It absolutely makes sense to pour resources and research into creating a work environment and office space to inspire creativity and collaboration. Much like a comfortable, high-quality bed improves sleep, the modern office space should improve productivity at work and by extension, enjoyment of life.
Companies are seeking ways to improve employee efficiency and retention. One of the key learns is that the morale of workers, or engagement, is critical to a high-functioning environment. From a recent Gallup poll:
Engaged employees produce more, they make more money for the company, they create emotional engagement with the customers they serve, and they create environments where people are productive and accountable. We also know that engaged employees stay with the organization longer and are much more committed to quality and growth than the other two groups…Engaged workers show consistent levels of high performance. They’re natural innovators, and they drive for efficiency. They demand clarity about the desired outcomes of their role. They’re passionate about their work — they have a visceral connection to what they do. They challenge others to work with mission and purpose. Actively disengaged people operate from the mindset, “I’m okay. You’re not okay.” They believe that they’re doing what needs to done, and everyone else is wrong. Negativity is like a blood clot, and actively disengaged employees sometimes clot together in groups that support and reinforce their beliefs.
Actively disengaged employees also may close themselves off from anyone who will challenge them to become part of the solution, rather than staying part of the problem. This is key to understanding the difference between an engaged and actively disengaged person.
Our most recent research suggests that 29% of the U.S. workforce is actively engaged, 55% is not engaged, and 16% is actively disengaged.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the needs of business travelers recently (more on why later). Traditional corporate environments, while functional spatially, don’t feel conducive to producing smiling, laughing, engaged brainstorming sessions. Today, even corporate managers are looking for something more colorful. Something like this.
It’s no surprise that the greatest companies in the world, like Google and now Airbnb, are paying top dollar to design work spaces that feel inspiring to the employees. fastcompany.com has the research:
To name the 50 best places to work, Glassdoor sifted through more than 1.6 million company reviews in which employees were asked to anonymously share the pros and cons of working for their employer, as well as rate career opportunities, compensation and benefits, culture and values, senior management, and work-life balance.
First timer Airbnb swept the ratings to rank No. 1, overtaking Google…
Make no mistake, style matters.
When I hit up Yelp to check out new hotels, I don’t click on the Hyatt or the Marriott. I want some character and personal touches. I’m looking to walk into the lobby and feel invigorated. I want style and enthusiasm, even if it comes in the form of calm peacefulness. It’s the little touches that matter.
Moreover, office spaces that engage all of our senses contribute directly to the quality of our work.
Think of the last time you watched batting practice before a game. You probably noticed the thumping music. Perhaps, if the stadium PA is feeling creative that day, the opposing team may get serene classical harmonies while the home team is treated to invigorating, fast paced rock. Music changes the feel of our spaces and this is well documented. It’s not that it’s always on point, but when we are doing repetitive work, like batting practice or answering emails, it’s not really disputable.
When the task is clearly defined and is repetitive in nature, the research seems to suggest that music is definitely useful.
A series of experiments has investigated the relationship between the playing of background music during the performance of repetitive work and efficiency in performing such a task. The results give strong support to the contention that economic benefits can accrue from the use of music in industry.
More modern studies would argue that it perhaps isn’t the background noise of the music itself, but rather the improved mood that your favorite music creates that is the source of this bump in productivity.
Music with a dissonant tone was found to have no impact to productivity, while music in the major mode had different results: “Subjects hearing BGM (background music) achieved greater productivity when BGM was in the major mode.
The effects music can have in relation to repetitive tasks were further explored in this study, which showcased how assembly line workers displayed signs of increased happiness and efficiency while listening to music.
Ever step into the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Vegas? It smells fucking good, all the time. It smells fresh. It smells clean. That hotel makes its glue based on how long they can get folks to stay inside its walls. They’re happy, they’re engaged, they keep betting dimes at the sportsbook. It’s simple.
Why would we not apply the same principles to our working environments if we have the resources to do so? Happy employees stay longer, they will take less money to stick around, they will be more productive. These long term benefits fully justify taking a trip outside those cubicle walls when a fresh perspective is needed.