The art of creating engaging office environments

Workplaces that engage and inspire are important in the race to attract and retain talent. Light for the heart, light for sight and light for the mind can make major contributions

Recent years have seen a shift in approaches to office design. Purely functional workspaces have started giving way to spaces that are designed to engage and inspire. Employers are increasingly realising that people represent not only their highest cost but also their greatest asset. As a result, they have begun to focus more intently on workplace design as a way of attracting talent, retaining high-value employees, and enhancing organisational performance. The overall aim: to create a more engaging workplace environment.

Increasing commitment

According to Signify researchers Adrie de Vries and Sanae van der Vleuten-Chraibi, there are important reasons for developing more engagement in workspace – it fosters employee creativity, encourages innovation, and, maybe most importantly, increases commitment. Good lighting is central to this process, in the context of a 21st century knowledge economy in which workforce efficiency is no longer the only, or even the most important, consideration. Worker comfort is seen as just as important, based on the realisation that output quality is more important than output quantity.

The Signify researchers developed the ‘office trinity’ as a model to facilitate the discussion around innovation in office design. This defines three elements in the office ecosystem: the user, the organisation and the building.

Designing for the user: All design decisions revolve around the needs and desires of the user. Design concepts are intended to reduce employees’ physical and mental stress, improve their overall mood, and offer them autonomy and choice.

Designing for the organisation: Design decisions focus on the needs of the organisation, taking into account organisational dynamics such as types of work being performed in
a space, space utilisation, employee interactions, and management style.

Designing for the building: Good building design optimises space, creates a sustainable footprint, lowers maintenance needs and minimises environmental impact. While not necessarily an enabler for employee engagement on its own, good building design can contribute significantly to employee satisfaction and company culture, resulting in increased engagement.

Light can make an important contribution and three main domains are identified. Light for the heart helps us to feel better – it supports our preferences and need for autonomy by using lighting effects (or aspects of lighting installations) that trigger emotional responses. Light for sight helps us to see better – this means being able to comfortably perform visual tasks (such as reading) by improving legibility (such as text on paper), but also by minimising sources of eye stress (such as glare). Light for the mind helps us to function and perform better by investigating how lighting influences our circadian rhythm and how it can help improve concentration and ensure a healthy sleep-wake cycle.

Read more on Creating Engaging Office Environments, a paper by Adrie de Vries and Sanae van der Vleuten-Chraibi, here.

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