even matter to you?


What is Staff Engagement and Why Does it Matter?

Employee engagement is the level to which your people are intellectually and emotionally invested in your company’s success. Engaged staff are committed and enthusiastic about their work, because they appreciate the importance of what they do. They are always looking for ways to improve their individual and company performance. Engaged staff will go above and beyond to do so.


At an individual level, engaged staff are far more effective. According to research by the Harvard Business Review, an engaged employee is 45% more productive than a satisfied worker. An inspired employee — one who has a profound personal connection to their work and/or their company ― is more than twice as productive as a satisfied worker.


It isn’t hard to imagine what the company-level benefits of an engaged workforce are. Companies with highly engaged people are more agile, innovative, and profitable. According to Gallup, companies with engaged workers have 23% higher profit than those with workers who felt “miserable”. Additionally, teams with thriving workers see lower absenteeism, turnover and accidents. They also see higher customer loyalty.


However, many companies are missing out on most, if not all, of the benefits of a highly engaged workforce. Studies have reported that as much as 87% of the world's workforce is not engaged. In the UK, this is even worse: 9% of UK workers surveyed for Gallup’s ‘State of the global workforce’ report felt enthused by their work and workplace in 2022.


According to Wellable, disengaged employees are lower-performing than their engaged peers on multiple levels. They have an 18% lower productivity rate and 15% lower profitability rate. They also have a higher absenteeism rate, with a 37% increased likelihood of taking time off work. Overall, It is estimated that disengaged employees are costing the UK economy £340 billion every year – over 15% of the UK’s GDP!


However, there are several things you can do to ensure your company can capitalise on the benefits of an engaged workforce – and avoid the damaging consequences of an unengaged one. By ensuring your employees feel their work is meaningful, and they are well rewarded and recognised, they will be much more likely to go above and beyond. By creating a great culture, your staff will work together much better, improving overall company outcomes. A great office can help you on your journey to better staff engagement in several ways:


On-Brand Design

Many people and companies think of on-brand design as a logo in the reception and a few walls painted in the company colours. However, office branding is so much more than that. It not only includes all the colours, finishes, and design features in your office, but the very layout itself. An open-plan office signals a very different brand from an office with many private offices. Your office brand also includes all the little details that make up the experience your people have throughout the day. This includes everything from the temperature to the coffee.


To bring your office in line with your brand, you need an office design that embodies your brand. This includes everything from the location and the layout to the chair upholstery. Many famous brands, such as Google and Meta, are famous for this, and they do it for good reason. When your office is on brand, your people will be working in an office that brings your brand and culture to life. As a result, they will work in a way far more aligned with your company, and their results will reflect that.


Incorporate Biophilia

Biophilic design is a design concept that advocates the use of natural materials throughout the workplace. This includes everything from office plants to fresh air and natural light. Staff working in biophilic offices reported a 15% increase in wellbeing, are 6% more productive, and 15% more creative.


The easiest way to add biophilic design to your workplace is through office plants and living walls. They are relaxing from a colour psychology perspective and they increase the oxygen content in the air. Other ways to add incorporate biophilic design include maximising the use of natural materials, such as wooden flooring. A biophilic design will make your office a more relaxing and enjoyable place to work, which will in turn increase your staff engagement.


Prioritise Wellbeing

The physical and mental wellbeing of your people should be a top priority. If your office does not optimise the wellbeing of your people, they will be working in a frustrating and dulling environment. This will reduce both their ability and their inclination to perform at their best. On the other hand, a space that promotes both physical and mental health will maximise the connection between your people and your company.


There are 9 key steps you can take to improve wellbeing in your office design. Some, such as natural light, biophilia, and ergonomic furniture, maximise the physical and mental health of your staff. Others, such as customisability will improve the wellbeing and engagement of your staff by providing them with a workspace that matches the way they work. To learn about all 9 ways to improve workplace wellbeing with office design, read the full article.


Promote Collaboration

Collaboration is not only essential for overall company performance, but it is also a key driver of engagement. It is very unlikely that your staff are emotionally and intellectually invested in your company if they are not invested in their relationships with their colleagues. In many cases, their commitment to their colleagues exceeds their commitment to the company. Maximising their ability to collaborate through office design is essential.


When designing to improve collaboration in your office, you first need to allow enough space. Collaboration spaces should take up about 40-50% of your office. It’s also important to consider how your people actually work together. For many companies, this is in groups of 2-5, rather than 10-20. Consequently, you should design collaboration spaces for these size groups. An open-plan workspace can also help collaboration by encouraging people to move around, meet, and network with other staff. As a result, their engagement with their colleagues and your company will increase.


Allow Autonomy

Autonomy in the workplace means giving employees the freedom to work in a way that suits them. A lack of autonomy is one of the biggest drivers of poor staff engagement in many companies. If your people do not have the ability to take responsibility and try new things, they are far less likely to be committed to their job. Studies have shown that 79% of autonomous employees are more engaged than employees who lack autonomy. In addition, when employees feel trusted, they carry a stronger sense of responsibility for their work. They are also more likely to stay at your company longer.


To maximise autonomy in your office design, you have to provide an office environment that suits the way your staff work. This will look different for every employee, so your design also needs to be flexible. While some staff will thrive in a buzzing, collaborative environment, others will need focussed working areas free from distractions. It also extends beyond the design of your office, to where and when they work. Home working and co-working spaces may also be a part of your strategy. By providing each staff member with the space they need, their commitment to your company will increase.


Improving Staff Engagement in Your Office

It’s important to understand that there is no X-step formula to creating an engaged workforce. The path to better staff engagement looks different for every company. Engaged staff are intrinsically motivated – they find their work interesting and enjoyable. They are not working merely because it leads to a separate (personally desired) outcome. As a result, they are always looking to improve the company. You don't have to coax and reward your people into desired behaviours.


As the home of your company and the place where your people spend so much time, your office has a crucial role to play in how engaged your staff are. If your office is not designed with your people in mind, your space will be a frustrating and uninspiring place to work. As a result, your staff will be unmotivated, performing far below their best. On the other hand, a space that is designed to maximise the engagement of your people will improve their emotional and intellectual investment in the ongoing success of your company. Consequently, they will be much more responsive, innovative, and collaborative.


To learn more about how office design can benefit your company, read 8 ways office design can improve company performance. There, we’ll go through the 8 most common benefits of redesigning your office, and how you can maximise their impact on your next project.


If you’d like to discuss how to improve staff engagement through office design at your company, we’d love to hear from you. At Zentura, we design agile workspaces around the people that use them. Our designs enable your people to become more efficient, productive and to increase engagement. Reach out to our workspace design experts today.

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