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Happiness - The Greatest Gift Firms Can Give?

24 November 2017 | Updated 01 January 1970

From bricks and mortar to the heart and soul of the workplace, Marie Puybaraud, Global Head of Research at JLL Corporate Solutions, attempts to decode the happiness at work conundrum.

Everyone wants to be happy at work. A growing number of forward thinking companies are starting to recognise the importance of happiness in the workplace.

JLL research shows that employees who are engaged, empowered and fulfilled are more productive in the workplace.


For s/he's a jolly good fellow

Google is an example of one such company that is taking note and has appointed a Chief Happiness Officer (CHO) or Jolly Good Fellow as the role is officially known. The CHO is responsible for a range of happiness initiatives including providing company perks, such as free lunches, nap pods and onsite haircuts, alongside monitoring the day-to-day feelings of employees.


Virgin asks

Other companies are also launching initiatives designed to boost happiness and morale while engaging their staff. Virgin, for instance, offers its staff unlimited holidays and launched an employee consultation for the redesign of its offices.


With Virgin’s consultation in mind, what role does real estate play in the work place and is it possible to design an office that is capable of boosting the happiness of its occupiers?

The answer is yes. But it goes beyond wheeling in a pool table or installing a novelty slide. In fact, JLL’s recent report ‘Workplace Powered by Human Experience’, which examined workplace attitudes around the world, found that only 12% of the 7,300 respondents felt that their office should facilitate games, while almost 70% thought that focusing on happiness could make the best work environment.

The report found that employees don’t necessarily need the 'physical perks’ but perhaps want 'emotional ‘perks’. They want to feel happy, appreciated and have the ability to learn at work, in offices that facilitate efficient working rather than hindering it.

As Olivier Ghienne, former HR, performance and forecast director at energy company Engie has put it previously: 'Staff aspire to feel good, to break their daily routine…and to feel trusted and accepted. To foster this sense of community, it is vital to reflect on the matter of happiness at work, emotion and wonder'.


Heart and soul

Thus, the office is no longer simply about bricks and mortar, it’s about the heart and soul of the building alongside the organisation that it houses. Driving happiness at work requires a change of mindset that goes beyond the traditional, physical realms of real estate -  human experience should be at the centre of office design, helping to harness the true potential of real estate and what is capable of.


But what can a business actually do to ensure its office design increases productivity by promoting the happiness of its employees?

To start with, companies need to be attuned to what their employees actually want from their workspaces. According to JLL’s research, significant proportions of workers around the world want to drop into spaces designed to aid concentration (47%), find places to recharge their energy (40%) and escape their desks (37%).

A happy office designed with the human experience at its heart ensures that its employees are able to work effectively and productively. However, almost 10% of workers around the world don’t feel that their workstation enables them to work effectively, a figure as high as 17% in France. Companies need to address such concerns, whether it is through the diversity of work settings, access to co-working spaces or simply nurturing a sense of well-being within the workplace.


Wants and needs

Promoting happiness is not always a simple tick box exercise achieved with the quick addition of bean bag-filled ‘breakout spaces’, it requires firms to be aware of the changing needs of its diverse workforce and what its employees want and need. Whilst some employees, for instance, are prepared to let go of their allocated workstation for a hot-desk environment (over a third in the UK – 37%), not everyone is prepared to make such a change. Certain groups of employees such as millennials or managers, tend to appreciate communal spaces more than others, whereas others appreciate secluded spaces that enable them to meditate and switch off (43% of German workers).

In this vein, the new Sky campus in Osterley, London, replete with a gym, dry cleaning facilities and hair dressing salon, reflects the diversity of its staff’s interest and places their well-being at the heart of its design.


Workplace density

When it comes to workplace density, the research has pinpointed a relationship between workspace density and employee effectiveness. Open plan offices with a density of less than 50 people per shared zone allow employees to work effectively. Above that, effectiveness begins to drop. An ideal work environment should combine a blend of collaborative space and support services to drive employee effectiveness. According to the JLL study, on average workers spend a staggering two-thirds of their workday at the same desk and work remotely just a few days a month.

Truly flexible and agile work settings remain the exception, rather than the norm. But giving employees more freedom and control over their day-to-day work is crucial to boosting their happiness and thriving in the new world of work.

Picture: Doctor Marie Puybaraud, Global Head of Research at JLL Corporate Solutions





Article written by Dr Marie Puybaraud, Global Head of Research at JLL Corporate Solutions | Published 24 November 2017


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