At a time when businesses all over the world are looking at how to change their office environments, one group of people absolutely must be kept front of mind: employees.
After so long working from home, many employees are questioning whether they really want or need to go back to working from the office. As a result, employers must strive to keep their offices relevant to the work and collaboration needs of employees.
But beyond those more practical considerations, workplaces must also be environments that employees feel comfortable working in, and that doesn’t cause them more stress or inconvenience than they would get when working from home. Understanding employees’ priorities, and what they want from an office environment, is vital to ensuring their expectations are met and that they are motivated enough to make the commute a number of times a week.
This article dives into research around employee desires from workplaces, and highlights what can be done to ensure that as many people as possible are catered for:
1. Peace and quiet
Those employees lucky enough to have a home office to work from, or who have their home to themselves during working hours, will appreciate the solitude they get to concentrate and get their work done. Others, however, don’t have that option, and unsurprisingly, employees in general wish they could get the same from offices, where background noise and other distractions often hold them back.
Udemy research has found that 38% of employees feel employees could help reduce workplace distractions by providing designated spaces for quiet work. Making these available for employees to book for specific jobs means the office can represent an ocean of calm when they need it.
2. Privacy to focus
Sometimes, peace and quiet isn’t enough to help employees focus on the task at hand. This is especially the case in open-plan offices, where having the eyes and ears of other employees around can be off-putting.
According to the Royal Society, in open-plan offices, face-to-face interactions decrease by 70% and email interactions increase by 20-50%. Creating more private and partitioned workspaces can therefore give employees their own space, and remove the risk of distraction or awkwardness.
Of course, in many cases, open-plan offices deliver benefits around free collaboration and exchange of ideas: it’s making provision for both options that’s important in the offices of the future.
3. A comfortable environment
The most important things for employees in an office aren’t access to a fridge full of soft drinks or a ping-pong table in the cafeteria. Future Workspace research has found that what matters most (in descending order) is air quality, comfortable lighting, water quality and comfortable temperature.
These environmental factors should therefore be considered in every workspace laid out within an office, and if part of a shared workspace model, relevant information on them should be available to employees at the time of booking. By providing detail on whether, for example, a workspace is next to a window in sunlight or is directly under an air conditioning unit, every employee can ensure they book workspaces that meet their personal comfort preferences.
4. Easy access to meeting spaces
We’ve all been there at one time or another: trying to find a meeting room, only to find that a room that has been booked is sitting completely empty. Indeed, research from Cisco has found that unfulfilled meeting room bookings is one of the biggest frustrations employees have when working in an office environment.
The solution is to implement a workspace booking system where restrictions are put in place to prevent overbooking. This can be done in two ways: through rules within the software which limit how many bookings employees can make, and analysis that identifies repeat offenders who don’t check into meetings they’ve booked, so that managers can take appropriate action.
5. Seamless video conferencing integration
That same Cisco research also found that getting uncooperative video collaboration to work is just as frustrating for employees. This is an especially important issue to resolve as, with flexible working increasingly becoming the norm, using VC tools to connect remote workers to in-person meetings will become a regular occurrence for many organizations.
The key here is to remove as much uncertainty from video collaboration as possible. From a meeting space perspective, this means giving organizers clear information about the equipment installed within a room, giving them the ability to book equipment for a specific meeting if not already installed, and integrating meetings with VC bookings so remote attendees can be connected with just one or a few clicks.