Using Science to Design Office Spaces that Attract and Retain Top Staff

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Friday, February 26th, 2016
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Winning the battle for talent is one of the biggest hurdles senior leaders are facing. In the ever-increasing competitive landscape for recruiting and retaining talented employees, companies are looking to more holistic strategies to gain the advantage.

For organizations intent on attracting and retaining the best talent, the office environment is a key aspect to promoting a culture of engagement, innovation and high performance.

A recent Harvard Business Review article noted that collective experience and research indicates that an optimal physical environment can serve as a foundation for an effective workforce. One way companies can find and keep top talent is by using evidence-based design research. Applying research to design the workplace demonstrates innovation and shows employees their preferences are valued. This has positive implications on the quality of life of workers, too.   Designing with science allows the workplace to support employee activities and helps them to be more engaged, productive and perform higher quality work.

To better inform and guide designers and facility managers, the IFMA Foundation together with IFMA Workplace Evolutionaries (WE) recently published a workplace strategy guide related to evidenced-based design entitled Applying What Scientists Know about WHERE and HOW People Work Best. Created by Dr. Sally Augustin, the guide illustrates the importance of workplace design and offers informative guidance on various workplace strategies that will create a competitive advantage for any organization. Some tips in Dr. Augustin’s publication include:

Color: Remember when you saw a red mark on your paper when you were in grammar school and felt sick at the low grade you received? According to the Journal of Experimental Psychology, it’s possible that seeing that shade of red reminds you of that experience and hinders your work performance. However, another study indicates that shades of green improve creativity.
Noise: A research study showed that noise had a negative effect on performance and cognitive and communication related work. It could take workers 23 minutes to get back on task after an interruption. Newsflash: Pay attention to the design of workplace bathrooms as people are spending more and more time in them to escape the noise of open plan workspaces.

Focus: While seeing and hearing other people increases energy levels, the presence of fewer stimuli is better for focused work. A Harvard University study discovered that watching employees work may actually reduce their performance, while creating zones of privacy can, under some circumstances, increase operational output.

Not every company can offer optimal evidenced-based workplace design on the same scale. But all organizations should carefully consider what they can do to give employees the spaces and tools that enhance and support increased engagement, peak performance and effective productivity.

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