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Engaged Employees Do Not Belong in Cubicles

Posted by Insightlink on 11/09/15

How can we be expected to think outside the box if we work inside a box?

 Cubicles stacked in rows fill office floors, crowding people alongside each other like bees in a hive. White collar workers don business attire and commute long distances to sit inside their box emailing and talking to other people sitting in similar boxes in office buildings like theirs and then repeat the morning commute in reverse. If you are motivated to improve levels of employee engagement in your office, you may want to consider how people work as part of your planning. 

Insightlink’s own normative research revealed that people who work in cubicles are at the bottom of the list of satisfied employees; only 48% are satisfied with their work environment while the happiest (70%) were telecommuters or people who work from home.

Studies show that the reasons for this unhappiness are due to environmental temperature problems, lack of privacy and noisiness from neighboring workers. Other reasons that employees don’t like cubicles are due to feelings of lost autonomy, and they feel they receive less recognition, maybe in part because they are lumped together so that individual achievements don’t stand out.

Doesn’t it make more sense to stop stuffing people in cubicles, which they hate, and look for alternative designs that take them into consideration? If an employer is serious about increasing levels of employee engagement wouldn’t it make sense to take a good hard look at how people work? How employees work matters because it just isn’t logical to expect them to conform to designs that they hate. It makes infinitely more sense to design workspaces with the user in mind.

Using human centered design allows for workspaces to be created that take into account human behavior and envisions a way to do work more efficiently, enjoyably, productively and intuitively, in an environment that is comfortable and supportive of employees’ work. If people’s needs and behaviors are reflected in the design and employees themselves are involved in the design process, this more human-centered design approach is going to result in a better work environment.

Offices may have no choice but to go in this direction anyway. Millennials, who are professionally less loyal and more demanding than any generation that preceded them, are also the largest population in the U.S. workforce and millennials hate cubicles.

Millennials insist on having the freedom to choose where and when they work, and they want to be measured on performance. If your office design says ‘nasty’, your employees may not last long and new hires may not even be interested.

Designing a human-centered workplace 

  1. Activity-based workplaces. Activity-based workplaces allow employees to choose where they want to work. To accomplish this, offer a variety of specialized spaces that are designed to offer alternatives, that can include conference rooms, lounges, workstations and closed offices for employees who need privacy for making phone calls or performing tasks that require concentration.
  2. Workplace hospitality. Although it’s intangible, hospitality benefits contribute to how employees feel. An environment that is responsive to employees’ basic needs impacts your culture and employee work habits. Great coffee, snack and drinks are the tip of the iceberg…know your employees and give them something they can enjoy throughout the day.
  3. Flexible workplace policies. Millennials are much less concerned with work-life balance. They are motivated more by work-life integration and work policies need to reflect this focus by measuring results, not face time. If staff can work where they want, at the office, at home or at a coffee shop, they will deliver. New hires will be drawn to this offering too.

We spend most of our lives working. Shouldn’t we feel free to live where we work? Recognition can take many forms in employee engagement action planning and re-thinking your approach to how people work is one way to show you care.

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