By: Beth Barrett
How do modern companies foster a sense of belonging for individual staff? In this new era of digital-first agile workspaces, personalisation is frequently overlooked for uniformity. For the designer, individual preferences and quirks threaten the integrity of their scheme and fit-out, but for bosses, a little touch of personalization may be the physical missing link that could lead their team toward a stronger sense of belonging. So how can this balance work in practice?
As humans, we’re both consciously and unconsciously driven by a broad set of psychological needs. In Maslow’s famous Hierarchy, “belonging” is one of the five key needs, sitting on the middle rung, between safety and self-esteem, and influencing how we interact with others.
Our psychological needs come with us into the workspace, influencing our feelings of wellbeing, and our productivity. We’ve all known or worked with someone who felt like they don’t belong at their workspace: they’ll feel disengaged, alienated and unmotivated. Though there are many factors that could lead someone’s performance or happiness at work to suffer, feeling a sense of belonging is one that’s in our control.
A thorough design and fit-out project will of course include a detailed assessment of the workplace demographics, culture, personality and potential problem zones. Depending on the profile and diversity of people using the workspace, many design features are likely to be pointless or inappropriate.
It’s important for the designer to think beyond the brief and “what we’ve always done”. Think about the unspoken symbolism of major design and fit-out decisions: a table tennis area might be all fun and games at Google, but for a senior employee nearing retirement, this kind of workspace could make them feel out of place and uncomfortable.
In recent years, the concept of bringing your “whole self” to work has taken its place in the collective working lexicon. It’s a broad concept, with practical applications. In the business world, we’ve been conditioned to tone down any individual facets of our personalities in order to reflect the workplace leadership and culture. This can be tougher on some employees than others.
For top talent, the ability to personalise a workspace and bring their genuine self to work is often highly regarded in the selection of an employer of choice. This personalisation can be part of an induction: selecting the type of set-up, furniture and layout that’s likely to best suit their working style. Comfort and ergonomics are a given – but it’s the possibility for stylish personalisation that will set your workplace apart.
In a perfect world, your business would have unlimited space and budget to suit the diverse preferences of employees. But we know this isn’t the reality. So how can we provide practical personalisation options in the office space?
Here are some ideas to spark discussion with your team:
• In the interview process, ask about working preferences and acoustics
• At induction, allow your new hires to have some say in their desk set-up and furniture
• Encourage your staff to tidy their spaces by providing cleaning materials and modeling a clean space
• Allow staff to have indoor plants at their desk for a sense of wellbeing
• Establish an office space working group so people can get involved in office fit-out upgrades
• Take online staff surveys to assess how much staff feel like they belong
• Let your staff select soft furnishings, accents and kitchenware that suit the office space
If any of these design and fit-out ideas piques your interest, you can reach out to our team at Ascot Commercial Group. We specialise in commercial interior design and have successfully helped many varied businesses create positive, welcoming workspaces over four decades.