Office tenants today are thinking a lot about engagement—but not the diamond rings-and-champagne kind. Rather, companies are seeking ways to keep employees engaged and connected to their work, and for good reason. Engaged employees are 17 percent more productive and are absent 41 percent less than the unengaged, according to Gallup research. As companies seek to create engaging workplaces, building owners are striving to transform humdrum office buildings into engaging communities where the best talent wants to be.
Corporate occupiers are increasingly focused on how the brand experience—inside and outside an individual tenant suite—can help attract and inspire a truly engaged workforce. And “branding” doesn’t just mean logos. Today, workplace branding has become a sophisticated field, as companies actively seek subtle (and not so subtle) ways to express their values and culture in their workplace.
It’s an important distinction because Millennials, more than other generations, seek out companies that cultivate a corporate culture in keeping with their values and interests. They understand that happiness at work is important—and the physical workplace setting can make or break their employee experience.
Organizations are realizing that a thoughtfully branded workplace—along with office locations and common spaces that support that brand—can inspire employees to live out their purpose every day. When executed successfully, a carefully branded office can articulate a clear story about the company for visitors, employees and shareholders alike.
Branding is a factor even when a company is deciding whether to sign a lease, as prospective tenants evaluate whether a building provides the right canvas for their desired workspace. As today’s tenants consider how to infuse their brand into a space, they’re thinking about the following five factors.
Adjusting office layouts to reflect company values
The floor plan of a workplace sends subtle messages to employees about how they are expected to work. For example, an open space with designated areas for collaboration communicates that the company values a collaborative approach to work, while a traditional space with private offices for managers and executives emphasizes the company hierarchy. While current trends favor open spaces, many organizations still find their employees require private offices. Many opt for glass walls because they offer both transparency and privacy.
It’s not just the layout of workstations that tells a story about a company. Some organizations are giving prominence to spaces that communicate what is unique about their culture. For example, at Salvation Army’s Central Territorial Headquarters in Hoffman Estates, a chapel is positioned on the first floor in a direct center axis from the main entrance of the building. The central location underscores The Salvation Army’s values as a faith-based nonprofit organization.
Creating a consistent look and feel throughout a network of offices
Whether an organization is global or regional, the brand doesn’t change from one city to another. Strong brands want to provide employees and visitors with a similar experience across the network of offices, just like a customer at an Apple store in a suburban Ohio mall should feel the same vibe they would get at the Manhattan flagship store (albeit on a smaller scale).
When comScore, a media measurement and analytics company, redesigned its Chicago office, it prioritized the need to create a consistent brand experience across its workplaces. The concrete and wood in the Chicago reception area has the same specifications as the materials used at the company’s Reston, Virginia, headquarters. And the brand’s vibrant colors are incorporated into the furniture and walls, ensuring that clients and employees who step inside are immersed in the brand throughout the space.
…But adding a local twist
Consistent branding is important, of course. But hometown pride goes a long way toward building a local office culture in a big global organization. Many corporate tenants are finding ways to highlight what makes a particular city location unique, whether it’s through locally sourced food and beverages in the cafeteria, wall art or themed conference rooms highlighting local attractions. ComScore’s Chicago office, for instance, gives employees a local feel with murals of Buckingham Fountain and a city map.
Finding unique ways to communicate the company’s purpose throughout the space
Organizations are finding lots of subtle (and not-so-subtle) ways to use design to remind employees what matters every day. For example, in a professional services organization where the individual employees are the face and backbone of the company, a photo wall of employees can emphasize that people are valued and recognized for their unique individual contributions.
Artwork is frequently used to send a more direct message. Companies have been using wall murals to express brand promises for decades, but some organizations are going beyond paint on flat surfaces. The Salvation Army’s Hoffman Estates office features a two-story monument that rises up out of a reflecting pool and displays the organization’s mission statement.
Choosing buildings with common areas and neighborhood amenities that fit with the company’s culture.
Even the most carefully curated workspace can fall flat if the building’s entrance and common areas send conflicting messages. These days, tenants are paying close attention to how a building’s common areas relate to their corporate brands. That is, branding is most effective when the entirety of the experience is addressed. Many building owners today are responding to Millennial-focused tenants by providing a supportive backdrop for the tenant experience.
Amenities that support this shared goal include lobbies with Wi-Fi and seating areas, and tenant lounges that provide an alternate workspace vibe for employees who want a change of scene. Modern design in elevator lobbies and hallways also makes a building more appealing to the Millennial workforce. Additionally, conveniences such as in-building health clubs and other amenities make it easier for employers to offer the “whole package” to employees seeking an optimal work experience.
As companies seek effective ways to improve employee engagement, they’ll continue to look at how the workplace shapes the employee experience and contributes to employees’ sense of purpose. Building owners who provide the right environment for thoughtfully branded workplaces will be one step ahead in the race for tenants.
About the Author
Scott Delano is a Chicago-based corporate interiors leader with 25 years of experience in planning, architecture and interiors. As Design Director, Scott is charged with leading, inspiring and growing the interiors practice of Wright Heerema Architects.