Want To Increase Workplace Engagement? Choose Comfort And Function Over Trendiness

A great workplace experience is something that all workers appreciate, regardless of their generation. But basic comfort is more important than ping pong tables and trendy perks.
  • A great workplace experience is something that all workers appreciate, regardless of their generation. But basic comfort is more important than ping pong tables and trendy perks.
  • To boost workplace engagement, organizations need to invest in creating an emotional connection between employees and employers in the workplace.
  • The good news is that the physical environment can reinforce an emotional connection, and it starts with covering the basics — such as providing natural light and the right technology.

A recent survey by CBRE argues that contrary to popular belief, “delivering a workplace experience goes beyond providing an attractive workplace.”

The report, titled “How Workplace Experience Can Boost Employee Engagement” examines a range of variables that impact employee satisfaction in the workplace, shedding light on which elements of the workplace experience CRE executives should focus on. 

Here’s the killer:

Fitness facilities, on-site childcare, beer on tap, and ping pong tables don’t cut it. 

Effective workplace environments

According to CBRE, “an effective work environment creates an emotional connection between employees and their organizations, making the physical space a destination that supports the physical, cognitive and social needs of individuals.”

This stems from the fact that CBRE found that employees place more value on physical elements that support well-being and convenience more than service amenities that have become a hot topic in workplace discussions today. 

Simply, it’s all about the workplace basics:

Views of the outdoors, natural light, and the right technology infrastructure. 

The above, including the latter, stands true for millennials, Gen Z, and older generations, CBRE found. 

“While perceptions about the expectations of millennials continue to have a disproportionate influence on workplace trends, the survey showed little generational variation. Even when evaluating workplace technology—an area where younger digital natives might be expected to be more critical—millennials were only marginally less satisfied than their older counterparts.”

The thing is, a great workplace experience is something that all workers will appreciate, regardless of their generation. 

Comfort and function > trendiness

The initial appeal of trendy, instagrammable workplaces is undeniable. But in the long-run, trendiness fades, while comfort and function preserve. 

Organizations of all types should take note of this, as many companies have started to incorporate services and amenities like pet-friendly workspaces, on-site massages, and meditation rooms to differentiate their experiences. 

While these can be effective in delighting employees in the short term, the CBRE survey found that “function and comfort override trendiness.”

This is clearly exemplified in the elements that workers report are most likely to improve satisfaction and engagement. 

Top most valued perks or amenities at the office:

  1. 53% Views of the Outdoors 
  2. 53% Natural Light
  3. 44% On-site Café/Food 
  4. 37% Kitchen 
  5. 28% Open Office Space

The power of food

Interestingly, a workplace feature that ranked prominently on the list of most valued perks and amenities is food. 

Food concepts in the workplace “range from strategically located snack and beverage stations that invite serendipitous social connections, to quality of food that supports employee well-being, to community kitchens that bring employees together around the preparation and sharing of food.”

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If you want to improve your workplace culture and boost engagement, a good place to start could be to offer food. 

CBRE argues that “food is a key element of fostering community and culture within an organization.”

The urgency to create a better workplace experience

“The office is no longer simply a place for work; it is a destination where employees connect, feel a sense of community, understand organizational objectives and feel their impact on a greater whole.”

Therefore, the workplace must evolve. 

The best way to approach this evolution is to truly understand the workplace features that employees (or flexible workspace members) value. Understanding this will help organizations better prioritize design and investment decisions. 

It’s time for organizations to address how the workplace experience can evolve to more positively impact employee engagement. 

How to impact employee engagement through the physical workplace

CBRE rightly notes that “achieving the greatest impact requires more than just addressing dissatisfaction alone; it means creating a relationship between satisfaction and engagement to identify variables that, if improved, have the highest impact for an organization.”

CBRE found that the elements that most impact engagement illustrate a shift towards a more emotional level of experience “that speaks to a desire for workplaces that put employees at the center”.

Therefore, to boost workplace engagement, organizations need to invest in creating an emotional connection between employees and employers in the workplace.  

The good news is that the physical environment can reinforce these emotional elements. 

“While physical space attributes are lower on the list of the Engagement Impact Analysis, their value indicates a more than 95% probability of impacting employee engagement. As evidence of this value, respondents with access to natural light and views are 67% more likely to be satisfied with working at their company and are equally more likely to refer a friend or colleague for employment at their company.”

Here’s how to create a physical environment that supports emotional elements:

  • Begin by expanding the available places to work beyond the traditional workplace layout (workstation + meeting rooms). This means incorporating break out areas, brainstorming rooms, kitchens, lounges, etc. 
  • Have policies in place that support choice and flexibility. Let individuals choose the right type of environment to support their job or specific tasks. Also provide guidelines on how best to communicate virtually, meeting lengths and sizes, and how to engage with remote employees. 
  • Create a workplace environment that fosters a sense of trust between people and management. This can be done by providing “environments that reduce the relationship between hierarchy and access to private space.” 
  • Foster a sense of professional development. This requires that organizations provide opportunities for networking, learning and development courses.
  • Focus on community building. CBRE suggests organizations “prioritize social and community building events that reinforce corporate values, such as wellbeing (e.g. morning meditation), sustainability (e.g. beach cleanup) or entrepreneurship (e.g. hackathons) and build flexible, multi-functional spaces to host them.”

In the end, “CRE executives have the opportunity to leverage the physical environment as a platform that enables their organizations to directly impact employee engagement.”

As companies increasingly realize how the workplace environment plays a key role in attracting, engaging, and retaining top talent, CRE leaders and HR departments are taking a more integral approach to enhancing the workplace experience.

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