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  • Chris Jimenez

Keep Talent (and Attract Even More) Through Smart Workplace Design

Good salary? Sure. Health insurance, 401(k), some vacation days? Always nice to have.

How about a short commute and a vending machine with plenty of Cool Ranch Doritos? Sign me up.

But as important as all these factors are to job satisfaction, it turns out that workplace design — the form and function of the physical space where you do your daily work — ranks close to the top for today's employees and job seekers. And smart companies are finally beginning to take note.

Although they're far from extinct, I think we can all agree that the fluorescent wastelands and cubicle farms of decades past are as productivity-inhibiting as they are soul-sucking. Progressive business owners and executives are realizing the correlation between an attractive, functional, adaptable space and employee satisfaction.

A recent study from Hassel backed this up, showing that while salary is still the top driver for the attractiveness of a job, at forty-five percent, workplace culture (thirty-two percent), and facilities (sixteen percent), round out the top three. And I can attest firsthand that workplace aesthetics can impact the perception of potential talent; essentially, your company is immediately judged "good" or "bad" based on what candidates see around them at the interview.

Cultivate Your Culture

This does not mean companies should design just for the sake of design, but rather your workplace should reflect who you are as a company — and possibly who you want to become. The power comes from the ability to transform your space from a collection of walls and windows where work is done into an environment that's a true expression of that work.

Clockwork recently worked with Scott Long Construction in the Washington, D.C. area, to design a new headquarters for the 55-year-old, second-generation company. Previously working in a dim and segregated building, the company wanted a more collaborative environment with plenty of mixed-use spaces and areas to get together as a team. We incorporated raw materials found in construction and merged them with modern elements to create a design unique to their brand. And while the company had traditionally been modest, the new direction incorporated large splashes of color that not only paints a new company direction, but invigorates employees and candidates alike.

John Scott, president and CEO, said he's pleased by the impression it makes on clients as well as current and potential new employees:

"Employee development is a big focus for us, and Clockwork helped us choose how and where people would sit, the artwork in the space, how workspaces are oriented — all to facilitate better relationships among staff. It truly transformed who we are."

Adapt to Accommodate

While I feel like I'm always reading another story about the impact of Millennials in the work force, the reality is most companies have a very diverse mix of ages and work styles all under one roof. Your workplace design should reflect this diversity and have the ability to cater to everyone. While Millennials, generally speaking, may crave more open work areas, one study showed the 45-to-54 age group ranked privacy as their top driver of productivity — which means adding some private work areas to balance your collaboration areas.

This kind of variety can be very beneficial: A study by Steelcase found that when employees feel like they have more control in their work setting, they're more engaged:

"The most highly engaged employees have greater flexibility … can move around the office easily, change postures and choose where they want to work in the office based on the tasks they need to do … A key design principle for the workplace is to create a range of spaces — for groups and individuals, mobile and resident workers — and corresponding work policies that enable employees to make choices about the best ways to work."

The beauty in this finding is that it only reinforces the culture aspect of the workspace. By providing an adaptable work environment and soliciting feedback from your employees about what matters to them, you create an internal culture of openness — one that proclaims that employees are valued and that change is not only welcome but seen as a positive.

It's an exciting time to be in the architecture and design industry, to witness this next generation of the workplace. It shows how good design can be not only aesthetically pleasing but also productive for your business. Just one look at the recent Coolest Office Spaces competition in the Kansas City Business Journal, and you'll see some of the innovative ways our hometown businesses have created fun and productive work environments for their employees.

These companies get it — will yours?

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