Smaller Workplaces: An Employee-Centric Shift

Employee satisfaction can impact any company, but it can be a challenge for smaller businesses to achieve. There are affordable ways, however, to create a workplace that will keep employees happy and productive. David Diaz of JLL South Florida offers tips on how to meet expectations.
David Diaz, Vice President of Project and Development Services, JLL South Florida
David Diaz, Vice President of Project and Development Services, JLL South Florida

Workplaces are ever-evolving spaces that challenge not only designers’ and architects’ imaginations but also small business owners’ wallets. In order to keep up with emerging trends that attract and retain employees, a workplace needs constant upgrades.  That can be expensive and thus easily dismissed by the owner of a small business, who may prefer to focus on development of the business itself. But providing the right workplace can improve productivity, thereby favorably impacting the business itself.

With more than 12 years of experience in project management and architecture, JLL South Florida’s new vice president of project and development services points out how employers are doing more with less. David Diaz talked with Commercial Property Executive about the convenience of having a limited office space and how small business owners can take advantage of this “new normal.”

What is determining employers to shift to smaller workplaces?

Diaz: The need to streamline operational expenses, develop more proficient space and promote employee collaboration are the main factors driving this shift. As I speak with employers across various industries, the conversation over the past ten years has evolved to how can we make our employees and guests better understand our brand and culture? This is mainly achieved by listening to team members and developing space that is not only personal, but also provides comforts seen and experienced in the home. 

How can employers do more with less?

Diaz: Employers can do more with less space by making conscious decisions with a workplace strategist and architect on office needs, how people have traditionally used space and what the new models will be for use of space. Some example areas that are really testing the boundaries of adaptive use are private offices and dining/pantry areas. Private offices are being designed in a way that when the primary user is not in the office any employee can utilize the space as a meeting area, telephone room and/or cold calling space. Meanwhile the dining/pantry area can become a collaborative presentation room or a gaming area for employees. Ultimately, less becomes more because employers are charged with developing creative space with what they already have.

Can small workplaces boost employee performance and productivity? How do small workplaces impact overall employee experience?

Diaz: Space is key in employee performance and productivity. I believe that people become more efficient when boundaries are created. Space is a commodity and limiting it automatically allows employees to create office standards and a culture that is conducive to the environment. A smaller workplace allows for a more collaborative environment where employees are able to not only work together, but socialize more as opposed to sitting in a closed-off cubicle alone for eight hours.

What are the main characteristics of a small modern workplace?

Diaz: I would say that the main characteristics of small modern workspace is adaptable open collaboration area. The keys to a successful implementation include furniture selection, placement of audio-visual equipment and lighting, and flexibility of space.

What minor renovations could employers make in order to enhance employee satisfaction in a small workplace?

Diaz: There are a variety of different ways employers can approach enhancing a smaller workplace. For instance, wall finishes, furniture and lighting are key elements in creating space that will enhance employee satisfaction. Color and texture can really transform how people feel in a space. Painting a wall, adding wall covering or simply adding artwork can boost employees’ morale, while updating furniture can easily capture space, force document purging and allow for employee engagement and ownership on proposed design. Lighting will always update the quality of environment, so employers should consider developing a plan that utilizes natural light and optimal light levels.

The suburbs-versus-cities debate about workplace locations has been on the lips of many. What are the advantages and disadvantages of having a small urban workplace versus a suburban one?

Diaz: Small urban workplaces versus suburban is all about the company culture and environment that the employer is trying to create. One major advantage of an urban office is that it’s going to immerse its employee’s insight into the ‘what’s trending now’ vs the suburban office which will require an investment of time to learn the trends. A major disadvantage of an urban office is cost of real estate, commute and ease of access. Many clients are beginning to really assess how companies utilize space and employee satisfaction. People are no longer just thinking about what the quality of the product or service they are interested in; they are interested in the entire process and company.

Co-working spaces are a popular modern workplace trend that small business owners have embraced. What should the main features of such a space be?

Diaz: I think the main feature of any modern workplace needs to be collaborative areas that are adaptive. This space needs to stimulate the mind via textiles, furniture, imagery and views. In addition, it needs to have surfaces that invite collaboration, such as large tables, writing surfaces and the latest digital technology. Lastly, the space needs to provide a comfort element, such as snacks and drinks, to help employees feel as though they are at home.

How long do you expect this trend to go on?

Diaz: I think the approach to streamlining office space and making it more adaptive is not a trend, but instead the new normal. The reality in this is how business is going to be done moving forward, especially for small businesses and startups. People are not looking at big spaces anymore, they are looking to make smaller spaces more adaptive and interactive. In the future, if a company purchases a larger than usual space, you’ll know it’s because they need it, not want it.

Images courtesy of JLL