Work from Home at Work: Office Design for Employee Engagement

Engrossed (as we often are on this blog) in gamification theory and practice, we may sometimes forget what it’s essentially about – creating engagement and unleashing creativity and fun. We know how crucial game design is for retention and monetization. Today companies are realizing that workspace design could be an equally powerful tool to motivate and engage employees.


In a recent Forbes article on HR trends in 2016, Jeanne Messler uses the term ‘consumerization of HR’ to refer to “creating a social, mobile, and consumer-style experience for employees inside the company”. Workspace organization and design is a key element of the new vision and goal of  “the workplace as experience”.

Faced with the demanding Millennials, employers are increasingly open not just to flexible working hours but a flexible organization of work space and process.

Gensler’s 2013 US Workplace Survey notably found that ‘effective workplaces balance focus and collaboration’ and that ‘employees who are given a choice of when and where to work are higher performing, more satisfied, and see their companies as more innovative’.

One of the most important trends in workspace design is the shift towards versatile office environments, with needs- and task-specific (rather than individual) work places.

With the advancement of technology, all office workers really need is a laptop and possibly a chair. This great new mobility is reflected in office interior design, which is forsaking the cubicle for many different customized work stations, meeting areas, and quiet spaces.

And they are now being customized and personalized NOT to suit particular individuals but particular tasks and needs, and most importantly: the need to focus & deliver, to communicate & collaborate, and to rest & recharge.

Modern workspace design draws inspiration from the home, with the ideal office structured like a dream house complete with study, kitchen, dining, living room, game room, and garden.  And with the latest trend, a nap room.


Reinventing the cubicle

The cubicle is universally detested and largely rejected but getting rid of the loathed partitions in an open-plane office is not the solution to our biggest frustrations: noise and privacy loss are the main source of workspace dissatisfaction. Even from an evolutionary psychology perspective, we like and need our safe, sheltered spots.

Short of giving everyone a private room with a view (where workers are happiest), what employers can do is provide secluded, ‘quiet places’ for use on a need basis.

The Cubicle


The Great Outdoors Inside

Research shows that ‘a green working environment is consistently more enjoyable for employees, more conducive to concentration, and more productive for the business than its lean equivalent’. In one UK study, for example, simply enriching a previously spartan space with plants served to increase productivity by 15 per cent.

Windows, sunlight, natural scenes, plants, aquariums, even the colors green and blue, have all been shown to have a soothing, rejuvenating and tension-relieving effect on our minds.

The Great Outdoors


The Playground

Game rooms are generally believed to boost morale, creativity and overall employee satisfaction. Interestingly enough, a new Gallup study suggests that “contrary to popular perception, Millennials place little importance on a company encouraging creativity or being a fun, informal place to work. Baby Boomers are slightly more likely than Millennials and Gen Xers to say that creativity and fun are ‘extremely important’ to them when applying for a job”.

Nevertheless, since Millennials also happen to be the least engaged generation, employers should still invest in that arcade room or ping-pong table for their value as a natural setting for social exchange, team – and community – building, and ultimately – company loyalty.

game rooms


The Nap Room

Power naps (under 30 minutes) have numerous health benefits and have long been known to boost productivity and energy levels. One London company (Podtime) is specializing in ‘selling rest’ with their customizable  ‘sleep pods’ and early adopters include companies like GlaxoSmithKline, Nestlé, Roche and others. Another one (MetroNaps) manufactures high-tech office napping chairs equipped with ‘privacy visors’, built-in speakers, and vibrating alarms. According to Inc., 6% of U.S. employers have nap rooms onsite and in France, for example, there is even talk of regulated midday naps at work.

The Nap Room


Some of the cool offices we visited while preparing this blog and the collages above: Google Zurich, Pixar Emeryville, TBWA New York, Cartoon Network Atlanta, Freshdesk Chennai, Selgas Cano Architecture Office by Iwan Baan, and Box, Redwood City

Featured image: Google Amsterdam/DDOCK, photo by Alan Jensen

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