Workspace is an invaluable tool to create engagement, inspire innovation, and productivity. The question is, “what exactly does an optimal space look like?” 

Employees today enjoy finding purpose and fulfillment in their work above all else—even over pay and other benefits. Part of this feeling comes from the bond of trust between employee and employer. Employers often think of how they can make their business’s vision clear to their employees—and how they can show their teams that they are valued and entrusted with carrying out that vision. 

Employees are aware of everything around them, grabbing meaning from explicit and implicit signals. Through an employer’s actions, signals are sent to their employees that either reinforce or disrupt a regular level of trust. 

That’s because today’s management styles are built on trust and autonomy rather than on command and control. Physical space can reinforce or hurt these efforts. For example, if your employees feel pressure to sit (or stand) in one location all day, every day, they may start to wonder, “Does my employer value me based on my performance or my existence in the office?” 

The traditional office layout, in which a desk is used to provide an employee with everything they need, where everyone on their team can see them is changing. We have the technology to work from any location, whether in an office building or around the world.

We need to consider flexibility and autonomy in the workplace experience because when people feel trusted enough to work when and how they want, as well as trusting the surroundings they are in, it benefits both the person and the employer. Let’s take a look at more ways in which your space can send signals of trust and how to make sure those signals aren’t getting lost.

A workspace that supports trust and independence

Trust starts with autonomy, so you must be able to choose where, when, and how you work. Next, there should be a level of physical and mental comfort to support that independence such as where you sit, daylight, and have support from your team.

There are two key factors that support the feeling of autonomy and comfort in the workspace:

  1. Being able to move around in the workplace, across workplaces.

  2. You are able to move your furniture around to meet your needs.

This could mean working at a coworking space that provides you with a layout with different spaces that encourages members to utilize them when, and how they’d like. For example, instead of everyone having their own desk in an office, staffers share a workspace that features a variety of options that are accessible by anyone at any time. These options can include common areas with comfortable seating, café-style tables for informal meetings, phone booths for private calls, and quiet areas for focusing. 

Flexible workspace requires leadership support

When leaders in the office say that their teams can be flexible in work style yet continue to work in a traditional way, it unmotivates their employees to try something new. Research shows that when management actions are supportive and in line with a more flexible workplace concept, employees more positively adopt these actions as well.

Here is something employers can show employees in the workplace to show trust:

  1. Technology must support the many ways in which people work. Remote work, for example, often results in weird meeting experiences in terms of who is in person and who is not. A level playing field that’s supported by technology should exist between mobile and in-office workers. Before individuals and teams can get into remote positions, they must first have trust. One way to do this is to provide a few weeks of in-person onboarding for remote team members. Research shows that when we make in-person connections, digital interactions become easier.

  2. The workspace should feel natural. When you sit down, is there an outlet close for your computer and phone? Can you easily find the kitchen and restroom? You should also count on your workspace to make work easier rather than more complex, building your muscle memory and recall. Almost all coworking spaces offer this type of environment.

  3. The ability to move around the workspace when and how you want also helps keep your brain active and imaginative (think walking meetings). A recent neuropsychiatry study showed that when your body starts moving, almost all regions of your brain “light up,” signaling improved creativity and problem-solving ability. In this way, you’re finding a “new perspective”. 

The future of work is here and now. When employers support workplace flexibility with their own actions, providing a framework for employees to feel supported, valued, and heard, both employees and employers can truly thrive. For more on our core philosophy of creating a life, not just a living, discover how energy plays another key role in elevating the workplace experience for all.

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