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How to Improve Employee Experience Through Workplace Design Strategy

Sep 30 2021

As more and more companies are returning to the office, many are focusing their efforts on improving the employee experience. Investing in people is important, and prioritizing the employee experience drives innovation and increases productivity. A well-designed workplace allows organizations to attract and retain top talent and makes the office an attractive destination for a variety of work functions.

No matter what phase of the return to office you’re in, from welcoming back all of the employees who previously worked on-site, to welcoming onboard a ton of new employees that you hired during shelter in place, or anticipating a hybrid work environment with employees deciding when they come into the office, you’ll want to take examine the workplace experience. Rethinking your workplace design strategy to better accommodate and support your employees should be a part of a regular review of how spaces are serving current employee needs.

A comprehensive, employee-focused redesign requires business leaders and workplace strategists to develop an in-depth understanding of not only the capabilities of the physical office space itself but also of  behavior patterns and specific preferences of the employees who utilize the space. To do so will require a data-driven approach to your workplace. You can accomplish this through a range of workplace analytics tools that provide real-time occupancy data with accuracy and consistency.

Read on for all of the tips and tools you’ll need to transform your physical workplace to improve the employee experience.

How to Develop an Effective Workplace Design Strategy

In order to develop an effective workplace design strategy, business leaders must first become as familiar with space occupancy and demand as possible. Not only should they be assessing how the space has served (successfully or not) as a workplace in the past, but they should take this time to look to the future as well in order to implement sustainable and necessary changes. If we have learned anything over these past couple of years, it’s that the only certainty is change. Craft a workplace redesign strategy that effectively supports your team today and is flexible enough to adapt to continuously support your evolving workforce.

The first step is to assess your current workspace. Is the office being used as intended? How are the different spaces in your office place being occupied? Audit your workplace to determine its strengths and identify areas for potential improvement or expansion. Collect the appropriate data on space allocations and calculate your ideal employee to seat ratio. Once you’ve completed a thorough audit, you can begin making data-informed decisions about the future of your workplace. 

What is a data-driven workplace design?

Organizations that take a data-driven approach to workplace design make all office space decisions— such as layout, amenities and design— based on employee behavior. In a data-driven workplace, a workplace analytics platform generates insights about employee behavior that act as a necessary tool that CRE leaders can use to make decisions. . Based on the insights generated through this data, business leaders can better optimize the redesign of their office space to better support the employee experience, and make better use of corporate real estate as well.

To discover more about data-driven workplaces, check out How to Make Data-Informed Leasing Decisions.

Office Design Trends to Look Out For

Taking a data-driven approach to workplace design Is all about accurately forecasting the specific needs of your workplace and updating existing infrastructures, workflows, and policies to meet those predicted needs. 

It goes without saying that data-generated insights are only one side of the coin when formulating workspace decisions. It is crucial to also rely on qualitative information supplemented by employees themselves. This can be done through other forms of office design research such as surveying employees directly to gather their workspace preferences and expectations, as well as familiarizing yourself with ongoing and potential future industry trends that may dictate the future of your workspace. The more comprehensive your understanding regarding workplace use,, the more informed you will be as you proceed with creating your workplace design strategy.

The success of today’s offices is contingent on flexibility. Here are some of the latest trends dictating the future of workplace design for the hybrid work experience.

Be on the lookout for office design trends such as:

  • Agile seating— wherein spaces are transformed from individual work stations to need-based shared spaces.
  • Rewiring meeting rooms to support hybrid collaboration
  • The use of desk reservation systems and room booking software
  • Hot desking— for companies that have fully embracing flexible and hybrid schedules
  • Pivoting from preset heating and cooling schedules to a signs of life system in order to save energy and reduce operations costs

The Future of Work: Understanding the Return to Office

 The companies who are the most prepared for the future of office spaces have an understanding that employee needs change. By preparing to support future employees who will use office spaces, companies can create a proactive approach to corporate real estate that is always a few steps ahead and employee experience-driven. 

Why are we redesigning our office spaces in the first place? To support the day-to-day operations of our employees the best we can. When we are able to recognize that the office isn’t dead, it’s evolving, we are able to better understand the industry and social factors that fuel workplace design trends and how the changes we make to the office affect the lives of our employees.

As mentioned above, with so much uncertainty in the air surrounding the future of work, it’s best to stick with the hard data. To ensure that you are taking a data-informed approach to the return to office, here are 10 Data-Powered Strategies to Transform Your Office into a Competitive Advantage.

Preparing your Workplace for the Return to Office

Whether you’ve been busy redesigning your workspace or not, there are a few things you need to do before welcoming your employees back into the office. Remember, return to office preparedness isn’t just about ensuring that you have enough  space to accommodate your team, but to ensure that spaces are optimized to support their use. 

Once you have surveyed your employees on their expectations for their return and audited your current office space, you can set up the workplace in a flexible way and continue to assess its use even after workers have returned.

Due to the long-term implications of redesigning the office, oftentimes preparing your workplace to support the return of employees is a complicated task. Companies are navigating societal and industry-wide changes as they arise, and making the wrong decisions could cost you employees, or significant budget. To help you set expectations and understand the impact of company-driven decisions over employee-driven decisions, here are The 6 Biggest Mistakes Companies can Make During the Return to Office (+ How to Avoid Them).

To create a comprehensive strategy and plan for the return to office, download the Return to Office Checklist and customize the framework for your employee needs.

Hybrid Work is Here to Stay

One of the primary things to understand about the journey toward improving employee experience is that this process is rooted in a hybrid work experience. The demand for hybrid policies and more flexible workplaces is on the rise amongst employees returning to the office, with 74% of companies choosing a hybrid work model to support their teams. To continue supplying your employees with the tools they need (and want) to succeed, organizations need to be prepared to embrace hybrid work, if they aren’t already.

The shift to and rise in popularity of hybrid workplace policies in recent years is in large part due to the many accompanying benefits, including:

  • Hybrid work expands the recruitment radius of new and prospective employees.
  • Hybrid work environments are known to boost employee engagement and satisfaction.
  • Hybrid offices are designed with scalability
  • Hybrid offices have the tools to evolve with changing workplace trends.

To help you get started transforming your office into a hybrid haven, here is how to Prepare Your Conference Rooms and Meeting Experience for Hybrid Work.

Improving Employee Experience in the Workplace

Taking the initiative to improve the employee experience at your workplace does not take place overnight. 

Instead, it takes a concentrated and consistent effort that involves:

  • Implementing inclusive workplace policies.
  • Establishing a comprehensive workplace wellness strategy.
  • Investing in employee wellbeing and comfort. 

When you supplement employee surveys with employee behavior data, you are able to reveal a far more thorough understanding of how your office is utilized and how to redesign it in order to improve the employee experience.

Choosing your Workplace Analytics Platform

While taking a data-driven approach to redesigning the workplace, you’ll need help from a comprehensive workplace analytics platform along the way. The best workplace analytics platforms provide you with real-time data on the utilization of your office and integrate with your other systems to create a seamless platform.

When you use a workplace analytics platform like VergeSense you can return to the office with confidence knowing that you have all the tools and data to understand how your space is being utilized (or underutilized), and how you can optimize your office.

Other benefits of using a workplace analytics platform to guide your workplace design strategy include:

  • Increasing efficiency for hybrid teams.
  • Analyzing workspace usage trends.
  • Integrating with hot desk and room booking software, and other workplace apps.
  • Monitoring employee activity patterns to identify crowded and underutilized workspaces and navigate unpredictable attendance
  • Auto-release rooms and areas that are not being used and prevent overcrowding
  • Implement safety measures and facility cleaning by understanding which areas are being used when
  • Allowing hard employee-based data to drive infrastructure and decision-making.
  • Enabling smart facility and building management and improving sustainability.

Of course, no workplace analytics platform is complete with the use of occupancy sensors to monitor employee behavior and track office space usage patterns. To begin familiarizing yourself with occupancy sensors, check out these Top 4 Sensor Myths Debunked.

Occupancy Data 101

Occupancy data— the metrics collected by occupancy sensors in your workplace analytics platform— is what is used to make informed workplace design decisions. The best sensors are able to collect occupancy data, and they are intuitive, accurate, can detect room usage and Signs of LifeTM, and are powered by APIs to connect the workplace.

Once you’ve gathered an abundance of occupancy data you can then use what you’ve learned to make hyper-informed workplace decisions that are genuinely rooted in employee behavior, and not just assumptions based on trends or surveys alone.

However, before you begin shopping around for the best occupancy sensors for your office, there are some things you should know: Considering Occupancy Sensors? 8 Questions to Ask.

The return to office is an organic process, especially when you have the right tools. With a data-driven workplace design strategy that can evolve as your employees do, it’s an ongoing effort to support your teams and improve the workplace experience. 

For business leaders intent on using workplace redesign as an opportunity to improve the employee experience, remember that the best path forward is an informed one. To ensure you have all the insights you need to make the best decisions for your workplace, you’ll need help from a workplace analytics program. With VergeSense’s new Return to Office Analytics Dashboard, you have all of the data you need to make strategic workplace decisions at your fingertips.

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