As flexible workspace options and mobile usage become more widespread, employees are expected to be available long after the typical “punch-out” time—and those hours are adding up.
One in five employees work more than 20 hours per week during their personal time, according to a recent WorkplaceTrends survey. “Work-life balance” is transforming into “work-life integration,” and companies must update their office ‘standards’ so that their employees can start to become more efficient, engaged and balanced within the distributed economy.
“As we live in a world that is increasingly cluttered and driven by technology, the human element is increasingly important,” says Chris Kelly, co-founder and president of Convene. “The more that an organization creates an authentic and open company culture, the more it can leverage energy leadership and human-centered design to improve daily communications and build culture.”
“Human-centered design is a process that starts with the people you’re designing for and ends with new solutions that are tailor-made to suit their needs,” says Joyce Bromberg, VP of Innovation + Foresight at Convene. “
This requires a deep understanding of work process, but also relies on an emotional connection. By observing how people engage with their physical environment and with each other, “you get a much deeper understanding of what they really need, rather than what you think they need,” she adds.
Energy leadership is a deeply personal style of leadership, and a natural complement to human-centered design. Its aim is to leverage leadership competencies to help others move from lower levels of energy associated with negative emotions (such as fear, anger, etc.) to more productive and positive levels. Energy leadership practitioners shift their internal energy to tackling challenges and achieving their personal best, while working to inspire others to do the same. With a strong foundation in empathy, energy leadership creates a physical and emotional environment ideal for collaboration, problem-solving and creativity, especially when coupled with human-centered design.
There are three impactful ways that company leaders can better leverage human-centered design and energy leadership to create a more ‘people-centric’ work environment:
I. Breaking Tradition by Offering Choices
Choice is empowering, especially when it enables people to work in the way that suits them best.
“What’s most important is respecting people’s intuition and natural sense of their work hours,” Kelly says. “Also, people should be able to make decisions on how, when and where to spend their work day in order to be productive.”
Workplace design is one important way organizations today can create choice. A good example of human-centered workplace design is reallocating a larger percentage of office space towards informal and comfortable collaboration spaces. Rather than restricting employees to an assigned desk every day, it’s best to give them the additional choice to work in a range of settings, which can flex from one project to the next based on collaboration needs and tools required.
“Work is no longer based on the factory model of efficiency. Meetings don’t have to take place around a conference table. Instead, bring in lounge chairs, or host one in a cafe setting,” Bromberg says.
II. Incorporating the Comforts of Home
Full-time employees are now officially clocking in an average 47 hours a week, according to a recent Gallup poll. Incorporating more personal conveniences into the workplace will help mitigate burnout and keeps employees in control of their work and home life. “It’s simply recognizing that people have lives outside the office,” Bromberg says.
Incorporating more human-centered design elements into the office means workspaces start to become more residential in their overall look and feel while offering more ‘hotel-like’ amenities. Some great, easy-to-implement examples include TRX gyms that allow employees to squeeze in quick, no-sweat workouts and in-house concierge services that make personal errands easier to manage.
When people’s personal needs are met during the work day, it allowing them to create more value for the company. “Simply offering better coffee and food helps ensure people don’t have to leave the office during the day if they don’t want to,” Bromberg says. “Even providing services such as dry cleaning with delivery, manicures, shoe-shines, and other ‘TaskRabbit-like’ things through the work place that we currently do outside in our everyday lives can help employees feel more productive and engaged.”
III. Practicing Empathy as a Design Exercise
As human-centered design applied to physical spaces and services can improve communication and collaboration in the workplace, energy leadership further enables empathy, observation, ideation and reflection among its people.
Learning how to shift our energy levels during a discussion allows for more productive conversations that achieve a common goal. What is often underestimated is how much our employees’ energy levels dictate our overall productivity. “Energy leaders choose how to show up and may turnaround an outcome by applying empathetic listening approaches and spending time observing as well as acknowledging behavior,” says O’Leary.
“The skills in energy leadership and human-centered design are very similar,” says Siobhan O’Leary, Vice President of People & Culture at Convene. “Ask the end user open-ended or empowering questions without forming opinions or judgments. Whether it’s customer feedback, an employee situation, or a business decision, the answer lies within how people work. It’s important to design conversations around sustainable human solutions that keep the company moving forward.”
Improper workplace design can often hinder or enhance energy levels during collaboration. “The room setup or seating layout may indirectly affect your energy level, most often because it influences how people communicate,” says O’Leary.
Where The Bottom Line and Top Line Meet
At Convene, we believe that employing coach-centric and design-centered work environments are the foundation for truly transforming the workplace experience. Organizations of tomorrow have an obligation to create better workdays for their employees by integrating more aspects of choice and leadership empathy into the workplace, which in turn result in greater company engagement, collaboration and retention.