3 Resources for Creating A Great Workplace

Dustin Staiger

Being a great place to work is more than winning a “Best Place to Work” competition and displaying the trophy in your reception area. Organizations are discovering they need a great workplace to create and maintain a competitive advantage in their market. Great places to work differentiate themselves by attracting exceptional talent and outperforming the competition.

Every company and organization wants that, right?

We recognize this in our tagline: Great Work Deserves Its Place.TM It’s what drives us to create exceptional environments where our clients can perform their great work. And we want you to have a great place to work. Even if you’re not a client of ours, you can use the resources below to improve your workplace.

The award-winning Psychologist Ron Friedman shares insights into how some of the best organizations motivate their workforce, create happy workplaces and design offices to enhance attention to detail as well as creativity. In The Best Place to Work, Friedman provides research findings on how workplace design enhances our ability to do great work.

What the research tells us is that we can enhance employee performance by leveraging their surroundings. That we can foster better outcomes by designing environments that help employees meet the cognitive demands of their work.

Unfortunately, that’s far from the way most offices are designed. Instead, the vast majority of organizations embrace a one-size-fits-all approach, asking every employee to toil in the same setting, regardless of their actual work assignments. Marketers, accountants, and salespeople are all lumped together into identical office spaces and expected to excel at their jobs, with little to no environmental accommodation.

There’s another benefit to providing employees with a spectrum of options, and that’s creating an environment that’s rich in both caves and campfires. Gary Jacobs, an architectural illustrator and design consultant, uses these terms to describe our evolutionary penchant for both quiet, restorative spaces and interactive, group settings. He argues that some of us have personalities that make caves more appealing, while others have personalities that draw us to campfires. But we all need access to both settings in order to thrive, which is what the campus model delivers. It allows people on both extremes to find their preferred environment in a single workplace.

Friedman doesn’t just focus on workplace design. He also shares great examples of how some organizations are motivating employees in smart ways, as well as how they attract and retain top talent.

David Burkus is a management professor and regular contributor to Harvard Business Review. In Under New Management Burkus shares unique and counterintuitive approaches leaders are taking toward managing their organizations. He dives into the question whether leaders should give workers private workspaces for focused work or whether they should have an open floorplan to collaborate with coworkers.

“Good workplaces ultimately give people a little bit of both. They push them to be together part of the time, and they give them the option or ability to be independent or isolated part of the time,” said David Craig. Craig is a workplace strategist at CannonDesign and holds a PhD in architecture and cognitive science. “A lot of organizations have tried to just get away from the idea of having any kind of dedicated space, creating workplaces that are a mix of all of the above and giving people the freedom to work wherever they want.” As empirical evidence suggests, designing that mix and letting employees choose seems to be the best option.

Burkus also shares how progressive leaders are leveraging controversial concepts like salary transparency, eliminating vacation policies and putting customers second. His book will make you think twice about your assumptions regarding business management.

  • Steelcase Global Report

Both of the previous books reinforce the research we have shared recently from Steelcase’s Global Report on employee engagement. Steelcase identified how creating an ecosystem of spaces (see diagram below) can increase employee engagement. And employee engagement isn’t just a bragging right, it impacts the bottom line. According to a Towers Watson study, companies with high levels of employee engagement enjoy a 19% increase in operating income (versus a 32% decline for companies with low engagement levels). Below are a few findings from the Global Report.

The work environment should provide places that offer varying ways to achieve privacy, in both open and enclosed spaces. Privacy is important to all workers and a vital component of both focus and rejuvenation, which are essential to employee engagement.

Leading organizations are beginning to recognize that their physical workplaces are investments they can leverage to more effectively implement strategies, build brand and support a vibrant culture of engagement. These top-performing companies are ideally positioned to attract and engage the best talent, outperform competitors and thrive.

To discover more about how organizations create more resilient workplaces and engaged employees, you can register for the Steelcase Global Report here.

Friedman PhD, Ron (2014-12-02). The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace (p. 47). Penguin Publishing Group.

Burkus, David (2016-03-15). Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual (p. 146). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.