Your Workspace Might Be the Reason You Keep—or Lose— Great Employees

There’s a good reason that many companies now offer free breakfast, on-site massages, dry cleaning services and other lifestyle perks to their teams: employees spend more time at work than ever before.

But what about the experience of being in the office itself? Scientific studies have proven that employees‘ satisfaction with their physical environment plays a role not just in their day-to-day productivity, but in their long-term commitment to stay, or not stay, at a job.

So how can companies leverage their space as a way to retain and attract employees?

Create separate areas for different work styles

The trend toward open offices happened quickly—and the backlash came almost as fast. The reality is that employees have different preferred styles of working. Creating quiet nooks for focused work alongside flexible spaces for collaboration allows people to work in the way that’s most comfortable for them.

According to the Gensler Workplace Index:

“The impact of balanced environments is felt beyond just work mode effectiveness. [Employees with access to a variety of workspaces] also see their companies as more innovative; are more satisfied with their jobs and workplace environments.”

Don’t cram your team into a too-small office

The average amount of workspace allocated per employee fell from 225 square feet per person in 2010 to under 150 square feet per person today. While closer desks promote organic collaboration among team members, too little personal space feels limiting.

Many companies, especially fast-growing startups, get stuck in long-term leases that don’t allow them to grow their space as they grow their headcount. Agile office arrangements [link to Why VCs Love Agile Office] help companies expand or quickly move when elbow room gets too tight and employees get frustrated.

Make room for non-work activities

Whether or not there is a perks program that feeds, clothes and entertains employees, companies can structure the office layout to support everyone’s overall wellbeing.

   –People want friendly relationships with their coworkers. Arrange an informal lounge for employees to get to know each other.

   –No one wants to eat at their desk. Help employees recharge by giving them a proper space to enjoy their meals.

   -Even in the office, some personal obligations take precedence. Create comfortable spaces for nursing, praying, and taking     family phone calls.

Stay on top of maintenance issues

If employees see dangling wires, dripping A/C units, peeling paint or perpetually broken toilets, they’ll wonder if the companies’ leadership team is really committed to their welfare or even to becoming a world-class organization. If they have to struggle with a temperamental printer or if they find ants in the break room, resentment will quickly set in.

Losing an experienced team members or a promising recruit is a costly problem, both in terms of time and money. Thoughtfully configuring office furniture, being realistic about employees’ personal needs, and keeping the physical space clean and operational will go a long way in helping attract and retain quality employees.