Should employers design office spaces to look and feel like home?

Firms seek creative ways to have employees spend more time at work

Should employers design office spaces to look and feel like home?

Business Strategy


In a bid to attract more millennials, some firms have resorted to creating a more homey environment in their offices, Such designs mimic the warm and comfortable environment of homes and are meant to get employees to want to spend more time at work.

This is partly to counter the growing work-at-home trend as millennial workers seek greater work-life balance. Advocates say they save time on commuting, they can choose the type of space they want to work in, and they feel more at ease.

There’s been corporate pushback: Former Yahoo chief Marissa Meyer, in banning remote work, said “some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings.” IBM, Bank of America and Best Buy are also scaling back their remote-work policies. Wharton Business School professor Peter Capelli says face-to-face communication and collaboration are essential drivers of information. Other studies say stay-at-home workers can have a negative impact on the rest of the workforce and that engagement levels drop the more time employees spend outside.

But the trend continues, prompting creative ways to get employees to want to go to work. Other ideas are shower areas, bike racks and places for breakout sessions.  General Electric even has an “office free” complex in Cincinnati for an open layout designed to be refreshing and conducive to working.
“Let’s give them places where if they want to curl up on sofa and do email for half hour that’s acceptable,” Gordon Wright of global design firm HOK told Quartz.

Some officers also recreate the college feel – gyms, coffee shops, and bars. At a recent furniture trade show in Chicago, customers are presented with a “palette of postures” where they can work from traditional desks to cozy couches.

Some workers have expressed preference for a quiet, partitioned area to solve problems and think creatively.

Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to designing workspaces, even for a particular demographic group. The safest bet would be surveying employees about the design and layout they prefer before actually spending precious cash on renovations.

Surveying employees about the type of office design and layout they prefer might be worth doing before investing money in renovations.

Then again, employers would not want really want their workers to be spending all their time in the office, however it is designed. That would just be missing out on a lot that’s happening outside.

The preceding article was originally published on our sister site HRD Asia by Adelle Chua.

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