14/11/2023 • 4 min read

Supporting Employees in the Office

Michigan Farm Bureau's transformation: an affordances success story

by Haworth, Inc.

Creating effective workspaces requires cultivating an environment that promotes well-being, productivity, and employee engagement. Affordances can help achieve this—they’re space features that encourage certain behaviors, and they play a pivotal role in enhancing the cognitive, emotional, and physical well-being of employees.

The Significance of Affordances in Workspace Design

In the workplace, affordances are office environment elements that encourage employees to do their best work. A well-designed space that includes affordances enables optimal human performance.

Michigan Farm Bureau's Remarkable Transformation

One of our clients, Michigan Farm Bureau, revamped their office building, departing from traditional design to create a workplace tailored to the needs of their people. They used a pilot space, tested innovative workplace design concepts, and conducted extensive research, including employee surveys.

Michigan Farm Bureau wanted to align their renovations with employee needs and preferences. They created a dynamic environment that supports their team members cognitively, physically, and emotionally—enabling them to excel in their work.

Cognitive Affordances: Fostering Focus and Creativity

Cognitive affordances facilitate optimal thinking, concentration, and creativity. Workspaces influence our cognitive abilities, with factors such as acoustics, layout, and the availability of quiet workspaces significantly impacting productivity and innovative thinking.

To support cognitive needs, Michigan Farm Bureau introduced acoustic sound masking and provided 30 focus pods. These adjustments empowered employees to concentrate better and tap into their intellectual abilities, such as thinking and reasoning.

Emotional Affordances: Transforming the Atmosphere

Emotional affordances, when applied during space design, help nurture an individual's psychological state. Factors like lighting, layout, and aesthetics directly influence the overall mood and morale of employees, so Michigan Farm Bureau made a significant investment in improving emotional affordances. 

They maximized natural light within their workspace with an expansive renovation to the older, smaller windows. They also created a town hall area with a three-story open central staircase, glass architectural interiors, and access to an outdoor patio for fresh air and natural views.

These features help create a positive atmosphere in the workplace and improve employee engagement because they encourage interaction, idea-sharing, and collaborative work. 

Physical Affordances: Enhancing Productivity

To create an ideal workspace, employers need to consider the physical comfort and health of employees. Physical affordances support every person's physiological needs.  

Michigan Farm Bureau included physical affordances based on employee feedback from the pilot space. They recognized the need for a variety of workspaces to accommodate both individual and group work.

Their workspace now features advanced ergonomic seating and height-adjustable tables, significantly enhancing the physical comfort of employees. These furnishings also give employees more autonomy and a feeling of empowerment. 

“It was really beneficial for us to go through the employee survey. We got employee buy-in for the entire project because they were able to… provide feedback and provide answers as to what they wanted this building to look like and how they wanted to operate in the future.”

Domik Feldspausch
Facilities Manager, Michigan Farm Bureau

Creating Affordances in Your Workplace

Michigan Farm Bureau assessed employee needs through pilot spaces and applied affordances effectively to tailor spaces to their employees’ specific needs. Testing out workstations, conference rooms, and new space designs can yield valuable insights.

By addressing the cognitive, emotional, and physical needs of employees, you can create an environment that enhances their well-being, engagement, and productivity. Michigan Farm Bureau's transformation is a testament to the transformative power of affordances in the workplace.

See Our Michigan Farm Bureau Customer Story

This insurance company renovated their office building to create a workplace with modern spaces tailored to their employees’ needs.


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