Article: Building workspaces where people thrive

Strategic HR

Building workspaces where people thrive

From quiet focus to social connection, how next-gen offices are designed to combat burnout and nurture employees.
Building workspaces where people thrive

The pandemic ignited a work revolution, forever changing our relationship with the office. Gone are the cookie-cutter workspaces of the past. The future demands flexible, well-equipped environments that support human needs.

"Cities and offices fundamentally exist for people – a lesson the pandemic underscored," says Emmy-Lou Quirke, JLL's Head of People Experience. "We can't design spaces that truly support them without putting people at the centre of our thinking."

Quirke sees the key to the future workplace in the synergy between technology and people-first design. With hybrid work now the norm, she emphasises the importance of offering employees choice and flexibility for optimal success.

"Research shows that giving employees choice over their work environments boosts performance," she explains. "Empowering individuals to choose between focused remote work and in-person collaboration can lead to better outcomes."

However, Quirke cautions against the temptation to lean too heavily towards fully collaborative office environments. "The post-pandemic rush towards collaborative spaces might backfire. People often seek quieter spaces in the office for focused work." To strike the right balance, she recommends designing spaces that cater to both individual and collective needs. Technology solutions can be pivotal, helping employees find suitable workspaces and connect seamlessly with colleagues.

"If hybrid is the future, the physical office must be technologically superior to home setups," Quirke emphasises. "Frictionless connectivity and comfortable, ergonomic workstations will be essential to entice people back to the office."

Quirke emphasises the importance of data-driven strategies for optimizing the hybrid workplace. "Avoid assumptions – survey your workforce to understand their preferences and pain points. Build a hybrid model based on their needs, not just on what you think might work."

This "work science" approach merges data analysis with workplace design.  The goal is to create highly customised solutions that align with a company's unique needs and goals.  Quirke and her team take a holistic approach, factoring in everything from a company's purpose and business model to specific employee requirements and the tasks that benefit most from in-person collaboration.

"There's no one-size-fits-all optimal office design," she emphasises. "The bottom line is this: data gathering, thoughtful analysis, and alignment with company goals are essential for creating an office that genuinely drives employee happiness and fuels innovation."

Prioritising well-being

As the workplace continues to evolve, Quirke sees two key challenges that organisations must address: adapting to emerging technologies and prioritizing employee wellbeing.

"Designing with agility in mind is crucial, knowing workplaces now need to seamlessly integrate with technologies like AI and other digital tools," Quirke explains. "The workplace of the future must be ready to adapt to new innovations that can enhance how we work."

At the same time, Quirke believes the built environment's impact on mental and physical health is a critical consideration. "My background in mental health taught me the profound impact work has on overall wellbeing. This drives my passion for creating workspaces that nurture employees as whole people."

Factors like air quality, ergonomic design, and spaces for quiet reflection are becoming essential elements of an optimal work environment. Quirke's vision for the future of work goes beyond just productivity and efficiency – it's about creating spaces that empower employees to thrive.

As younger generations reshape the way we work, Quirke sees the lines between work life and personal life continuing to blur. This shift is driving the need for workspaces that seamlessly integrate into a more fluid lifestyle.

"Older models of isolated office parks are becoming less relevant," Quirke says. "We need to embrace how work integrates with the rest of our lives, through mixed-use developments and precincts where we can live, work, and play."

"The future belongs to companies who prioritise connection and belonging," Quirke says. "While perks and amenities matter, a strong culture that fosters a sense of purpose will be the ultimate competitive advantage."

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Topics: Strategic HR, #CEOseries, #LeadingEdge

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