Office Space: What Do Employees Really Want?

New office

Beer fridges? Ping pong tables? A multicoloured slide? When it comes to the office, what do employees really want?

When you search for ‘best offices’ you’ll come across the usual suspects: Google’s trademark slides, Airbnb’s living-room-esque meeting spaces and Lego’s table football nooks. It’s all a bit cookie-cutter creative: make it quirky, throw in free food and your millennial workforce will be happy, right? 

Sure, an office space that reflects the values and personality – in short, the brand – of a company is crucial. But all too often the physical space seems to be there to paper over areas where company cultures come up short. 

Good Culture > Cool Office 

Employees care about general work satisfaction and job security more than office aesthetics. Yet all too often companies think a hipster-chique space with a beer fridge and a few hammocks will equal happy employees. 

How wrong they are. 

A 2016 study on employee job satisfaction found the top five most important contributors to job satisfaction were being treated respectfully by everyone, pay, benefits, job security and trust.

Simply put: People want to be treated well and paid adequately. No amount of ball pits or tube-carriages-turned-meeting-rooms will make up for company cultures that fail to do both.

Still, for a company that does have its priorities in order, the office can be an important and authentic extension of its core values, and a way to encourage creativity and collaboration. 

So, what would that office look like? 

What Employees Really Want 

It might sound surprising, but research shows that what employees want from their physical workplace is often quite basic: comfortable chairs, natural light, quiet, and a stimulating environment. 

That’s right, people care more about being able to work comfortably than having access to a ping pong table! Ping pong tables and sofa areas might catch the eye of a potential recruit, but they’re not what employees want in the long term. 

Still, I don’t think these figures tell the whole story. Your environment has a major impact on your productivity and mental wellbeing. So the question is, once you’ve got the right culture, and have satisfied these basic requirements for a suitable office, what more can you do to make employees feel happy and comfortable, and to reflect your values as a company?

A New Office for GrantTree

As you probably know by now, for us at GrantTree, our Open Culture is at the heart of what we do. And as it happens we will be moving office soon, having outgrown our current set up. This is an interesting opportunity to find a space that better reflects who we are and how we work. 

Our current office already does this to some degree. We have an open-plan office, a nap nook, a sofa corner with a games console and a cafe area. As our office manager, Sarah Beck, explains: “We need a space for people to work, eat, play and chill.

“Our culture encourages us to be our whole selves at all times and to express who we are. This requires a flexible space that allows people to work in a pattern that suits their personality and the requirements of the projects they are currently working on, be it client calls, creative work or meetings with colleagues.”

Our next office will be structured around the same principles of openness and flexibility. Practically-speaking, this means a bright airy space built for connecting. We have a pretty flexible working policy at GrantTree that allows everyone to work from wherever they want, which means showing your face at the office isn’t a requirement, it’s a choice. As such, it’s a choice that should translate into a great experience.

For Sarah, this goes beyond the physical environment. “Office culture also needs to encompass wellbeing, be that food and drink or activities. With so many companies offering free snacks and a beer fridge as standard, the question is, what can we do that will support motivation and productivity and reflects our company culture.”  

So watch this space. Our next office promises to be an even deeper exploration of our unique culture and premise as a brand to be authentic and true. 

No slides required.

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Lena Weber-Reed
Lena Weber-Reed

Lena is GrantTree's Digital Marketing guru. She has oodles of experience driving award-winning digital campaigns and content for a range of clients including startups, e-commerce companies and a global bank.