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Using workspace design to attract and retain talent

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The UK is suffering a skills shortage. Nearly half of SMEs are struggling to recruit the right IT staff, financial services recruiters predict vacancies will rise by 15.7% and at the STEMtech conference in April, the need to recruit more talent in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is top of the agenda.

So how do organisations attract and retain the best talent? According to Empirica Research, workplace design and facilities are just behind salary as key influences. A quarter of people would take a pay cut for a better workplace. And workplace also plays a major role in retaining that talent, says James Geekie, Design Director, Area Sq Regions. Here are his top 10 tips:

1. Seek professional help

Before embarking on an office design project, seek professional help. A workplace designer gets under the skin of your business, helps you to gather information and develop a brief that reflects your brand and culture, supports your business strategy and is suitable for multiple generations and nationalities.

2. Develop differentiators

Provide a workspace with a ‘wow’ factor that promotes interaction, innovation, collaboration, healthy living, engagement and fun. Could a meeting room be transformed into an outdoor space with astroturf, a beach hut and scenic views on the walls? Would a climbing wall, games room, ball pit, mood lighting or bee keeping on the roof engender collaboration? These differentiators will emotionally engage people and make them want to come to work.

3. Build in versatility

People are motivated and productive if their environment empowers them to choose where and how they work, so offer a variety of spaces designed for a wide range of tasks and activities. This includes areas for group work and collaboration and quiet spaces. The best ideas are the result of an accidental workplace collision and spontaneous discussion, so design workplace pathways to encourage such interaction.

4. Chill-out zones

With boundaries between work and leisure increasingly blurred, provide areas for employees to refuel, socialise and relax. They’ll encourage relationship-building – a key driver in staff retention. Consider gaming rooms, outside space, a café environment and even a bar. Use branding to create different zones and departmental boundaries, it’ll reinforce your company identity.

5. Exercise

Almost half of all workers complain they have a stressful journey to the office. Reduce these stresses with exercise; install cycle racks, showers, changing rooms and lockers. Encourage greater workplace movement with staircases in prominent locations, position close-working departments, printers and water coolers further apart and offer a single eating area.

6. Furniture

Different types of furniture can accentuate the variety of space in your workplace and support people with different working styles. In more formal spaces, use furniture that promotes better posture and circulation, such as sit/stand desks or balance boards. In informal areas, offer bar stools, soft seating, hammocks etc.

7. Technology

Your workplace may have the wow factor, but what about your technology? The IT facilities should be better than what’s available at home. Cater for those who bring their own devices into the workplace.

8. Wellbeing        

Wellbeing isn’t just about choice in where and how to work and exercise movement, it’s about improving and allowing people to control the elements such as lighting and temperature within the workspace. Research from the University of Exeter reveals that employees with control over their workspace are happier and healthier, and up to 32% more productive. Maximise natural daylight, use plants to absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, install inspirational artwork.

9. Eat, drink, be happy

Good coffee and initiatives such as free breakfast cereals, juices and a daily fruit bowl influence a potential employee and create environments for people to create relationships. Reward loyalty with free or discounted gym membership, childcare, healthcare facilities and dry-cleaning services.

10. Location, location, location

Identify where your talent pool is located and consider whether your building, the local amenities and transport links will attract such people. What do your surroundings say about you?

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