How your office space can help acquire top talent

More than ever, employees value personal flexibility and autonomy in the workspace. Here’s what that means

Employees’ expectations of their workplace have changed, thanks to the evolution of technology and the nature of work. More than ever, people want the flexibility and autonomy to choose how and when they work.

This means that for companies to acquire and retain top talent in a competitive hiring landscape, it’s important to recognize physical workspace as a key differentiator. Read on to find out how this shift can set you up for hiring success and improve your overall employer brand. 

Meeting employee demand for flexible workspaces

Research has shown the growing need for companies to consider flexible workspace.

Exhibit A: The importance of the workplace in employee satisfaction is increasing. A recent survey of employees by WeWork and Reuters found that when U.S. workers were asked what would make them more satisfied with their job, the top wish was better work areas/facilities (13 percent), even above higher pay (9 percent), better hours, and more vacation time. 

Flexibility has moved higher on the priority list among job seekers in recent years as well. According to a 2015 survey by Aon, the top characteristics acquiring employees to a job are pay and benefits (56 percent) followed by flexibility (35 percent)—and that need for autonomy beat out meaningful work (29 percent) and having a fun place to work (24 percent).

Especially for companies looking to acquire millennial talent, flexibility is not something that can be put off much longer. In Deloitte’s 2016 Millennial survey, 88 percent of respondents said they wished they could have more flexibility in when and how they work. 

Creating spaces where all employees feel comfortable

Creating a flexible work environment, in which your employees feel they can choose to work in the environments that best suit them, sends a clear signal that your company prioritizes employee experience. In fact, in one survey of more than 3,000 U.S. full-time workers by LinkedIn, the top factor generating workplace pride was if one’s workplace promoted flexibility (51 percent). 

In addition, the physical workspace can embody your company’s philosophy on diversity and inclusion. “Committing to diversity means creating a workplace where everyone feels comfortable, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual identity,” explains Jen Nguyen, head of real estate at Pinterest. In other words, a flexible workplace design can reveal your compassion for all employees; they have the freedom to move around the space, feel comfortable, and enjoy the amenities that the company offers. Some features to consider when adding flexibility to your workplace include:

  • a range of workspaces that meet various working styles (e.g., collaboration areas, quiet booths, soft seating, rooms for private conversations)
  • employee breakout areas for connection and communal meals
  • restrooms where everyone feels comfortable
  • mothers’ rooms
  • accessibility for those with disabilities

Empowering employees to do their best work

AECOM, the multinational engineering giant, is one company that’s making this shift to provide more flexibility and autonomy to their teams within the workspace. Luigi Sciabarrasi, senior vice president and global real estate lead at AECOM, and his team studied different types of workers and individual departments in the company, held town halls, and got employees involved in coming up with solutions to make everyone work more efficiently. The result: AECOM has started transforming their real estate portfolio to activity-based working (ABW) spaces that have a wide range of configurations, from desks to phone booths to formal and informal meeting areas.

“ABW allows employees to choose how and where they work best within our office space,” says Sciabarrasi. “Through this approach, not only have we been able to listen and respond to what our employees need, but we’ve been able to drop 5 million square feet of real estate by optimizing our portfolio.”

At Alimama, the digital marketing platform that’s part of the Alibaba Group, the pace of work can be intense, according to Meg Chen, general manager of media strategic development, and general manager of marketing and PR at Alimama.

That’s one of the reasons why Alimama moved into WeWork China Overseas International Center in Shanghai last year. The office includes all the space types the team needs to be inspired and productive—no matter the deadlines and goals they’re working toward. Alimama’s space includes open places to collaborate, conference rooms, phone booths, and quiet nooks. 

“WeWork provides a comfortable vibe that feels a bit like home,” says Chen. “I’m very happy to have my team working out of here, embracing the environment. The space makes it easy for them to focus and it helps with work efficiency.” 

For talent, your workplace is a selling point

When job seekers visit your offices, they will form an instant impression about trying to envision what their working life might be like. Will they see energized and friendly staff members collaborating in vibrant spaces? Sleek conference areas for meetings or cozy private spaces for individual work? The answer can help determine whether or not prospective candidates accept your job offer.

WeWork offers companies of all sizes space solutions that help solve their biggest business challenges.

Dawn Papandrea is a freelance writer who covers work, personal finance, and higher education. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including Family Circle and Follow her on Twitter.

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