The Human Workplace

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The human experience

A 2014 study by the University of Warwick discovered that happy employees are 12 per cent more productive, while unhappy workers are 10 per cent less productive than the average (Oswald, Proto, Sgroi, 2014). It makes logical sense that a working environment should create that impact on the people who work there.

When I asked Neil Usher, purveyor of the Workessence workplace blog and then director of workplace at Sky, how he would define a human work-place, his response was:

Perhaps a more interesting question is why a space intended to be inhabited by human beings wouldn’t be conceived as a human workplace.

The use of the word inhabit is an interesting and fundamental one. Because we can now work from home (or anywhere else), we need to be at home at work. We need to be able to have the optimum experience that enables and actively supports us to do our best work at any given time, in a world where defined hours are being eroded fast.

Human workplaces are places that enable people to thrive. When people thrive, organisations thrive too. This is the most powerful reason why the actual place where people come to align with the organisation matters. It’s their touchpoint with the platform.

It’s where the connection between people and organisation is strongest. It’s the home of the community.

Workplace as a clubhouse

Every strong community has a central meeting place that performs a function. It’s where the community congregates to do what it does, in the most connected way. It’s where the bond is most powerful. Thinking of the workplace in this way creates a new dynamic. Clubhouses aren’t places of transaction, they are places of belonging. Far from a location purely to exchange hours for time, modern workplaces need to facilitate work and emphasise the connection between people and business. They need to make people want to be there and provide a benefit in that.

This benefit can be increased through enhancing collaboration, creating a more intense connection, fostering a sense of belonging, providing better opportunities for productivity, creating choice, offering social connections, or any other way a workplace can create the right UX for its specific…

Being part of something

There are two things that a physical workplace is particularly well-placed to foster: 1) maintaining the connection between people and business that enables them to do their best work; and
2) fostering the collective identity by creating a sense of belonging.

By providing the most intense, immersive experience possible for all people, the workplace in the broadest sense can provide this. People-first organisations are enablers rather than controllers, and in order to

enable, the experience people receive is essential. Positive experience enhances connection, and strong connection makes the community around the business more coherent.

The more coherent a community is, the better it functions. The physical workplace acts with the virtual tech and comms that bind the community in and around it to create the right experience.

That experience needs to:

reflect the shared vision;

drive the right behaviours;

enable best work;

enhance the connection between people and business;

create the conditions for the business and its people to thrive;

unleash everyone through freedom within parameters.

For this to happen, not only does the workplace need to embody the best of the collective identity, it needs to recognise that, as individuals, people work in different ways at different times. Our best work is not a linear thing, it’s a dynamic thing that changes daily. The conditions that best support my contribution today may be the same ones that block what I need to do tomorrow. Equally, what helps one person to work well, may prevent another from doing so.