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Harnessing the power of the workplace experience

Author : Jeff Flanagan, managing director - commercial, Interserve

09 January 2017

Employee productivity and engagement are hot topics at the moment. The Stoddart Review: the Workplace Advantage, published toward the end of 2016, identifies that increasing employee productivity could generate a £70bn boost to the UK economy and highlights the major influence that the design of the physical workplace has on the workforce.

The facilities management industry has a key role to play in this debate, by supporting the creation of high-quality and high-performance workplaces which help address the productivity gap.

To do this, we need to understand how employees engage with and react to their working environment.

Together with Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA), Interserve is carrying out a two-year research project, publishing a series of reports, to investigate the science behind creating effective workplace experiences.

One of the biggest challenges for the facilities management industry, when it comes to helping customers get the most from their working environments, is the lack of research to date into what makes a healthy and productive workplace.

The findings of our most recent report, ‘Decoding the workplace experience: how the working environment shapes views, behaviour and performance’, look to fill this gap.

More and more, we are seeing customers starting to think about how the workplace experience can impact employee engagement, talent retention and overall productivity.

The challenge, however, is how to prepare a strategy which delivers this end goal of creating successful and engaging workplaces – for our working environments, the data and analysis required to inform the exercise just isn’t there.

There are, however, a large number of studies from consumer industries. These look at how customers’ experience – in retail or hotel environments for example – affects their mood and behaviour.

In order to create better workplaces, we need to harness this knowledge from the consumer world and apply it to the world of work.

What consumer studies show us is the sheer power of the emotional connection. Customers are much more likely to buy into a brand if they feel it reflects and responds to them, and physical surroundings play a large part in forming this impression.

In many ways, the workplace is the physical embodiment of a company’s brand. We should be looking to apply the same consumer principles to our offices and other work spaces.

By using the workplace as a tool to make employees feel valued, even loved by their employer; we can encourage a sense of loyalty and help them achieve their best at work.

It sounds complex but there are some simple steps that facilities management professionals can take to put these lessons into practice.

Our report for example, highlights how sensory inputs such as pleasing smells and colours can have a significant impact on people’s impressions of a building and the business within it.

Again, drawing on customer research in the retail sector, it has been demonstrated that customers react more favourably to certain colours, in particular blue or warm-coloured palettes.

By applying this knowledge, we can create effective workplaces that offer more for our customers and their employees.

The different components of the workplace experience have long been viewed as separate responsibilities, from human resources teams to IT.

But with our knowledge of the working world, facilities management professionals are well positioned to connect all the dots, bringing benefits for both for our industry and our clients’ customers in the process.

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