The attached article in BusinessWeek on Intel’s office redesign program reminded me that a workplace’s design and layout is too often the forgotten aspect of employee engagement strategies. As much as benefits, compensation, training and managers matter to job satisfaction, perhaps nothing has as much of a sustained impact on worker psychology and productivity as their office environment.  It’s one thing to have to make a living in the gulag-like drab, grey cubicles. But even worse, in too many cases (some of which I’ve experienced myself) the working environment is woefully misaligned with the prevailing office culture or company aspirations. So you end up with uninspired employees who do their job in spite of their office environment. You want some examples?

  • A company promoting creativity and innovation that has not a hint of color and whimsy in the office
  • An organization where frequent collaboration and multiple meetings are the norm with a chronic shortage of meeting rooms and no central areas
  • A company where laptops are ubiquitous with no wireless wi-fi or ethernet cables
  • An office where small teams are the creative force but where individuals are isolated in high cubicles scattered across the building
  • An organization promoting outside-in thinking and consumer insights that has firewalls so tight the outside world is virtually inaccessible

One of the excuses I have heard is that it costs money to “dress up” an office. But it’s not about perks, and much can be done without any incremental cost (how about green instead of grey?) It just makes business sense. Companies that want productive, efficient and loyal employees need to invest in the right working environment if they hope to be attract and keep their talent. At minimum, they need to ensure that their office is consistent with – and supportive of – their culture and strategic objectives.  Not everybody needs a basketball court in the lobby or free food in the cafeteria, but give me the tools and space I need to do my job properly and…just maybe…get some enjoyment out of it.