Each of us has different workday schedules, working styles, personal aesthetic tastes, and physical limitations that affect our ideal workspaces.
The best companies and organizations are paying attention to employees’ preferences and needs by providing personalized workspace design that reflects their tastes. The concept has plenty of benefits for employers, too.
First of all, it’s a productivity booster, paving the way for employees to work more efficiently and without interruption. The option for a personalized workspace design is also a powerful tool for retention and recruiting, as potential hires and existing employees will consider it a perk to get their work done in ease and comfort.
It’s surprisingly simple to start customizing employees’ workspaces. It mostly comes down to allowing for flexibility in factors like layout, furniture, equipment, privacy, and even light and temperature.
Here are a few specific ways that employees and employers can reap the benefits of personalized workspace design.
The Harvard Business Review found that employees’ “place identity”—the sense that the office was “theirs”—contributed to benefits for employers as much as employees.
Those upsides include:
- increased employee engagement
- a stronger connection to the company
- better communication with managers
- a tendency to feel positively about other physical features of the office
One relatively simple way to encourage stronger place identity in the office is to encourage employees to decorate and personalize their own individual spaces with whatever they choose. This often happens naturally if it’s encouraged by managers, and it can lead to more colorful, playful workspaces that employees feel a stronger connection with.
Some managers cited in the study also allowed employees to rearrange desks and furniture any way they wanted in order to “meet their evolving needs for collaboration or privacy.” The ability to move furniture around within their own office units also gave them a stronger feeling of ownership in the space.
Remember that if you’re going through an office change or renovation, a key step in establishing place identity is to get employees’ feedback on what they want ahead of time. Include them when you’re planning and establishing priorities for the new office. If employees feel heard and included, they’ll enjoy a greater sense of place after the move or renovation.
For more on how to choose a design for a new office, read this post: How to Plan for an Office Move
Ensuring that each employee has the furniture and equipment that they need to be most comfortable to get their work done is another step towards stellar individual workplace design.
You’ve probably heard of workplace ergonomics. The main goal of ergonomics is to fit the workplace to the employee (and not the other way around). It aims to prevent stress and strain injuries that can come as a result of repetitive work done in an inefficient workplace setup.
For example, employees’ feet should always have a place to rest when they’re working, whether they’re flat on the floor or resting on a footrest. Employees who work at computers should be able to sit in such a way that their elbows stay at a 90-degree angle when they’re typing. Their computer monitors should sit at eye level. (For more office ergonomic basics, check out this quick guide from The Mayo Clinic.)
Even minor ergonomic adjustments can make a big difference in employees’ comfort, but those adjustments will vary from one employee to the next. One option is to hire an ergonomics expert to come in and make some adjustments for your employees. In other cases, making different choices in office furniture can contribute to ergonomic improvements, opting for desks and seats that can easily be adjusted by employees themselves, and making monitor risers and foot risers available.
In the diverse and welcoming workplace that most employers aim for, employees will have a variety of accessibility needs.
And these days, workspace accessibility needs will go well beyond physical access—like wheelchair-friendly ramps and braille signs—to digital accessibility.
Research firm Gartner notes that many companies are investing in assistive technology devices and communication technology to become more attractive to older and disabled employees.
They write, “Assistive technologies were once seen as part of a niche compliance issue, but today more organizations are using technology to deliver an agile digital workplace that is accessible to all employees.”
Tools such as video captioning software, wearables for training (such as head-mounted displays), and text-to-speech tools allow employees to personalize their work environment to fully enable their success.
Temperature and Lighting
We all know from personal experience that the wrong type of lighting or an uncomfortable temperature can make it difficult to concentrate on our work or stay energized.
Our recent post, How the Internet of Things is Creating the Office of the Future, covers how modern offices are adopting tools that make it easier for employees to choose settings that are optimal for them.
So-called “smart” HVAC systems can change temperatures in individual rooms or areas within a building, and administrators can access all of the data and insights about energy use with building automation systems. Some smart HVAC systems can even interact with apps that allow employees to “crowdsource” the ideal workplace temperature.
Then there’s the issue of lighting. Few people would choose a workspace under a flickering fluorescent ceiling light over natural light filtering through a nearby window. However, more natural light isn’t always better, as too much direct sunlight can cause eye strain or make it difficult for employees to see their computer screens. When you allow employees flexibility in where they arrange their office furniture, they can choose the best angles relative to their nearest light sources.
Companies with unassigned desks as described in this Bloomberg article can direct employees to workspaces with their light and temperature preferences through an app.
For more on the benefits of natural light, read our post Try These Wow Features in Your Reception Area.
Activity-Based Office Design
In some cases, the best way to give employees the ultimate workspace personalization is to provide more workspace options within the same office building.For the ultimate workspace personalization, give employees multiple workspace options within the same office building. Click To Tweet
Activity-based office design allows employees to float to the spaces that work best for them at any given point throughout the day.
After all, employees don’t do all of their work in their personal workspaces. Even if those personal spaces have the perfect ergonomic setup, state-of-the-art equipment, and the perfect amount of natural light, they will inevitably have other limitations.
Individual spaces are often too small to accommodate breakout sessions or larger meetings. Or, if your office has an open office plan, employees will have to go elsewhere to find privacy for calls or for work that requires a higher degree of concentration.
Want to learn more about office design options? Check out these posts.
- Exploring the Backlash to Open Office Design
- How to Evaluate a Potential Office Space
- Don’t Hire an Architect to Design Your Office Until You’ve Done This
- 7 Ways to Make Your Office More Flexible (And Get More Value From the Space)
Personalized workspace design is just one way you can support your employee’s ability to do their best work without interruption. A digital check-in app, like The Receptionist, can take on the duties of getting your visitors to where they need to go so that they don’t have to ask the nearest person they can find for help.
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