by Whitney Mugford
The fact is, on average, Americans spend a third of their lives working. With this statistic in mind, and with a substantial percentage of U.S.-based personnel returning to the workplace after toiling from home for the past 18 months, employers have come to an important conclusion: Designing offices is about much more than creating attractive spaces.
At JM Electrical, we reimagined our offices in 2018. With the needs of our staff in mind, we installed a gym complete with weights and cardio equipment, installed showers and locker rooms, and renovated our shared kitchen which is always fully stocked with nutritious snacks, unlimited soft drinks and top-quality coffee. Our new headquarters are lighter and brighter and feature comfortable meeting spaces that encourage teamwork.
Many other companies across the country have taken a closer look at their surroundings, with safety, comfort, and bringing the outdoors in among their top priorities. Some have added living walls filled with lush greenery and strategically placed planters to create a calm, quiet environment, and improve air quality. Others have expanded their footprint by creating rooftop lounges or converting shipping containers into colorful conference rooms.
There’s also a renewed focus on food, with employers allocating space for dining in, and high-end coffee bars that eliminate visits to the local barista. And to keep team members enthusiastic and engaged, organizations have carved out places where colleagues can take a break, relax, and socialize together.
There is a method to the madness. A 2018 study from Gartner Research reported that employees who are satisfied with their work environments are 16% more productive, 18% more likely to stay, and 30% more attracted to their company over competitors.
Reebok’s headquarters in Boston’s Seaport District was designed to encourage greater comradery and interaction between colleagues. One hundred meeting rooms and spaces outfitted with conference tables and couches inspire collaboration and frequent communication. To encourage staff to make time for health and wellness, an in-house gym is complete with spin, yoga and dance studios, a boxing ring, and a CrossFit box.
In nearby Cambridge, Google’s multi-building office complex was designed to reflect local landmarks. The concept for the 300,000sf campus is based on the iconic MBTA transportation system, with spaces and the color palette inspired by the local geography and culture associated with each of its stops. Google staff members were involved in the planning process for this LEED certified facility which was constructed with “green” products and materials. Further, in keeping with Google’s overarching commitment to sustainable practices, infrastructure improvements helped significantly reduce the campus’ use of water and electricity.
Over the course of the pandemic, many of us have spent time working at the kitchen table or tucked away in a guest room. Those preparing to return to the office full time or under a hybrid model are looking for natural light, state-of-the-art technology, comfortable furnishings made from sustainable materials, and spaces where they can briefly relax and unwind in between marathon meetings, presentations, and video conference calls. Equally important, American workers want to maintain a work/life balance and contribute to their companies in a clean, safe, healthy environment that serves as their home away from home.
Whitney Mugford is the human resources manager at JM Electrical Company, Inc.