We caught up with our experts to ask their thoughts on the issue’s theme of connection, Here’s what they had to say:
Lisa Miller Senior Workplace Advisory, Insights Applications
What evidence of the need for connection do we see in the nature of today’s work?
We were lucky enough to have our teams observe 15 different sites in a variety of cities to better understand what realities we need to design for. And through these observations, we collected some concrete examples that gave us insight into what shifts we should be empathetic to in our design approach. For example, expanded mobility inside and outside the office shows people putting more value on their personal network.
Collaboration and thought-sharing are means of tapping into the social nature of work. We’re seeing more leaders and companies jump on board with freedom of choice and mobility once they see the benefits of letting work happen anywhere. There’s a reason cultures that actively value collaboration and inclusion are leading their industries.
Lauren Gant, PhD, CPE, WELL AP Human Factors & Ergonomics Manager
Why does human connection at work matter so much?
Because much of the stress we experience throughout our lives occurs at work. We can classify jobs based on a few criteria—such as how demanding the role is and the amount of freedom or decision latitude the employee is given—and predict how stressful that job will be (see FIG. 1)1.
But there’s something that can make even the most stressful job a little more manageable—a system of people and connections supporting you.
If we factor in the level of support, we see a third dimension in which we measure stress (see FIG. 2).
A demanding job can be perceived as much more demanding without support from managers or co-workers. So, you can begin to see how social support and meaningful connections may improve job satisfaction.
Part of the WELL Building Standard® focuses on reducing stress, because it is understood that stress can impact health, comfort, and productivity. Some ways to reduce stress include environmental considerations like reducing distractions and noise. However, equally important aspects focus on building engagement with the community. Considerations like adaptable spaces to support teams or promotion of connection through community volunteering show that engagement and social cohesion can promote wellness when supported by the workplace.
There are many other ways employees can enhance their connection. For example, you see more teams starting their meeting by first putting their phones away. Additionally, companies are promoting employee mentoring programs to provide support and connection. Cultures that promote connection are likely to reap the benefits of a happier, more engaged workforce.
Lynda Thomlinson HNI ONE Workplace & Solutions Lead Designer
How does this all play out in space application?
Everyone wants to maximize their space, but to be able to do that with a mobile workforce you have to make the office a destination. Most people are doing what used to be private office work at home, but coming in for the community spaces.
The agile café has evolved into the new town hall where everything from company-wide updates to small-team morning meetings occur.
What we’re learning about these types of spaces is that one minute, a space might be supporting a company-wide event with an update from the CEO and the next, it’s divided into small discussion pockets, using the same space in a different way. Even something as simple as providing a nested table of different heights can help people feel more comfortable sharing a large space—we want our design to be approachable.
The ratio of solo, team, and community spaces on a floorplan looks similar to the modern library with various places to meet and work. Even the mock-up process is changing. We’re testing more ancillary settings and, through the design process, asking when and why certain spaces are popular to get that ratio right.
Ad hoc huddle rooms level the playing field for teams to share ideas and content as they see fit—whether digitally or drawn by hand.
Because of these changes, we’re designing for the number of seats rather than the number of people, which might sound like a misrepresentation but in truth, is the only way to support users to choose to their own experience. And when we choose our own experience, it improves our experience.
Convertible and shared offices support various team functions and postures while also allowing for privacy, as needed.
1. Doef, Margot Van Der, and Stan Maes. “The Job Demand-Control (-Support) Model and Psychological Well-being: A Review of 20 Years of Empirical Research.” Work & Stress13, no. 2 (1999): 87-114. doi:10.1080/026783799296084.