Programming strategies for a happy workplace that extend beyond physical space refer to the various methods and techniques that companies can employ to create a positive work environment for their employees. These strategies go beyond the traditional approaches of designing a comfortable and attractive workspace and focus on promoting employee well-being, fostering positive relationships, and building a healthy and supportive company culture. These strategies often involve the use of technology, communication tools, and virtual collaboration platforms to create a sense of community, connection, and shared purpose among remote and in-office employees. By implementing these strategies, companies can create a happier, more productive, and engaged workforce.
Many organizations are exploring workplace design solutions to attract employees back to the office. However, simply having an impressive physical space is not enough. To truly unlock the potential of the physical space and make it a meaningful part of employees' work-life landscape, strategic employee or company-led programs, tools for connecting and self-care, well-communicated protocols, and an authentically operationalized company culture and values are key ingredients. We surveyed our clients to better understand what makes a productive and happy workplace.
Prioritizing Both Mental and Physical Health
One important aspect of this is placing mental and physical health at the core. Since the pandemic began, health has taken on a higher priority. People are using the time previously spent commuting to focus on eating healthier, spending more time outside, and exercising, which can lead to a stronger immune system and better overall health.
As awareness and support for mental health increase, stigmas are starting to dissolve. Since wellness is a broad topic, interventions related to space and protocols will vary from organization to organization. Therefore, it's important to allow company culture and human-centered research to guide what will resonate most with employees. Solutions will also vary based on a company's budget, size, and location.
If you're looking for ideas to improve your workplace, here are six scalable options that can be tailored to your specific needs:
Implementing Comprehensive Wellness Programs, Not Just Spaces
To promote wellness in the workplace, it is important to go beyond just providing comfortable spaces. An effective approach is to introduce an educational wellness program with a specific focus each month, such as mental health services, financial health services, and nutrition. This program can offer tips, incentives, and guest speakers to help employees improve their overall well-being.
In addition, providing well-lit, acoustically private, and comfortable spaces for employees to use when video conferencing with wellness service providers is crucial. To further encourage physical activity, it is recommended to connect employees with local gyms by offering a reimbursement program for gym memberships. If budget and space allow, consider incorporating a full gym managed with on-site locker rooms, products, towel service, nutritionists, trainers, and group classes to help build community across departments or projects.
For those who prefer outdoor activities, a bike program that encourages employees to bring in their own bikes or provides loaners can be implemented. However, it is important to ensure that there are shower facilities available for employees who plan to use these facilities or programs throughout the day. By implementing a comprehensive wellness program, companies can prioritize the physical and mental health of their employees, leading to increased productivity and a happier work environment.
Using Food as a Means of Connection
What we eat has a direct impact on how we feel and perform, so providing fresh and healthy food options in the office can contribute to employees' well-being. Additionally, creating a space for employees to prepare their own food can encourage a sense of community and connection. Scheduling breaks that coincide with mealtimes and providing a space with natural light and fresh air can further enhance the experience.
Offering special pop-up snacks like boba tea or frozen yogurt can also encourage employees to take a break and connect with their coworkers outside of typical meal hours. Placing these pop-ups in well-trafficked areas with natural light can draw more people in and foster a sense of community.
Bringing Nature Inside to Inspire Outside Exploration
Bringing elements of nature into the workplace can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being. Even simple additions like indoor plants can have a positive impact. If the workplace doesn't have the potential to support biophilic features, consider mapping out nearby urban natural resources and encouraging employees to spend time in nature during breaks. Studies have shown that exposure to nature can restore cognitive functioning and improve our sense of well-being. Providing access to greenery, water features, sunlight, and fresh air can make a significant difference in employee satisfaction and productivity.
Celebrate Achievements as a Team
Creating a sense of community and valuing employees are crucial for motivation and retention. Celebrating achievements and progress can bring people together and provide a reason to come into the office. An authentic culture that emphasizes the value of employees and leaders who celebrate progress is crucial. Allocate a budget for food or activities and provide a separate space for these celebrations. These areas should be separated from the primary workspace to avoid distracting others and allow participants to mingle and form stronger connections.
Fostering Stronger Team Bonds
Everyone recharges differently, some may prefer to be alone, while others prefer to catch up with colleagues. The first step is to understand the company's culture and prioritize spaces that allow employees to recharge in ways that suit them best. Pair these areas with protocols that encourage their use. For instance, companies could send calendar invites for a 10-minute stretch break or provide a puzzle or game table with seating and signage in a convenient location that encourages use. Encourage office-wide participation by having leaders attend sessions and inviting their teams to join them in using these spaces.
The physical office is a hub for people to come together and collaborate, but with the rise of remote work, it's crucial to offer flexibility. Some team members may need to work remotely for various reasons, and it's important to ensure that they have the tools and resources they need to contribute equally. Leaders can coordinate with teams to create a schedule that accommodates everyone, taking into account the team's needs and availability.
Team space should be designed to cater to different types of work and team dynamics. This could include signage, spaces for leaving physical collateral, and technology that facilitates in-person sharing. The level of enclosure and noise level should also be taken into consideration.
As companies shift to hybrid work models, it's important to remember that employees have different work styles and preferences. Some people prefer working from home, while others crave in-person collaboration. By being intentional about the office environment, companies can create a workplace that offers the best of both worlds. This requires a deep understanding of corporate culture and employee needs. By following the tips outlined above, companies can build a happy and productive workplace that fosters growth and success.