The important role of workspaces in employee engagement10 September 2021
In response to the fateful question: Where will we work after the crisis? A few months ago, some people said the office was dead. Today, after many months of abandoning it, 63% of employees want to return to their “main workplace”.1 While working in a home office offers many advantages (less commuting time, more time for oneself, better work-life balance, etc.), we find that the pendulum is swinging back towards the physical office and that employees are eager to reconnect with their company and colleagues.
1. Sense of belonging diminished by distance
While the measures taken to contain the pandemic have accelerated the introduction of teleworking in many companies, in the long run they have also raised awareness of the major social role that offices play. In September 2020, for example, 55% of employees cited “socialising with colleagues” as their main reason for going to the office, and 83% said they preferred to interact face-to-face with the rest of the team rather than virtually.2
Thus, long-term teleworking tends to change relationships between colleagues, making them more formal, and many feel a sense of “detachment and isolation” over the months. To maintain this connection, managers have had to become more creative in recent months, organising cyber-teas or remote games, for example. However, it seems that the 100% home office model has come to an end.
This need to go to the office to feel part of an entity is even more pronounced among young people for whom face-to-face relationships are not an option but a real need.
2. Workspace design: a lever for engagement
It is now well established that there is a strong correlation between well-being in the workplace and a sense of commitment. The concept of “workplace” is gradually losing ground to a broader vision that could be called “living space”: a transition in which facility management needs to redefine itself.
The term “living space” implies a number of factors:
- Where should the office be located?
The location has an increasing impact on employee satisfaction and is becoming an important selection criterion for younger generations. Indeed, beyond the offices themselves, the neighbourhood in which they are located and what it has to offer to users (restaurants, green spaces, gym…) also has an impact on their daily life.
- Are the premises pleasant?
As we have seen, employees come to the office to work, but also to meet their colleagues. It is therefore important to provide employees with pleasant living spaces where they can meet informally and develop a stronger sense of connection with the company and the team. Pleasant spaces are also flexible spaces. Introducing adjustable and ergonomic furniture that can be adapted to the needs of all employees will enhance their daily work experience.
- Are the offices inspiring?
One concept that has been around for several years and helps to increase employee engagement is office branding. Considering that offices are the reflection of a company, office branding consists of giving office spaces a brand identity when designing them. Besides the visual aspect, it is a question of linking the rules and culture of the company to the worlds in which employees move every day. The largest groups in Silicon Valley, innovators on the subject, adopted it a long time ago and the phenomenon is now spreading to start-ups, which see office branding as a way of asserting their emerging identity. For the company, the interest is twofold: externally towards customers, suppliers and distributors, who will find it easier to assimilate and retain the brand image, and internally, with regard to employees who will develop in an inspiring environment with values they can identify with. Beyond being employees, they thereby become ambassadors of the brand.
“The idea behind office branding is to give a company’s premises a “soul” and an identity, with the aim of making them more accessible and usable, to make them one’s own.” 3
3. Workspace functions: productivity lever
After many months working remotely, both employers and employees have realised how important workplace collaboration is for everyone. Many companies are placing this back at the centre of their development strategy by rethinking the primary functions of workspaces to (re)learn how to work together. Already, less than a quarter of workers believe that their workplace is perfectly suited to their needs.4
The new workspaces are therefore designed to encourage and promote teamwork. The key to success is balance, one between productivity and relaxation, between collaboration and individual work. To learn more about the new workspaces emerging in the market, we invite you to read our article on this topic: New Way of Working: 3 Types of Spaces Establishing Collaboration.
To improve employee engagement within a company, it is also important for employees to regain control over their workplace. As the following study by Steelcase, an innovator in workplace design, shows, there is a strong correlation between the provision of task-specific hybrid workplaces and engagement:5
This illustration clearly shows that even with an open space office concept, companies need to create a variety of spaces with different uses and purposes, not just one big open space that users currently find too noisy, impersonal and robotic.
Creating spaces and thinking about them is therefore the first step. The second step is to analyse how people actually use them in their daily lives. To do this, companies need to be equipped with the measurement and data tools that are essential for their decision-making.
For example, the ROOMZ presence sensors (ROOMZ Sensor, Huddle Sensor and Desk Sensor), placed in shared workplaces allow the real rate of use of a space to be measured in order to see whether it is really useful or not. If the space is deemed to be underused, it can be redesigned to better suit the employees’ daily tasks. With such measurement tools, the office can be continually reinvented and its flexibility allows it to fully meet employees’ needs.
Workspaces have always played an important role in employee well-being and engagement, but it seems that their role has become many times more important now that we are back in the office. We are returning with new ways of working (e.g. teleworking) and new motivations to which facility management must respond by providing adapted and evolving spaces.
 Paris Workspace – Employees judge their offices – 2020
 Atypik – Office Branding: give your office an identity
 Observatory ACTINEO 2019
 International study report Steelcase – Commitment and workspace in the world
– Picture credit: myHQ Workspaces