In the quest for employee engagement and the resulting increases in productivity & profitability, businesses are prepared to invest in any number of initiatives – from employee assistance programmes to flexible lifestyle benefits. However, few have seen their workplace as an investment in engagement to such an extent that it makes a tangible impact on the bottom line.
This doesn’t just mean putting a few pot plants around the office and opening the window every Friday. It means thinking about how your people work – and what you want your clients to think of you when they walk through the door. From that point, your workplace becomes as essential a part of your business as any employee. Let’s look at how some businesses are using work space to increase productivity and profitability.
1) It’s about how people interact
Every business relies upon its people, and the knowledge that they have. That’s why we pay them so much. But paying people high salaries and cutting them off from everyone else, or providing poor means of communication is strangling their efficiency. The open plan office was meant to open everything up – increasing ease of communication – but it only goes so far.
The example of Aardman, the Bristol-based animation company famous for the Wallace and Gromit films, is one that leaders need to pay attention to. They realised that innovation is driven by conversations – those meetings in the corridor that sparked debate and got people talking were crucial to business success. So they built their offices with extra wide corridors and cubby holes for those conversations to carry on. They even widened the stairs.
2) It’s about what people think of you
Paint peeling from the walls? Bland open-plan office not inspiring you? It probably won’t inspire your clients either. I had a personal stake in Ceridian’s fit-out in Glasgow, and saw at first hand the way customers view the business, from the minute they walk through the door, to the chatter they hear at every point of their office tour. Designing the customer experience was a painstaking, but worthwhile exercise in branding a workspace, and the Ceridian employees love their new offices, which they helped design.
3) It’s about what you do
Innocent is a great example of putting everything you do at the heart of your operations. Their kitchen is smack-bang in the middle of the offices, which means employees are always connected to the very essence of the brand – the product. They can even take part in making smoothies, helping them engage more with the employer. It’s a brilliant move by the employer who has looked to marry employer brand with external brand in order to increase retention rates of their most talented people.
Your offices reflect on you – for both your people and your clients. But they can also influence the way your people work – all you have to do is understand what really drives your business forward, and build your workspace around it.