Technology has become a key driver and an enabler within our day to day working lives, but a focus on people remains the priority

The corporate real estate sector needs to create the right spaces for people to grow both personally and professionally. This focus on people, is about taking a holistic approach by marrying company policies and culture with workplace design to embed an ethos that empowers employees and promotes creativity and collaboration.

Technology has become a key driver and an enabler within our day to day working lives. Advances in AI and connected technologies are unlocking huge potential for employees and businesses all over the world, improving productivity and efficiency. However, as these advances continue to open doors, employers cannot forget that workplaces must first and foremost still cater to the people who work in them. After all, people, not robots, are still the ones doing the work.

Our recently published study “Workplace, powered by Human Experience” reveals that the design of your workplace can help you transform your business. What’s more, it also unveils that helping people to feel good at work is more than a ‘box-ticking’ exercise in trying to achieve work-life balance. It goes far beyond that.

Managers are increasingly aware that they get the best from people who are inspired by their work environment and for technological innovation to work seamlessly alongside people, the role of humans must be enhanced and nurtured. We only have to look at the figures from our report to see that this focus hasn’t simply been plucked out of thin air: employees recognise what they really need from their workplace. Only 25 per cent of respondents to our survey said that the workplace should facilitate technological innovation. In comparison, nearly 70 per cent of respondents said their workplaces should make them happy.

A new generation of employees are more demanding – they want to work for and within organisations whose ethos they believe in and work environments in which they feel at home. Creating places where people want to be is therefore more important than ever. How then, do employers improve the quality of human experience in the workplace in tandem with the growth of technology?

Employers nowadays want to help their people communicate and to feel more committed, our survey came up with some interesting answers. We already know that workers are turning away from the traditional workplace and desk-based concepts that we all are familiar with. Significant proportions of them want to escape their desks (39 per cent), find places to recharge their energy (40 per cent) and drop into spaces designed to aid concentration (47 per cent).

Our research also highlights the three main zones that employers need to address in order to cater to the needs of their workers: engagement, empowerment and fulfillment. Engagement is usually the area that organisations concentrate on most – demonstrating the reasons why employees should be committed to them. But winning engagement often also comes through offering more empowerment and fulfillment to staff.

Empowered workers are often involved in designing their own physical surroundings and have access to a range of innovative spaces. Fulfilled workers know that their needs are catered for through the design of their workplace. Nearly 90 per cent of respondents were enthusiastic about a bigger focus on these issues: they support the appointment of a Chief Happiness Officer, someone to act as the custodian of their well-being.

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

Looking after employees within the working environment is what real estate is really about. Human experience is about how the work environment ultimately impacts company performance, not just its culture.

Driving happiness at work requires a change of mindset that goes beyond the traditional realms of real estate; humans should be at the centre of office design, helping to harness the true potential of real estate and what is capable of.

Helen Gough is lead director PDS - Building Consultancy, Cost Management & Project Management, JLL