The impact of office design on staff wellbeing and productivity has been a hot topic for decades within most sectors of business. From blog posts, to white papers and government research being undertaken, there is plenty to read through.
From the open planned office space in the 1920’s to the cubicle filled corporate space and the swing back around to open plan, collaborative spaces - whilst office spaces can have a significant impact on the wellbeing of existing employees, what impact does this have on the recruitment process itself?
Recruitment is a lengthy process, and I would argue that it starts long before a company is even looking for a new hire. Particularly in the field of Architecture, I have noticed that reputation is key for a lot of Architects, Technicians and Designers (design candidates). Architecture is a very well connected industry and in a lot of cases, I have noticed that design candidates will have an opinion on what it’s like to work for particular practices prior to even meeting them.
The majority of clients I visit pride themselves on their open, collaborative working environments, and how much effort they have put in to achieving this. From serviced offices with gyms and gin bars to colourful spaces with living walls and an office bar, to vast spaces in soaring towers and cleverly designed workplaces to make the most of small spaces, there is a common theme in mind.
In our Salary and Employment Review published in 2018, we noted that ‘medium new school’ practices have a huge focus on people, which in turn has a positive impact on projects. It is largely these practices who seem to be focusing on collaborative, creative workspaces and in terms of recruitment: we’re often asked to find people with that team spirited, innovative approach to work, who in turn are looking for that kind of working environment.
Similarly with ‘medium old school’ practices, who we have found to be more project focused, seem to have less of a focus on open plan collaborative offices. What I found even more interesting is how this correlates with a study completed by Brill et al (2001) which showed that 65% of people in an open plan office reported that they were frequently distracted by other people’s conversations, and this decreased in line with a decrease in the amount of people in a work space.
This is heavily reflected in the conversations I have with design candidates following their interviews. It is certainly the case that office design is not paramount to everybody – some just want to get in, and get on with their work, absolutely perfect for medium old school practices! Others are really influenced by the ‘vibe’ of an office, and the perception they get of how they will feel whilst in a particular work space. It has even been the case where two similar offers were on the table for an exceptional candidate, by similar practices with similar projects, and the final decision came down to the not only the lovely people who ran the practices, but finally the workspace of the chosen practices was what gave them an edge.
Craig Jones of Boon Brown has noticed a significant impact that office design has had on the recruitment process. Boon Brown moved into a larger, serviced office with plenty of break out areas, a gym space and terrace bar for staff to enjoy! “We feel much more confident in selling ourselves and who we are to candidates” which in turn he feels correlates with the increase in the rate of offers accepted when hiring. He did also note that location has also been a key factor in this, equally to office quality.
There is by no means an ‘incorrect’ approach to office design, of course! Different people thrive in different environments - that is what makes candidates and companies so unique, and this is the beauty of matching people with practices.
I have seen first-hand the immense impact of office design on both the recruitment process, staff retention and productivity. From my experience working with practices, happy people means happy projects, and some of the best design candidates out there may base their final decision on an offer on the working environment of their chosen studio.
As Milton Glazer once said “There are three responses to a piece of design: yes, no and wow. Wow is the one to aim for”.
This is incredibly important for the projects practices are designing for clients, and I think it should be just as important for the studio’s themselves.
Rebecca Clark - Lead Consultant