5 ways to revamp your office design to promote employee retention

Standing desks and space heaters could keep your employees from leaving

According to a recent survey by the International Interior Design Association (IIDA), the way you design your office can impact your company's financial success and employee retention. Writing for Fast Company, Gwen Moran shares five ways to improve your office design.

Researchers analyzed responses from 1,206 full-time employee respondents and discovered a connection between employee attitudes about their work areas and their overall engagement. Employees who were "highly satisfied" with the design of their workplaces were also much more likely than their less-satisfied peers to agree with the following statements:

  • "In general, I like working here";
  • "When I get up in the morning, I feel like going to work";
  • "My organization is innovative"; and
  • "If I have my way, I will be working here a year from now."

Cheryl Durst, the executive vice president and CEO of the IIDA, says "there is absolutely a correlation" between the two.

To retain employees, IIDA suggests making the following improvements to your office design:

1. Offer different types of work areas

While open floor plans are common, many employees find them too noisy, or feel that they lack privacy.

By offering dedicated private spaces to supplement open floor plans, you can reduce these concerns. Durst suggests these areas can take the form of phone-booth-sized units with their own doors, or perhaps smaller rooms with a few desks.

2. Prioritize physical comfort

Many less satisfied employees complain that their offices are too hot, too cold, too noisy, or poorly (or overly) lit, says Michael Kruklinski, the executive vice president and head of the Americas region at Siemens Real Estate.

Moran writes that companies could invest in small fans, space heaters, or additional LED lighting—but should keep safety in mind with any additional appliances. 

Why you should turn up the thermostat in the summer

3. Create "neighborhoods"

Kruklinski suggests grouping together employees who have similar workspace needs. For example, he says some employees might need large tables or screens to do their work, and co-locating these groups means those materials are used more efficiently.

Walt L. Jones III, the principal of SEQ Advisory Group, adds that placing work equipment in logical places can help the bottom line, since employees will be able to save time on tasks that require them to switch from one type of work environment to another.

4. Invest in adjustable furniture

Out of the IIDA survey respondents, 40% reported being happier when they could adjust their furniture.

Standing desks and customized flexible workstations can increase employee productivity, Moran writes. Studies have shown that better posture and short breaks can make employees happier and more productive. Good workspace design can also help improve student outcomes.

Minimize the need for future changes with flexible, space-efficient layouts

5. Find the right balance of collaboration

Kruklinski encourages employers to place people who work on different teams near each other to make it easier for them to exchange ideas and collaborate informally.

But it is also important not to overdo teamwork, Moran notes. "There's a line between the right ratio of people to spur good work and too many, which may leave employees feeling overwhelmed," she writes. To strike the right balance, Moran suggests simply asking your employees for their feedback (Moran, Fast Company, 11/29).

Yes, open office designs can work in higher ed

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