It’s an honor for any company to receive recognition for innovation. Creative, original thinking that builds upon today’s advancements can help define others from the competition. While companies need to harness innovation in their products and services, they also need corporate cultures that help sustain innovation within their own workplaces.
In a 2016 Gensler survey, a statistical correlation was found between workplace design and how innovative the company appears to its employees. Additionally, the survey showed that companies who hold high scores of workplace functionality and productivity also have higher innovation rankings.
While new data from Gensler’s 2019 U.S. Workplace Survey shows that the workplace is improving, there is still more work needed to create the optimum space for productivity and creativity. Firms that prioritize innovation have several of these values in common:
One of the most important values that an innovative company promotes is the element of trust. However, office construction or renovation decisions often don’t consider how to provide trust on top of its physical design principles. While trust seems like an abstract concept within office design, it’s fairly straightforward. Amongst its principles, the aesthetic promotes visible glass barriers, natural lighting, and rerouting walkways around the office’s exterior edges to foster transparency, collaboration and community. According to research, designing for trust leads to engagement which improves job satisfaction and, thus, innovation.
Ed Nolan, the Managing Director of Consulting at JLL says, “What’s really at the core of this is leadership granting control and believing that employees will make good choices about how, when and where they work, which will spark the innovation they are trying to achieve.” Indeed, the lack of trust could otherwise hinder innovation in the workplace, so it’s essential for companies to build a sense of value within their employees and work environments.
According to a 2018 CapitalOne survey, 85 percent of office professionals agree that flexibility is important. Indeed, today’s emerging technologies and coworking trends are reshaping the purpose of the workplace. Flexibility in an office space shows that companies offer their employees different and multiple spaces to work so that they can match their everyday goals with the purpose of their work stations. For example, some workers need spaces to process challenges and solve problems. Other workers might want collaborative rooms where they can quickly talk through their ideas with another team member or innovator, either in-person or via collaborative technologies. Spaces like isolated thinking pods or rooms help them do this. Offering flexibility could occur either inside or outside the firm. Companies have started to realize that creativity and innovation are stimulated by their workers interacting with other professionals outside of the office, like at coworking spaces and business centers.
Balance aka Agility
Creating balance, otherwise known as an agile space, allows for more cohesive practices in the office. Workplace agility means design that allows for quick and seamless productivity. Traditional work environments provide assigned desks or offices as their everyday workplaces. However, providing opportunities for workers to choose how they balance the workday and maximize their productivity can reap many rewards. Companies are starting to see a shift, allowing employees to have more control over the space that best meets their needs, whether that’s working from home or on site. Studies show agile design helps enhances workers’ productivity. As Forbes mentions, workers are no longer looking for a simple life-work balance, but one that offers work-life integration, that allows employees to work at more manageable timeframes and speeds.
Workout centers and catered lunches are great perks. However, companies must take an informed approach to the amenities they offer. Innovative companies like Google provide lifestyle amenities that are customized to their team’s core values and culture, meeting objectives that increase employee retention and attract highly-skilled talent which improves conversion rates.
Companies don’t have to go overboard with the amenities they provide, but they must ensure they line up with their key objectives and they should regularly measure and assess to determine if they’re helping the company and its employees meet those goals. A mix of formal and informal amenities that either off privacy and promotes concentration or open spaces that promote physical movement and informal social activities — like a recreation room or cafeteria — helps give employees a sense of freedom, well-being and choice.
Selecting an office design deemed “innovative” won’t improve the likelihood that innovation will occur within the office. However, high-quality design should be the emphasis that companies seek to emulate. It’s important to understand how people attempt to work and innovate and how they use their current space to that degree. When designing office space, it’s critical that companies explore the behaviors that initiate innovation while also considering unproductive ones. For each company, this design varies. One important factor that companies should include to enhance innovation is the inclusion of recreational and collaborative spaces where people can run into each other and share ideas, especially with people in other departments. Called “serendipitous collisions”, the increase in communication is said to foster the sharing and development of ideas with others. It’s no surprise, then, that high-quality design has been linked to more productivity, engagement and positive work cultures which not only improves our creativity, happiness and overall well-being, but also enhances our innovation.
Creating an effective and productive workforce which spurs innovation requires a focus on learning, culture, interaction, human behavior and space. The best design strategies incorporate all these principles to nurture high-performing workplaces, optimize performance and ensure a company’s progress for the better.