When you hear the word “office,” what do you picture? A sea of cubicles separated by six-foot walls? Low ceilings and artificial lighting? Strangely patterned carpeting? Gray upon gray upon even more gray? I’m depressed just thinking about it, let alone feeling like I can do my best work in it.

Fortunately, many companies today are recognizing what a big impact the physical workspace has on the employee experience, which in turn impacts employee engagement and, ultimately, business success. At Padilla, when we talk about designing the employee experience, one of the three main areas we look at is how employees “live” – or how the physical environment supports employees’ needs. From building design and layout to furniture and décor, every element of the physical space can influence employee behaviors. And as more companies turn away from those drab offices of yesteryear, they’re looking for ways to design workspaces that will engage and inspire their employees.

From building design and layout to furniture and décor, every element of the physical space can influence employee behaviors.Click To Tweet

Take, for example, Capital One, whose 2018 Work Environment Survey findings were recently featured in an article by Work Design Magazine. The study found that two in three employees (66 percent) feel that workplace design is just as or even more critical than workplace location. Here are some other key findings from their study:

Flexibility – in both workspace and schedule – continues to be a top priority.

Most employees (85 percent) feel that flexible workspace design is important, with 83 percent saying they are more productive when they change locations during the day. Flexible hours remains a key driver as well – 73 percent of workers say a flexible schedule is among their top two reasons to stay with a company.

Office design drives innovation.

It’s hard to be innovative when you’re working in gray cubicle land, right? Capital One’s study found that the majority of employees (79%) believe companies can’t encourage innovation unless their workplace environment is innovative. And that belief is even stronger at the executive level, where 87 percent agree that office design is key to encouraging innovation.

Natural light is the most desired design element.

Does the thought of working somewhere without windows make you feel immediately claustrophobic? You’re not alone – natural light ranks as the most desired design element for workspaces (57 percent), followed by easily reconfigurable furniture and spaces (37 percent); artwork and creative imagery (30 percent); collaborative spaces (30 percent); and a tie (25 percent) between bold colors and spaces for rest and relaxation.

It’s not just about pleasing Millennials.

It’s worth noting that Capital One’s study found only minor differences between the generations when it comes to workplace design preferences. Overall, the study showed that people of all ages recognize the importance of having a pleasant work environment – so keep that in mind the next time you hear someone say their company is only changing the workplace to make the Millennials happy!

So, what does all of this mean for companies? For starters, it does NOT mean that you need to go off and build a new office, or even move to a different one. But it does mean that you should take a good look at your office’s physical environment, and ask yourself, “Is this somewhere employees are excited to come to every day – a place that inspires them to do their best work?” If the answer is no, perhaps it’s time to think about changes that can be made, before your employees leave for greener (and less gray) pastures.

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