Designing for Job Satisfaction

Is it possible to design the work environment to improve the job satisfaction of the people who work there. This roundup of scientific research looks at studies that make a direct correlation between space and satisfaction.

In this era of what may be – or may not be, depending on what data you look at – ‘The Great Resignation’, it’s clear that people are spending more time than usual thinking and talking about how satisfied they are with their jobs, whether are not they are actually quitting them. Job satisfaction is not the sole factor determining if people decide to look for a new job, but it definitely has a big effect on whether people do so.

Veitch (2018) reports the core connections linking workplace design to job satisfaction and organisational success when she states: ‘Environmental satisfaction influences job satisfaction (more environmental satisfaction has been linked to more job satisfaction) and higher levels of job satisfaction, in turn, boost organisational commitment and intent to stay in a job.’ Higher levels of job satisfaction have also been tied to ‘more satisfied customers, and — importantly— better business unit financial performance.’


Supporting the work we do

Neuroscience research makes it clear that workplace design can influence job satisfaction. The most important way that a workplace can boost job satisfaction is to actually support the work that employees are asked to do, all in a pleasant way that makes it clear to employees that they are valued and their contributions to the organisation are respected.

That means, for example, that there need to be places on site where people can truly work without distractions, meet with others in real life or via technology that works, and take a short break to mentally refresh, for instance.


Sending the right signals

Here are some examples of how to send these positive signals to users:

Materials: Do materials in use continue to look good over time (developing a patina is an important aspect of biophilic design, so doing so is fine)?  Are they readily cleanable?


Toilets: Are the toilets designed so that they’re comfortable places to spend time, as needed?  Again, are they clean and well maintained?  When spaces are well kept, people feel valued.


Plants: Are there plants around that look healthy?  Keeping plants healthy requires care, and using resources to keep plants in good shape is an important signal of management attitudes generally.


Expectation: Does the workplace look basically as would be expected? Are users to be able to pick out elements of the space as similar to those of successful companies that they’ve been exposed to in the past. Here’s an example: if marketing groups at high-performing firms in the industry generally have a team room that they alone control, make sure the marketing group at your firm has a team room, if at all possible.


Choice: Do employees have choices? Particularly about where and how they work?  When you give people choices, you let them know you have confidence that they’ll choose the at-the-moment appropriate option.


Culture: Are the spaces and settings provided aligned with organisational culture? For example, for a market culture which is focused on winning (by buying commodities used in manufacturing inexpensively, by trading stocks at just the right moments, or something else), have you provided the massive screens required for all to keep up on markets?


This article is based on a research piece ' Research roundup: how can we design in job satisfaction? authored by Sally Augustin, for WORKTECH Academy. Workplace Futures Group is a Corporate Member of the Academy, which is a global online platform and membership organisation for the future of work and workplace design.


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