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13 Ways to Improve the Workplace Experience

Joe Di Noto

Today's workforce expects a workplace that is not only functional but also comfortable, healthy, and supportive of their wellbeing and productivity. Workplace experience (WX) encompasses best practices, technology, and cultural initiatives meant to optimize the working environment (whether in-person or remote). 

Below we look at the three key elements of workplace experience – facilities, technology, and culture – and suggest improvements you can implement to create a more welcoming, healthy, and sustainable workplace. It’s likely that not all of these will apply to your particular organization; use them as inspiration for where to focus your strategic planning.

Facilities and Space: Applying Healthy Building Principles

With the work-from-anywhere trend in decline, employees are once again spending much of their time in the confines of office buildings. Statistical studies have shown time and again that the built environment has a large impact on health, productivity, and employee satisfaction. These spaces should be well-designed, comfortable, and conducive to wellbeing. Applying healthy building principles to your workspace design and management can make a world of difference to the employee experience.

Focus on enhancing these areas:

  • Indoor air quality (IAQ) and thermal comfort: More than any other environmental factor, IAQ has a direct impact on workplace wellness and productivity. Poor air quality can increase absenteeism, decrease job satisfaction, and impact the subjective feeling of wellbeing among employees. If you’re not already monitoring and taking steps to improve indoor air quality, it should definitely be on your roadmap.
  • Natural light: Exposure to natural light improves mood and energy, and contributes to productivity. Natural light can be prioritized when designing or evaluating new real estate, or implemented through mechanical means such as daylight-responsive lighting controls. 
  • Noise management: Excessive noise can distract employees, hinder concentration, and lead to higher levels of stress. Consider incorporating sound-absorbing materials, partitioning workspaces or providing noise-cancelling headphones to maintain a comfortable sound environment.
  • Ergonomics: Comfortable, adjustable furniture, supportive seating, and well-placed work tools can prevent discomfort and physical strain. Flexible spaces that can be adapted or rearranged to different work styles shows consideration for the diverse ways in which people work best: Some may prefer a quiet corner for deep focus, others a collaborative open space for brainstorming sessions. Giving employees some autonomy over where and how they work can lead to greater satisfaction and productivity.
  • Spaces for rest and socialization: Provide dedicated spaces where people can take a break from their work and recuperate, such as lounges or kitchen areas. These spaces offer employees a place to recharge, socialize with colleagues, and foster a sense of community – promoting collaboration, innovation, and team cohesion, as well as a healthy work-life balance.

Technology and Systems: Supporting Modern Ways of Working

Technology and digital tools permeate almost every aspect of our lives, and the workplace is no exception. New technology is continually shaping and redefining the way we work. When integrated thoughtfully and non-invasively, it can significantly enhance the employee experience. 

Consider prioritizing improvements in these key areas:

  • IoT  and smart building technologies: IoT-enabled sensors and connected building automation systems can help you measure and act on data related to environmental factors, including air quality and occupancy levels. For example, smart HVAC systems can regulate ventilation based on the CO2 levels measured in a meeting room, ensuring a comfortable environment while minimizing energy waste. Similarly, automated lighting systems can adjust brightness levels according to the time of day or available natural light. 
  • Systems to seamlessly support hybrid work: While few organizations have remained fully remote, hybrid work—where employees work part of the time in the office and part of the time remotely—has become commonplace. This shift necessitates the use of technology and systems that can support collaboration and communication, regardless of where employees are located. Systems such as video conferences should be seamlessly integrated to allow for mixed remote and on-site meetings, ensuring employees can focus on getting the job done regardless of their physical location.
  • Digital collaboration tools: Adopting project management platforms, file sharing systems, and instant messaging software can make collaboration easier and more efficient. If used correctly, these tools can also help to create a sense of community and connection among team members, especially in distributed teams.
  • Integrated workplace management systems (IWMS): These systems consolidate functions such as real estate management, facilities management, and environmental sustainability, into a single platform. Streamlining these functions allows employers to better manage them and ultimately provide a better experience for employees..

People and Culture: Fostering Transparency, Inclusivity, and Purpose

Many people would agree that “your boss is your job”. More broadly, the people who make up the organization and the culture they foster collectively form an indispensable part of the overall workplace experience. An open, inclusive, and supportive culture increases job satisfaction and employee engagement. Work with HR professionals to promote initiatives in these areas:

  • Transparency and communication: Transparent sharing of information is a cornerstone of trust in any organization. Employees have a vested interest in understanding the environment in which they work, how space is utilized, and how their wellbeing is prioritized. If you’re already collecting sensor data related to factors such as indoor air quality and occupancy, consider implementing digital systems that allow you to share this information more broadly, rather than keeping it within the purview of senior executives and facility managers. This demonstrates your commitment to providing a safe and comfortable working environment, and allows employees to adapt their routines if needed. 
  • Respectful and inclusive culture: Today’s employees - and particularly the younger generation of millennials and Gen-Z - expect their companies to promote diversity and encourage every individual to be their authentic selves. Employees are more likely to feel satisfied and engaged in their work when the culture makes everyone feel valued, ideas are freely exchanged, and creativity is nurtured.
  • Purpose and personal growth: According to Gartner, 82% of employees want to be seen as a person rather than just a worker, but only 45% of them believe this is actually the case. Employees are looking for more than just a paycheck – they want to be recognized as individuals with their own desires. Aligning your organization with the values of your employees, and providing room for professional and personal growth, can create a workforce that’s more deeply connected to your company and its mission.
  • Wellbeing resources: Employees should not feel like they are sacrificing their health for the sake of their career. Making mental health resources and wellness programs available, as well as continual efforts to enhance the work environment, helps create a people-centric workplace and culture.

Leveraging Data to Improve Performance

Regardless of which aspect of the workplace experience you want to improve, you should adopt an evidence-based, performance-focused approach. We will cover this in more depth in a future article. In the meantime, you can check out our previous post on the 3 fundamental aspects of a high performance building.