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Is your workplace design killing your recruitment and retention efforts?


When candidates walk into an office, they immediately observe the appearance of your building and start developing their impressions of your company. Beware that a potential new-hire is hyper-sensitive and will notice the things you may have become blind to. They will be on the lookout for red flags as they are asking themselves “Can I commit to spending the majority of my days at this company?”

Keep in mind, the look of your workplace also has a cumulative effect on your existing employees. You want to ensure that effect is a positive one, rather than the opposite. Your office should make a clear statement. It should give both employees and prospects the feeling that they’re walking into a first-class operation.

Check your company’s first impressions

Try this: Walk out the front door of your office and then enter with the mindset that you’re arriving at your office for a job interview. Are you impressed and excited just from walking in the front entrance? How did it look from the outside? Could you improve the lighting or freshen up the décor to better represent the caliber of your company?

Worn carpet, drab paint, messy desks, a lack of artwork on walls – these can all be real turn-offs for a candidate or even a longtime employee. Such conditions communicate that you view the workplace as strictly a space to get the work done, and nothing else. This sends the message you don’t care about your company or the conditions in which your employees work.

Your office doesn’t have to look like you hired Google’s interior designer, but you want to convey a professional attitude and that you value your employees. Even if you’re in a leased office space, be sure the look of your office conveys permanence. You don’t want to have boxes stacked up near the door or artwork sitting on the floor.

Your office should look like your business is doing well. Avoid anything that’s makeshift-looking. That means no exposed wiring or extension cords strewn about. Work with your building management if necessary to facilitate improvements that are polished and professional.

How do you like your coffee?

Conversations happen naturally over coffee, so why not use that to improve the rapport among employees? Consider stirring up your coffee location. You may discover that putting the caffeine station at the main entrance, rather than the back of the office, can energize the way your employees socialize on the job from the moment they walk in the door.

They’ll get to know each other better and be happier to work for your company. Quite simply, a cup of coffee (or water or tea) opens the door for conversation and encourages employees to enjoy talking to each other. Talking about a ball game or what they did over the weekend leads to bridge-building that open doors for new ideas and collaboration on work projects. And that’s good news for your business.

Of course, a kitchen or break room is still necessary for employees to be able to bring healthy lunches. It’s also a good spot to provide fresh produce or nutritious snacks. You could even make it convenient by arranging regular deliveries of your breakroom goodies. This is another way to show employees you’re looking out for them.

It’s not all about millennials

While millennial-centric trends have gotten a lot of press, it’s important not to focus on just attracting more millennials.

  • Consider your existing workforce. Don’t go too trendy, which can hurt your company culture. Think “professional and classy.”
  • Be realistic. Will bean bags and a ping-pong table seem insulting to your more experienced employees? Think about the employees you want to keep, as well as the ones you want to attract.
  • Find a balance – not too extreme or contemporary. Put yourself in a potential new hire’s shoes. From the parking lot to the front desk, in the elevator and beyond, what might look bad to them? And what will win them over?

Collaboration space vs. quiet space

When considering open floorplans and the latest trends in collaborative workspaces, it’s important to understand your business and workflow in your office. Observe what’s working well and what can be done better. Know that employees have different communication preferences and diverse work styles. With widely open floorplans, the social butterflies can overtake the quieter folks, which can inhibit production.

Talk to employees about making such a move and pay attention to what they say. When you solicit employees’ input regarding changes at the office, it tells them that you care about them and their needs. Most people need a place to concentrate. Look at your key performers and note how and why they work best. You’ll likely want a mix of spaces for both collaboration and quiet “solo” work to help find that balance.

Something in the air

Air quality is a big factor in everyone’s well-being that can have a dramatic impact on your employees’ health and general comfort level at work. Talk to your facilities team or HVAC service to assess and improve the air quality inside your office – for both air purity and temperature management. Better air quality can improve your employees’ health, resulting in fewer sick days. It can also have a positive effect on their mood, making them happier with their jobs and more productive.

Work to eliminate the hot/cold debate. Office air temperature extremes can decrease productivity due to the distraction caused by discomfort, and no doubt, increase complaints and commiseration about office conditions. Make an effort to find a happy medium, or better yet, customize temperatures for employees whenever feasible, so they can stay focused on their work rather than the air temperature.

For example, if you’re controlling office thermostats remotely and using a preset temperature for all locations, consider allowing your office managers the freedom to adjust the thermostat for their office as needed.

Better by nature

Humans have an innate desire to feel connected to nature. Scientists and psychologists have documented this phenomenon, known as biophilia, for decades. Having access to sunlight and elements of nature, such as trees outside a window or live plants inside the office, makes employees happier with their jobs and more productive.

The World Green Building Council has tracked eight working conditions that can impact your bottom line. These include air quality, air temperature, proximity to windows, views of nature, and look and feel of the building, among others. Their case studies show that improving these factors resulted in employees who are more alert, productive, loyal to their jobs and less likely to miss work.

Green plants inside the office can actually help clean the air. Neglected plants, on the other hand, can be a downer for your whole staff. When placing plants in the office, be sure to designate a plant caregiver or take turns, or hire a service to tend and replace plants on a set schedule. Even artificial plants can soften the look of the workplace.

What your artwork says about you

Use your walls to display artwork that is inspiring and colorful, even energizing. Dedicate at least one area for artwork that reinforces the vision and mission of the company, and make sure any artwork on your property doesn’t detract from your message. Avoid artwork that only represents one individual’s particular taste or status. Displaying rare and expensive artwork, although intended as an artistic or cultural statement, can alienate employees. Art on display in your building should be reflective of the company as a whole.

Tap into the creativity of your team. Do you have talented photographers or artists on your staff? Host a photo contest or create a gallery of work produced by employees.

Providing a source of beauty that was created by coworkers gives employees a shared sense of pride. You can also display professional photos of finished company projects, which allows employees to continue the feeling of project ownership for years after the project was completed. Photos of your company’s other offices or locations, and the teams who work there, can also be inspiring to employees and helps foster a sense of unity when you have employees in multiple regions.

Upgrade your company image in your employees’ eyes

Investing in an upgrade or facelift of your workplace sends a powerful signal to your current and prospective employees. It shows you have a good deal of faith in your company’s future. Major improvements can reset or cement your company culture and instill pride in your employees. Sprucing up your landscaping, entrance and interiors conveys that you are a top-notch, well-run organization to all who enter your business.

Beyond the design aspect and property investment, it’s also an investment in your people. It demonstrates your interest in their working environment, and you’ll find that inspired employees who feel appreciated strive to do their jobs well. They’ll respect their surroundings, their work and the company – and be more likely to feel like it’s somewhere they belong.

Keep ’em coming back

Your employees are in your office eight, 10, sometimes 12 hours a day. You want to validate their choice to work there by providing them with a pleasant work environment. You want your employees to feel good, be creative and stay motivated. When your office is a nice place to be, your employees feel happy about returning to work the next day. When it’s drab and dull, employees dread coming to work.

Looking for other ways to inspire employees? Download our free e-book, How to Develop a Top-Notch Workforce That Will Accelerate Your Business, for more useful recruitment and retention strategies.