What role should design play in employee engagement?

Ask most people what role they understand design’s role in the workplace to be and they’ll probably mention the layout of the office, the paint on the walls, or what kind of table there should be in the boardroom. Thing is, design can actually be applied to every aspect of the workplace, including employee engagement.

Indeed, a look at the available evidence suggests that design could play a major role in improving employee engagement across the board.

The way things are

Employers around the world are desperate to ensure that their employees are as engaged as possible. The more engaged your employees are, after all, the higher overall levels of productivity are likely to be within a company. Engaged employees are also more likely to stay at a company, something that any employer in an industry where there’s a skills shortage is desperate to get right.

Unfortunately, the available evidence suggests there’s a long way to go before global levels are anywhere near where they should be.

A 2016 global study by office furniture company Steelcase found that at least a third of employees across 17 major economies are disengaged at work.

Engaging workplaces

Fundamental to employees being engaged is feeling like they can do the job they’re paid to. The environment they work in is incredibly important on that front.

How, for instance, are you supposed to stay engaged if your office is so noisy that you can’t concentrate, or if the office chairs are just uncomfortable enough to be annoying?

This is where the physical aspect of design has a role to play when it comes to employee engagement.
If employers are really concerned about employee engagement, they need to build offices that allow employees to feel engaged, rather than just trying to fit as many people as possible in the cheapest space available.

That means ensuring a blend of collaborative and individual working spaces, as well as paying attention to things like how best to use the available natural light in an office and overall noise levels.

If you’re looking for examples of companies that do this kind of thing well, we’ve written about a few of them.

Designing Experiences

It is, however, important to reiterate that workplace design isn’t just about the physical space. It’s also about ensuring that employees have engaging experiences across the board.

Take the decision to implement a new social media policy, for instance. Management could just decide on a policy and announce it via a company-wide email.

Alternatively, they could take an inclusive, design-centric approach. This entails consulting across the business before deciding on any new policy, getting feedback on what actually serves the company best.

When it comes time to draft the policy, employees need to be able to provide feedback, with management telling them how it took their suggestions into consideration.

Finally, when the policy is implemented, there should be as much care put into rolling it out as was put into drafting it.

So, instead of sending out a standard email, put together a visually compelling information pack that clearly outlines the new policy. Better yet, design a gamified experience that allows employees to actively engage with the policy and get to grips with all its ins and outs.

Design everywhere

This kind of design-centric thinking can be applied to all kinds of processes across the workplace, from what beverages you have available to what the company’s end-of-year party looks like.

Not only does it make people feel included, it actually gets them involved in stuff that affects. In other words, it gets them engaged.

What role should design play in employee engagement?
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