6 Design Tips to Keep Employees Energized

See how one company’s HQ keeps the energy flowing

by Haworth, Inc.

In physics, the simple definition of energy is the capacity to do work. When it comes to human beings, though, it’s really more than that. All people have some level of working “capacity,” but that doesn’t mean they are inherently overflowing with the energy to do good work—especially in a less-than-inspiring environment.

A global company dedicated to innovation in industrial thermal products, controls, and systems, Haworth customer Watlow is all about energy—but, prior to their headquarters renovation, they realized that their 2,000+ employees weren’t really feeling it. Sound familiar?

Here are six design solutions that helped create Watlow’s new HQ environment—a workplace that draws people together, keeping employees engaged and energized to be creative, innovative, and do their best work:

1. Remove barriers
Removing solid walls and visual barriers breaks down silos and helps to encourage the collaboration organizations need to be creative, innovative, and successful. Using fewer walls and installing glass where walls are necessary, makes communication is easier. When you can see people around you, it’s easy to ask a question, get input, and share ideas with coworkers—even those from other departments. There is also a greater sense of community that takes hold in an open environment. Employees can actually see that everyone is working toward common goals and they are energized by the understanding that their work means something—to the company and their colleagues. At Watlow, the increased lines of sight brought all those feelings to their global headquarters, creating a hub of activity and community, while allowing everyone access to the energy that daylight brings.

2. Add social spaces
Human beings are social creatures. We crave interaction and connection with one another—even those of us who don’t seem to actively seek that connection. In fact, we feel our happiest and most energised when we can socialise with other people. Haworth’s assessments revealed that, as in many other organisations, Watlow’s employees couldn’t readily find spaces or opportunities to connect with one another. Creating social spaces—especially watercooler areas, cafes, and lounge areas in central locations—gives employees spots where they can informally gather, connect, and recharge their energy. Integrating on-site social spaces can also spark serendipitous collaborations and provide locations for casual, impromptu meetings.

3. … But make sure there are places for individual work
Collaboration is a key component of creativity and innovation, but so is individual focus work. Even in Collaborate cultures, like Watlow’s, people need spaces to noodle on ideas, learn new concepts, and work on solutions for themselves. Offering private areas with good acoustical design and reduced visual distractions lets employees in open floorplans move to workspaces where they can accomplish these tasks.

4. Support physical well-being
It’s only been recently that companies have really started to understand how their spaces can affect their employees’ physical health. This is surprising, as worker productivity in the most general sense depends on the amount of energy those workers’ bodies have. Adding spaces and design features that help keep employees healthy and boost those physical energy levels is a win/win. Cafés and refresh areas with water and healthy snacks offer fuel to keep employees going throughout the workday. Workstation features, like height-adjustable desks allow workers to change positions for comfort and nudge them to move a bit during the day. Since a body in motion tends to stay in motion—and those bodies tend to be healthier and have more energy at work—many companies, like Watlow, have even opted to add fitness centres.

5. Integrate brand and culture
It’s amazing how energized people can be in an environment that truly embodies an organization’s brand and culture. After all, brand and culture are key factors that attract employees to an organization in the first place. If the workplace doesn’t reflect them, employees can lose that enthusiasm they initially had—not to mention become disengaged, disheartened, and less productive. Watlow didn’t want to continue down that path. For their renovated headquarters, active patterns and warm colors were used in the design to symbolize their connection to heat and energy, really bringing their brand and culture to life within the various spaces.

6. Ask people what they need
There’s one common thread that runs through organizations: The people who do the work usually know best what they need to do it well. Involving employees in focus groups, steering committees, surveys, workshops, and experiential testing, like Watlow did with the help of Haworth’s Workplace Strategy team, can shed light on issues, call out variables, and help find design solutions that make workspaces inviting, comfortable, and functional—especially when there are multiple workstyles and generations in the workplace. It also gets workers involved in their own destiny and helps them feel more comfortable and accepting of change, exciting and energizing them for the future.

Large or small, global or local, organizations draw energy from their people—and vice versa. When workspaces are designed to support that cycle, they become places where people can and want to do their best work, which ultimately brings creativity and innovation to a business.

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