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How to Design a People-First Workplace & Culture

Empowering and Engaging Employees through their Physical Surroundings

Picture an office workplace that you would dread coming into every day. The office in your imagination is probably dimly lit with stained concrete walls and no windows. In the middle of the room might be a solitary wooden desk from your fourth grade classroom. You squeeze into the tiny space, feeling your knees squish up against the bottom of the desk as you strain to fit your elbows at your sides. On the desk are a dozen pencils, all dull and missing their erasers.

As businesses look to optimize their processes and create a growth-focused culture, they should investigate all of the avenues in which they can empower their employees to do great work. Employees spend most of their work lives in the office, and this physical space contributes to their attitude, motivation and engagement.

In this article, Åsa Nerelius Traction on Demand’s Leadership & Organizational Development Manager, will explain how you can actively design a people-first workplace and culture your employees will thrive in.

Removing Adverse Factors from the Workplace

A 2017 Gallup report found that 85% of employees worldwide are either not engaged or actively disengaged in the workplace. Perhaps even more worrying, 64% of American workers believe that their workspace or employer contributes negatively to their overall well-being.

While correlation doesn’t equal causation, it’s hard to believe that employees who view their workspace as detrimental to their health have a high rate of engagement. To drive baseline engagement and company success, employees need access to the bare minimum of natural lightning, ergonomic work stations, appropriate heating and cooling systems as well as strategies for reducing or eliminating stress.

Let Employees Make it their Own

Workspaces are created with the intention of providing employees an area to work, so it logically follows that they’ll want some element of choice in how they work. Research from 2013 suggests that staff who are given this choice were found to be more innovative, perform better and have better overall job and workplace satisfaction.

“We provide a lot of flexibility in what people can do with their own patch of land,” says Åsa Nerelius, People and Culture Specialist at Traction on Demand. “Whether you want to stand or sit or switch between the two, that can be easily accommodated. You can decorate it more or less however you want. Or if you happen to go away for a few days, sometimes your colleagues decorate it for you.”

John’s desk has been filled with sand and tropical motifs, courtesy of his teammates.

Allowing the space to match the company culture also reinforces these collaborative elements. Traction on Demand recently built several cabin-themed sheds throughout its office to allow employees to hold impromptu meetings. Fun and gamification can also be employed to celebrate team success.

In every Traction on Demand office there are a series of Budweiser Red Lights that are triggered each time an Opportunity is Closed/Won in Salesforce, rewarding the sales team with loud cheers for their tangible success.

How About the Workplace Layout?

While the open concept office may not be a fit for everyone, Traction on Demand embraces it for its ability to break down barriers and hierarchy between people, allowing for more direct and open communication. Greater communication between employees also reinforces a healthy workplace culture.

Still, every layout has its drawbacks, and Traction on Demand leverages choice to offset these.

“While there are clear productivity gains from open concept layouts, there are also some productivity costs,” says Åsa . “You need to develop your own strategies for managing noise and distractions at times, which is why headphones, dedicated quiet office and meeting space as well as SaaS days (working remotely from home) help balance out the impact.”

Åsa Nerelius
Leadership & Organizational Development Manager
Change is Good

Åsa believes desk moves reinforce adaptability and innovation. “It is in our blood to pivot, to adjust to changing circumstances and try new things. When you break new ground often, you are equally as willing to forge ahead with the creative process as you are to leave something behind that’s not working.”

There is some method to the madness of changing desks frequently. When new people join our teams, when project teams could benefit from working closer together, or when we rearrange partnerships in the business, we change the orientation of our desks. The movement drives collaboration, syndication and efficiency, but also creates new intersections for people and ideas to come together.

Empowered Individuals

The workplace doesn’t have to be oppressive; it can motivate employees and stimulate excitement about coming to work every day. Engaged employees help drive businesses forward and we’ll be discussing additional strategies to empower and engage the people in your company at TractionForce.

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