Winning the Talent War with a Great Workspace

A great workspace sends a message to employees and job candidates that a company prioritizes comfort and productivity, and is genuinely interested in helping people excel at their jobs. However, getting the right space is not as simple as it sounds. Searching, designing, branding, and managing a build-out take considerable time and resources. No wonder that, apart from staff, real estate is typically a company’s largest expense.

Employers can actually use their space to boost recruitment, retention, and morale, but that requires a new way of thinking about space and people. Let’s take a look at some of the new research on this subject, what it means to always be in beta, the narrative power of design, and why “silence is the new loud” when it comes to rethinking workspace.

The Case for Space

Space represents the strongest first impression employers can give to staff and potential talent. To attract and keep the best candidates, companies need to be confident that their space is accommodating, inspiring, and aesthetically pleasing. It’s a “see yourself here” situation, and the supporting facts are striking: a whopping 81 percent of job applicants will reject an offer if they don’t like the office space, and CBRE reports that 69 percent of employees are willing to give up other benefits to work in a well-designed space.

Office as a Cultural Anchor

When trying to improve retention, employers should think about space just as much as they think about people. Surveying staff about their workspace needs, preferences, and wants, and then working to address those elements could mean the difference between talent choosing to stay or leave. Start simple: Ask if your space is meeting the basic needs of your people — does it have good lighting, ventilation, and comfortable and varied seating options? Is there a pantry or a common space for people to collaborate?

You should also allow for agility and movement in the soft furnishings because things change, and flexibility is an important design quality, as well as a business value. A recent study by Fellowes found that 87 percent of workers want healthier perks: wellness rooms, sit-stand desks, and better lunch options. In fact, 93 percent of tech workers said they would stay longer at a company that offered those kinds of options.

The point is not so much what you do with the space, but how thoughtful you are about what can be done by the people in it.

Cultivate the Sound of Silence

One of the most interesting things that comes up in the conversation around space is how there is no right answer for everyone. There is, however, a common denominator: Silence. JLL reports that a quiet space can boost productivity by 12 percent, and Harvard Business Review notes that open-plan offices actually made teams less collaborative. Being certain the space can offer multiple places of refuge, quiet time, and work solitude is imperative to both the happiness of your employees and the productivity of the company.

Space is the New Frontier

Companies that recognize the intersection between productivity and space, and actively engage with it, will see benefits in retention, productivity, and overall happiness. Skanska, a Swedish construction and development company, cut sick days in half after making improvements to their office layout, slicing noise pollution, and improving air quality and lighting. San-Gobain, a French manufacturer, invested in collaborative workspaces, a fitness center, walking trails and offices with outdoor views. They registered a 97 percent increase in sales-generated leads.

The case for space in the talent war is unmistakably strong. Homing in on employees needs, wants, and goals, using design with purpose, and staying flexible in everything from leases, furniture, conference rooms, and how many plants to keep in the lobby are incredible assets. Like sales or marketing, space is a measurable process, a service that can always be improved. It’s new territory, and where else would any successful business want to be?