Workspace Needs

By Keti Malkoski

The term workspace is an all-inclusive concept that refers to the many types and styles of work environments and behaviours. The design and management of a workspace directly - and indirectly - influences day-to-day + strategic business + people outcomes including job satisfaction, morale + productivity.

Workspace is an enabler that requires a human-centred design that aims to enhance the employee and team experience. The best workspace design will utilise the workspace as an active tool for work effectiveness, by ensuring that the space is designed for its users. By developing an understanding of employees’ requirements in the workspace, and by using this knowledge to drive workspace design, employers can make their workspace more attuned to their people – thereby improving overall performance. What Schiavello’s People and Culture Consulting team refer to as the “Workspace Needs Model” considers the three key concepts that influence what employees need from their workspace; their cultural expectations, personal preferences and functional needs.

Cultural Expectations

An organisation’s culture shapes the work environment, work relationships and work processes. Cultural expectations encompass the behaviours that are expected and educated by management; the relevance of relationships and strength of the social environment; and the level of trust and autonomy within the organisation that then influences the amount of choice and control employees have in the space. The cultural expectations that are held, and reinforced, within an organisation influence what individuals and teams expect from their workspace. In today’s workforce, there is a push towards greater collaboration and less competitiveness in order to drive performance. To establish this team culture, workspaces need to support knowledge-based work and foster multidisciplinary and cross-functional collaboration across the organisation.

Personal Preferences

Personal preferences are one of the greatest drivers of workspace behaviours; particularly in a flexible working environment. An employee’s personal preferences are impacted by their personality and will influence their level of distractibility and social comfort, their psycho-social comfort as well as their ergonomic preferences within the space. Just as each employee will have their own personality, they too will have their own perceptions of what they want from the workspace and how they prefer to work. Previous research, conducted by Schiavello’s People and Culture Consulting, has found significant correlations between personality and work modes. Specifically, employees that view themselves as extraverted were more likely to do work with socialisation, whereas employees that perceive themselves as introverts were more likely to do focused work and preferred privacy in the workspace. It’s necessary to acknowledge that introversion - extraversion is just one dimension of personality; there are many other measurements of personality that People and Culture Consulting can test for within an organisation.

Functional Needs

Functional needs consider the functionality of the workspace to support people’s tasks. An employee’s functional needs are based on their detailed knowledge of the work they do and relate to an employee’s level of interdependence and connectivity with team members, their need for privacy and whether they are tethered to a workpoint because of the tools or resources they require to complete their work. The most suitable way to acquire accurate information on functional requirements is to obtain feedback directly from employees about what they need from the physical environment in order to support their work. Just as each individual employee can have differing needs, each team can also have different requirements in order to complete their tasks. It’s important to generate ‘team profiles’ of workspace needs to assist in designing a team’s space. By doing so, an organisation can equip each team with spaces that are tailored to the type of work they need to do. If workspace design doesn’t consider the workspace needs of its employees, the physical environment can not only challenge the success of the organisational objectives but can also negatively impact employees’ productivity and commitment to the organisation. Offering flexibility and choice in the workspace design is a constructive way of responding to the diverse workforce segments and their differing needs.