Workplaces should have a personality and expression to match the organisational culture, say design experts

Author: Vicki Arnstein | Date: 2 Feb 2016

Investing in office design boosts employee engagement, efficiency and effectiveness

Investing in office design to create a compelling working environment could help Asian organisations who are battling high staff attrition rates and attempting to secure the best job-seekers.
 
A report by real estate consultancy JLL highlights the benefits of using workspace design to express organisational culture and values to employees. This is described as 'workplace expression', which JLL believes is one of the three contributing factors of employee engagement, alongside efficiency and effectiveness.
 
“Organisations have spent a significant amount of time refining strategies to increase engagement through the efficiency of their workplace and effectiveness of their employees,” says Grant Morrison, director of workplace strategy at JLL Asia Pacific.
 
“Many are realising they may have been undervaluing the only resource with unlimited potential – their workforce. In response, we’re seeing a trend towards looking at organisational culture and creating workplaces with a personality and expression to match. This makes employees more likely to be engaged when they spend time in the office.”
 
The benefits of creating a pleasant working environment are well documented, with one study cited in JLL’s report finding that 74 per cent of candidates would consider taking a slightly lower paid job if their friends indicated that a particular organisation was a great place to work.
 
The same study found more than half of those asked (56 per cent) said somewhere being known as a great place to work would influence them to take a job more than if the organisation had a reputation for great products and services (20 per cent), the best people (17 per cent) or prestige in the marketplace (seven per cent).
 
One organisation featured in the report is Millward Brown Singapore, which aimed to create a workplace that would allow for growth and enhance the company culture. This led them to transform their office design to shift from the mindset of 'my space' to 'our space'. Senior leaders gave up their office space, which managing director Priti Mehra says led to an increase in communication and engagement, faster turnaround times and quicker decision making.
 
The new office space aimed to stimulate the five senses (sight, touch, taste, hearing and smell) with views outside throughout the office and the use of different textures on surfaces. Bright and eye-catching colours were used to inspire and communicate the organisation’s values of being 'bold' and 'creative', while workspaces became multipurpose, aimed at boosting collaborative practice and encouraging employees to move around.
 
JLL says Millward Brown had shown how the traditional challenge of optimising space can become an opportunity for enhancing organisational culture and increasing collaboration and productivity.
 
"Culture is intangible and hard to actively measure, yet it’s easy to sense when you walk into an office," Morrison explains. "Workplace expression shifts the office from being a passive background to an active cultural lever used to shape employee perceptions, motivations and behaviours. Allowing it to become a location where an organisation’s vision and mission manifest themselves can easily transform a place to work into a best place to work."
 
Morrison adds this is particularly relevant in Asia, where many countries are battling with high attrition rates and a highly competitive environment to recruit the best candidates. "Workplace is increasingly a key differentiator,” he says.