How your building could promote better employee performance

Tuesday, 27 March, 2018

How your building could promote better employee performance

According to new research, positive workplace psychology is not just related to HR functions, but also the building design, interiors and social environments within a workspace.

A study by the University of Sydney’s Coaching Psychology Unit has introduced the concept of a Positive Built Workplace Environment (PBWE) — a holistic approach to workplace wellbeing.

The Towards a Positive Psychology of Buildings and Workplace Community: Delineating the Benefits of the Positive Built Workplace Environment study was conducted by Professors Anthony Grant, Sean O’Connor, Ingrid Studholme and Ariella Berger.

The paper includes an in-depth qualitative study conducted at International Towers, Tower Two and Tower Three, at Barangaroo in Sydney as a case study for how a PBWE promotes sustainable high performance — that is both organisational performance and employee wellbeing.

Key findings of the report were that a well-designed working layout and ‘green’ working environment can:

  • increase organisational productivity by 19%,
  • increase individual performance on cognitive tasks by more than 61%,
  • reduce respiratory complaints and headaches by 30% and help people sleep better.

According to the study, a PBWE puts the onus on the building property management team to move beyond the mere profit motive to actively promote positive values such as inclusiveness, respect and engagement. The three basic human needs of self-determination or autonomy, competence and relatedness being brought together by the design and management of a new generation of workplaces.

“For many years, we’ve seen the benefits of positive psychology in the workplace, including values-based leadership and values-based workplace environment or design on employee wellbeing. However, it is only now we are seeing the next wave of this workplace shift, where the two high-impact fields are brought together in a powerful integrated model,” said Grant.

“We are also seeing a more sophisticated approach to the structure of the workplace environment beginning to emerge where open-plan, flowing workspaces are balanced with accessible private rooms and workspaces. This is facilitating a shift from a hot desk set-up to a more genuinely cooperative workplace environment.

“Beyond this, there are now fantastic examples of where this purposefully wellbeing-oriented environment is structured to allow serendipitous ways of meeting, which is, of course, where we see some of the best workplace innovations emerge.”

In its quest to promote positive values within the workplace, International Towers’ management has adopted measures such as moving to only source lobby umbrellas from a company that can provide proof of ethical manufacture and supply chain. As a result of this culture shift, Tower Two and Tower Three now have a 10% turnover of security staff, compared to the industry average of 50–400% per year.

Tower Two lobby

Work environments across International Towers, Tower Two and Tower Three are designed to encourage and inspire cross-functional team interaction — including open spaces, visible gathering spaces, transparent activity rooms and connectivity between staff areas and event tenancies.

International Towers General Manager Tony Byrne said the savings to industry should not be underestimated.

“By taking an inside-out approach to wellbeing, employers would be rewarded with greater innovation and customer-facing outcomes, while reducing work-related stress at the same time,” he said.

“Creating optimal conditions for employees, in collaborative settings such as International Towers, has an added bonus of being a drawcard for new and top talent, particularly millennials.”

Image credit: ©Mikhail Kalakutskiy/Dollar Photo Club

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