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3 Ways to Create an Excellent Workplace Experience

Workplace Experience

Leesman recently published a comprehensive analysis of the “workplace experience framework”. The study collected responses from nearly half a million  global employees, striving to map a complex web of factors that contribute to employee sentiment toward the workplace. Then, based on the weight of responses, Leesman isolated the elements of an exceptional workplace experience. Let’s break these drivers down into the three main components of an employee’s experience in the built environment. We’re going to examine the activities, physical and service features that over two million data points suggest are the best way to cultivate an excellent workplace experience.

“The best performing workplaces in the world consistently offer a specific type of workplace experience—a participatory space where infrastructures are crafted, immersive and user-centric. But, is the physical space alone enough to create an outstanding workplace experience? The simple answer is no. You can create the ideal physical infrastructure but still be left with employees whose experience is less than average. Why? Because there are other factors that will have an impact on the overall experience.” – Leesman 2018

Workplace Activities

The first section of Leesman’s “super drivers” of workplace experience are the activities that occur there. First is individual, focused work. This comes as no surprise since these activities are ordered by greatest potential when it comes to affecting workplace experience. The next most impactful activity found in the research was learning from others, followed by planned meetings. The fourth and fifth highest ranked workplace activities were disconnecting and ideation. Let’s take a deeper look at the implications of these activities.

Individual, Focused Work & Disconnecting

While the majority of activities outlined in the responses to Leesman’s workplace survey are collaborative or participatory, individual work’s impact exceeded everything by a considerable magnitude. On the opposite pole of activities, the ability to disconnect is ranked as a “super-driver” of workplace experience. We see this as a signal that workplaces which don’t support individuals’ different modes don’t deliver a positive workplace experience. Catering to both solo concentration and time to recharge is essential.

85% of global respondents indicate that “the design of [their] workplace is important”, but less than 60% agree that it “enables [them] to work productively.” Further, there’s a 15% gap between employees who think “individual focused work, desk based” is important and those who indicated that their workplace supports it (92.3% and 77.1%, respectively). And there’s another comparable gap between the ranked importance (85.5%) and satisfaction (71.5%) with the desk by itself.

Learning from Others, Planned Meetings & Ideation

Although the data points to an emphasis on individual productivity, the participatory activities outlined suggest a need for communities that meet two criteria. First, an environment with peers that operate on a similar caliber. Second, an environment that facilitates knowledge transfer. When employees with insight to offer one another are supported in doing so, it has a compounding effect on their individual productivity. Thus, we’re interpreting the high impact of participatory activities as a need for collaborative spaces to turn information into knowledge.

“What I realized…is that the [conference] room is the place where innovation starts to grow up. Instead of being a place to play or model or ideate, the room creates rules and norms that require you to take innovation seriously every time. Over time, if you expose the lessons of the room to others in your organization, you can create a process the helps everyone take innovation seriously, and eventually even become a core part of your company’s culture, from the bottom to the top.” Matthew Milan via FastCompany, 2018

Physical Features of Workplace

The next area of Leesman’s most impactful elements in cultivating a positive employee experience are the workplace’s physical features. Individual workstations and the ability to customize them were found to be the strongest driver of workplace experience. Office décor ranked second highest, illustrating the importance of environmental factors as well as fixtures. Break out areas and small conference spaces came in third and fourth, respectively. Finally, noise levels were reported to be one of the most impactful factors.

Individual Workstations

While it comes as no surprise that individual workspace is valued just as highly as the activity of working individually, we believe this has more to do with employees’ locus of control. The findings reported that the most impactful driver of employee experience when it comes to physical workplace features are individual workstations AND the ability to customize them. If employees can exercise a degree of control over their workspace, they’ll feel more comfortable there. So, theoretically, with increasing customization comes comfort – which begets greater productivity.

It comes as no surprise that an employee’s desk is ranked as the most important physical factor of the workplace. However, there’s a significant gap between the ranked importance (92.3%) and satisfaction (77.1%) with desk-based work globally. This finding backs up the notion that a workplace that does not support individual work will not be seen as effective by an employee.


Of all visual cues, Leesman found office décor has highest potential to influence a positive workplace experience. Unfortunately, only 43% of respondents globally indicated satisfaction with their workplace’s general décor. A well-branded workplace works as a 24/7 brand ambassador. When employees are immersed in an environment that’s clearly (and favorably) unique to their company, they feel a deeper sense of pride in being part of the team. When visitors can understand what your organization is about and where it’s going within moments of being in the workspace, the effect is compounded.

“Workplace designers have long since claimed a workplace to be the most important physical manifestation of an organization’s corporate image, and our analysis provides the statistical support for the value of the aesthetic. But ‘design’ should not stop at the completion and delivery of a newly designed space. Given the employee importance attached to it, attention should be applied in equal volume to its ongoing protection, not simply allowing finishes and materials to degrade over time.” Leesman 2018

Break Out & Small Conference Spaces

Work today is not linear – employees bouncing between individual focused work and collaborative tasks is par for the course. Sometimes this is structured but, more often than not, working days evolve minute to minute. The key to an appropriate balance of collaborative spaces is an understanding of teams’ dynamic nature. Then, implementing an optimal mix of spaces that cater to size and purpose. This way, employees can work individually or collaboratively in spaces they deem most suitable for their present scenario. This goes back to a larger locus of control influencing levels of comfort – let them choose and watch their productivity soar.

While over half of employees globally rank them as important, only 38.2% are satisfied with informal work areas and break out zones. Similarly, 78.2% consider small meeting rooms important with a significantly lower satisfaction rating of 53%.

Noise Levels

“Unsurprisingly, the analysis reveals that noise levels emerge as a critical factor when it comes to physical features that support getting things done.” Employees who are engaged in individual work will need environments with the right acoustic landscape, which for many people (but not all) means quiet and calm. Erratic noise disturbances or consistently and singularly loud environments will almost certainly impact an employee’s ability to focus, finish tasks and complete them to a high standard.” Leesman 2018

When left unaddressed, the myriad of consistent sound in work environments (HVAC, appliances, coworkers & visitors, etc.) will almost certainly distract & detract from the productivity of the occupants. Research shows it takes 23 minutes to return to tasks at hand after an interruption. The “ABC’s of Acoustics” are “Absorb”, “Block” and “Cover” – all methods to intercept or dampen the sound within a workplace.

Service Features of Workplace

Leesman’s final data on what’s driving employee sentiment includes the oft-neglected service features in the workplace. In order of greatest impact to workplace experience, the highest ranked service features are tidiness, refreshments and restrooms.

Leesman attributes tidiness’ ranked impact to employees’ perception of their ability to get things done. Everyone knows some employees that thrive in clutter. However, the data suggests that workplace tidiness is highly influential in employees’ sense of organizational productivity. Employees’ willingness to host is also impacted by their perception of what impression will be made. Another service driver of employee experience is the availability of refreshment facilities, which we believe speaks again to employees’ perception of the workplace and the image it projects. That’s the future – hardwiring social culture into corporate culture.

“Of the service features, tea, coffee & other refreshment facilities marginally achieved lead position as the foremost driver. Clearly, it’s…crucial component in relaxing, collaborating, hosting visitors and even individual work. So, the impact that a good coffee experience can have on employees’ experience should not be underestimated. The data highlights again the importance of general tidiness, appearing as the second most impactful service feature.” Leesman 2018

Thanks for Reading!

We hope this delivered some valuable insight on cultivating excellent employee experiences. While we can’t necessarily speak to your knowledge transfer process or what kind of coffee to buy, we’re in the business of finding solutions for improving employees’ workplace experience. From planning to procurement to punch lists, our team is here to make your workspace work as hard as you do. Change in the workplace on the horizon, or just on the brain?

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