In a recent case study, it was found that redesigning an office space and making it healthier reduced absenteeism by 50 per cent and staff turnover by 27 per cent from what they were in the previous year.
Working in pyjamas on a bed, with a Cappuccino, has been the modus operandi for remote workers. But here comes 2022. Now, students aren’t alone in dreading when mentors share a message, “Let’s get back to our Karmabhoomi!”
Well, it would not be surprising if companies may witness success in calling employees back to the office, initially. But what about retaining them? Because priorities have changed.
In a recent case study from the International WELL Building Institute, it was found that redesigning an office space and making it healthier reduced absenteeism by 50 per cent and staff turnover by 27 per cent from what they were in the previous year.
And it is not just the pandemic. In a report, titled, ‘What workers want: Europe 2019’, 30 per cent of workers in open-plan offices said their workplace layout harms their productivity, while only 11 per cent of workers in private offices said the same thing.
So, the whistle is blown!
Workplace strategy, design and delivery company Unispace, in a survey, found that 95 per cent of the employees are willing to make physical improvements to their office spaces. And a lot of this reshaping or redesigning their office spaces is done keeping in mind greater flexibility, socializing, collaboration etc.
“What we are seeing globally and not just in India, is that there is an increased focus on creating recreational or collaboration spaces in the office. Many companies are doing away with traditional cubicles or fixed spaces,” Abi Roni Mattom , Country Director- India, Unispace, said.
Also, he reveals that the concept of mother rooms is being introduced to working mothers. Further, “now employee surveys to understand their mindset, visioning workshops are becoming more and more popular before redesigning any office,” Mattom added.
Similarly, Harsh Lambah, Country Manager- India and VP (Sales)- South Asia of workspace network IWG, highlighted that companies are no longer looking for a sear of desks; in response to the pandemic, they are reducing their overall office footprint but improving the quality of workspaces they offer.
Something similar happened at Salesforce where only 30 per cent of desks are being used on an average- increasing its social space from 40 per cent to 60 per cent, to meet the “new needs” of the employees.
“Shying away from long daily commutes to company HQs, many were inspired to rethink their priorities. This led to them demanding more flexibility, empathy and trust from employers- and they were prepared to vote with their feet if disappointed,” Lambah said.
Relation of worksplace design to employee retention
Agreed that priorities have changed but some questions that are still left to ponder over would be- Will redesigning the offices really help companies cub the most volatile phenomenon of the industry- attrition? How are these two related? And what would HR people say?
In a 2021 study, global water filtration and dispenser brand Brita Vivreau rvealed 79 per cent of office workers stating that a well-designed office would motivate them to accept a job.
As Covid-19 enters its 3rd year, Mohita Uchil, Head of HRMS company uKnwva, feels employers are forced to rethink the purpose of the workplace to help employees do more, feel better and stay longer with the organization.
“The office shouldn’t just be a place to take care of some ‘to-do-list’, rather it should be a place for creativity, collaboration and learning, where employees feel nurtured and a part of the organization,” she said.
After the pandemic, Uchil pointed out that employees are expecting their companies to take care of their not just professional but overall wellbeing. “Employees want to work in a company with flexible working hours, play zones, a cafeteria, a touchless attendance system, no cubie system, open meeting areas, etc,” she said.
Reiterating the same, RP Yadav, Chairman and MD of HR consulting firm Genius Consultants, said every employee joins a company with aspirations of career growth and compensation. And he feels these are the basic requirements of every employee, and they do not come in isolation.
“Yes, a certain employee will sometimes prioritise a stimulating environment over compensation packages,” he said.
No more cubicles, please!
Since the relationship between workplace design and employee retention exists, the question arises: How can companies align their priorities to the physical workplaces?
We saw some innovative approaches. Seoul-based Hana Bank caters to various modes of working, including the kind of heads-down individual work that happens at a desk, flexible seating for when people need a break from their desks, collaborative spaces that encourage focused team interaction, and lounges for socialising, as per HBR.
Moving to more India-centric companies, we saw an interesting trend: Phasing out of cubicles!
According to Sulbha Kaushal Rai, the Chief People Officer of insurance company RenewBuy, eliminating cubicles has helped in removing the hierarchy method and everyone takes equal ownership of the work they do.
Rai further said, “We also focus on creating a fun and exciting workplace, so that people are comfortable, get stimulated mentally, and at the same time, work in a relaxed environment.”
Agreeing, Sakshee Katiyal, CEO of real estate developer Home & Soul, said many organizations have given up on the cubicle culture and made office spaces more open so that employees can interact with each other without thinking of a hierarchical structure.
With more floor space, meeting pods, lounge areas etc, D2C e-commerce platform Shoptimize wants to build an atmosphere that is vibrant and encourages ideation, collaboration, kinship and team spirit.
Its employees look forward to the annual “Sports Fiesta” covering many outdoor sports, including football, cricket and badminton. But now the company wants to have an indoor recreation space where people can unwind and have fun with games like foosball, table tennis, carrom and chess.
“We want to make our office a ‘cool’ place where people will like to hang out, have a positive work experience and be able to balance work, fun and their personal lives,” Mangesh Panditrao, Co-Founder & CEO, Shoptimize, said.
With an increased focus on hygiene and safety, Sumit Lakhani, CSMO of working spaces network Awfis propounded that “modern office” spaces are integrating technology from entry to exit points with automated attendance scanners, touchless doors, soap dispensers, digitalized ventilators, etc.
Bringing in Panditrao’s point, Lakhani said, “Modern office spaces encompass both functional and decorative emenents, inclusive of indoor-outdoor spaces with break rooms and cafes to let employees engage with colleagues beyond work.”
To create an environment with a character that fosters motivation, uKnowva has added posters and artwork throughout different areas of the workspace. Uchil said that as colours are connected to emotions, the company has wisely used different colours throughout the space and applied them according to the atmosphere it is trying to create.
Locations too are important
For Asif Upadhye, Director of work culture company Never Grow Up, it may be hard to see a direct correlation between workplace design and employee retention, at first, but he said, “Being an employee at an innovative office space that offers a mix of work, play and comfort can make one stay for longer.”
However, he mentioned it’s not just the interior appearance, but office location is also an important determinant for employees.
“Till before the pandemic, prime office spaces in major urban centres were highly coveted locations. Lately, the scenario has changed with many employees working out of their homes from small cities spread across the country,” he said.”
According to Upadhye, offices that have understood this reality and those that can set up remote offices geographically can now reap the benefits of hiring talent from Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities.
So, “reimagining workspaces to solve attrition is not a shot in the dark. In fact, it can be a promising mechanism,” he said.
Diversity taking centre stage
The move to redesign offices is not about changing aesthetics, but about a culture shift, believes Jang Bahadur Singh, Senior Consultant- Human Capital Solutions, Aon.
He thinks of a culture that is more inclusive and accommodates different work models. Nevertheless, Singh highlighted that DEI has taken a centre stage. He revealed employers have been looking at accessibility in offices for employees with young children, employees with disabilities, etc.
Katiyal of Home & Soul too mentioned that babysitting rooms are an increasingly ongoing trend amongst companies. “The top management now understands the nuances of parenthood along with professionalism,” she said.
“Having said that. This trend in India is again driven largely by the e-commerce and technology sectors,” Singh said. However, Aon did not see more traditional set-ups modifying their office spaces- apart from corporate- in a similar fashion.
This story appeared in the 6 April, 2022 issue of Economic Times HR World and was originally published at : How to bring employees from bed to offices? Workplace design revamps may be the answer!- ET HR World