06/04/2024 • 4 min read

Integrating the Experience Economy into the Workplace

Creating workspaces to foster connection and productivity

by Christine Gritter

Over the past 8‒10 years, we have seen a trend toward what is called the experience economy. This is defined as an economy in which many goods or services are sold by emphasizing the effect they can have on people’s lives. With this trend, consumer brands need to find unique ways to connect with customers based on emotions and feelings.  

In a world where anything you want or need can be ordered online and show up on your doorstep within hours, creating deep connections with consumers has become very hard to do. In many cases, people don't even need to step foot into a store or branded location anymore. To regain some of those lost relationship-building opportunities, some brands began transforming retail stores into experiences by hosting pop-up events or incorporating unique features—turning their spaces into destinations where customers can—and want—to experience their brand.

The Rise of the Experience Economy

We are at a point where this mindset is also moving into the way we work. If we can do our work from home—or anywhere—what makes the office an appealing destination? Are we connecting with our company and coworkers the way we should in order to create one? Remote work has become more prevalent and work hours more flexible. The default is that work is being done more individually. This can be good for focused tasks and for a few professions—but not the majority. And, a lack of collaboration leads to activities becoming more siloed without input from other ideas and points of view.

Bringing the Experience Economy to the Workplace

Several shortcomings have been identified in a remote work environment, including a lack of creativity, mentoring, knowledge sharing, and engagement. For these reasons, companies are looking to mandate their employees back to the office. An official hybrid policy does provide structure and equality to the situation. But, what if employees who are given the option actually choose the office as their primary place to work?

Learning from Remote Work

What can we learn from the experience economy to apply to the workplace? The theory is that engaged customers buy more. Brands want to turn one-time shoppers into loyal fans by connecting with them at an emotional level and providing the right experience. Employers are also seeking engagement. Engaged workers are committed to the organization's goals and feel connected. According to Gallup, “Highly engaged teams outperform the rest in business outcomes critical to the success of your organization.”   

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Enhancing Engagement Through Optimized Workspaces

People want to do their best and be successful. Providing a workplace experience that is optimized to support this desire is the way to connect emotionally with employees. The way we work has become less routine, and the tasks we need to accomplish each day have become more varied. For these reasons, workplaces need to provide a variety of spaces that are optimized for different tasks. Identifying areas where groups and individuals can focus, collaborate, and restore is the first step. For example, providing enclosed touchdowns in addition to individual workstations in an open plan provides a place to go for focus with minimal distractions. In the same way, providing both formal conference rooms for planned meetings with options for ancillary meeting spaces for spontaneous conversations will encourage more collaboration.

The Role of Affordances in Supporting Human Performance

Taking this further, we can optimize the workplace by creating spaces that support human performance. We know that everything from the presence of a markerboard to the location of an ottoman; as well as anything we see, touch, and hear, can—and should—meet people’s physical, emotional, and cognitive needs. Haworth has a framework that helps define these needs and identify how to support them through Affordances: the behaviors that an object or space encourages. Haworth's Global Design and Innovation team has identified 3 distinct yet interrelated categories for Affordances:

  1. Physical Affordances support the body's needs
  2. Emotional Affordances nurture a person’s psychological state
  3. Cognitive Affordances help people do their mind's best work

Looking at space at this level helps optimize the workplace experience, so people feel and perform their best. In a world where people have more workplace options than ever, we can’t afford not to.

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