Workforce & Workplace
Redefining the Workplace Experience
Emerson Foster
Emerson Foster
Vice President, Human Resources,
Corporate Services
Sodexo North America

In the past, workplaces were designed with the employer in mind. The goal was to get the most productivity out of each employee—often without taking into account the quality of those employees lives. But as a new generation enters the workforce, ideas about how to keep employees productive are changing. We now know that employee engagement boosts productivity over the long term and that creativity keeps companies competitive in a changing world. As a result, workplace design is evolving to put the employee experience first.

Today’s designers and strategists are rethinking all elements to encourage creativity and foster an engaging environment. The latest design principles make the workplace experience human-centered rather than process-centered. This doesn’t just mean changing the physical space; workplace-experience design takes into account every aspect of an employee’s interactions with their work, including the built environment, technology, amenities, virtual work, and more.

Today, employees expect more from their employers, so organizations are looking for strategic ways to put their employees’ experience first and keep them happy, healthy and productive. Our recent Workplace Trends Report found that many organizations are now hiring dedicated staff to lead the experience design. These staff members use workplace-experience design to help organizations stay competitive and find ways to improve the quality of life of their employees. Placing a primary focus on the employee experience within an organization helps attract – and retain – the best and brightest talent, and helps enable employees to feel and perform better.


Designing the Workplace Experience

Designing a workplace experience can mean making changes to any process or aspect of the workplace. First, define the problem, whether it’s low employee engagement, low productivity or something else. Second, define the population whose experience matters – is it employees, clients, visitors? From there, examine the experience of the target group using research and other in-depth methods, such as focus groups and interviews. Once you’ve gathered insights, you’ll be able to develop and implement solutions.

Remember that when it comes to experience design, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.  Culture, geography, workplace size, industry, and employee population, are all factors that play into what experience will work best. Oftentimes, the design that works best for a flagship location may need to be altered for smaller, regional or satellite offices. Even if experiences at two locations differ, they should still align with the parent company’s brand.


Workplace Design Best Practices

Many of the most successful workplaces use these new ideas in workplace design. Here are a few of the most commonly used best practices:

  • Bring the outdoors in. People spend 93 percent of their time indoors and 70 percent of their waking hours seated. Bringing natural elements inside –and encouraging employees to be active and move around—can increase quality of life. This doesn’t just mean the tactical use of plants. Design lighting to mimic the natural world, and designed the environment to encourage movement throughout the space.
  • Create a sense of play. Many workplaces are evolving to add amenities and create a sense of play at work. Google, which has long been at the forefront of workplace experience design, incorporates fun features into its campus, including sliding boards and cocooned meeting rooms. They’ve even experimented with transformable meeting rooms.
  • Let employees be nomadic. Thanks to technological advances and cloud technologies, human-centered workplace experiences can let employees work from anywhere. The physical design of an office space can also give employees a sense of movement. Open layouts with common spaces encourage collaboration with others in the organization.


Does your organization incorporate workplace-experience design? If so, how? Share with us in the comments below.

2 comments on “Redefining the Workplace Experience

  • Matthew Ross, AIA says:

    I work on a corporate campus with over 3500 employees on site. There are no offices, no assigned workspaces and lots of choices for meetings, heads down work, casual gatherings, and outside seating. This allows for “constructive easedropping”. As corporations compete for young talent, their workspaces will need to borrow from university campus design.

  • Joanna Kereakes says:

    It is great to hear that we are moving the needle in how we can best work. Traditional setting may be the best for some, but to your point “one size does not fit all”. Team leaders should take many factors into account when working and scheduling their teams. I’m my current and previous role I have been able to have flexibility in where and how I work. Of course there are times you have to be, where you have to be, but I also have taken the opportunity to make suggestions to seek flexibility in where and how the job gets done. Everyone has a voice and it is important that as leaders we take the time to “listen”. Thanks Emerson.


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