What drives employee experience, and
why does it matter?

How staffers feel about their workplace can profoundly affect their professional happiness.

Employee experience is defined by how a staff member feels about his or her workplace. If it sparks an emotional connection – not limited to the physical environment – it can profoundly influence the employee’s professional happiness. In JLL’s “Workplace – Powered by Human Experience” survey, a global series looking at how workplace experience can help businesses thrive in the new world of work, roughly 70% of employees said that happiness at work is the best ingredient for a unique work experience.

This increased spotlight on employee experience stems from a growing focus on talent and on maximizing productivity. A University of Warwick research found that “happy” employees are 12% more productive, and are specifically more likely to work more creatively, effectively and collaboratively at work. They’re also most likely to show up at work healthy. However, is there a scientific way of assessing value from improving employee experience?

Why you should focus on employee experience

JLL’s 3-30-300 calculator shows that investments in healthy, sustainable workplaces to support and engage employees offer the most profound opportunity to derive value from the cost of human capital.

Based on the 3-30-300 rule, a 10% increase in energy efficiency would yield 30-cent savings per square foot, and a 10% decrease in rent would save $3, but a 10% gain in productivity is worth $30.

If you are looking at the greatest opportunity to create value from your real estate portfolio, you must consider your biggest cost: your workforce.

“And so by improving their experience, you can improve absenteeism, you can improve your ability to attract and retain talent, you can improve the productivity of the people who are working together—either in groups or individually—so that the investments in improving experience are there to tap into the facilities and office as a talent toolkit,” Michael Jordan, JLL’s Managing Director for Productivity Strategies, points out.

But how do you know where to start?

Apply data analytics to identify gaps

The first step to driving employee experience is to implement data analytics to gain insights about staff’s experience within the workplace. By knowing which strategies and programs are working and which are not, organizations will be able to invest in the right areas to fill in any gaps.

“So measure the experience, talk to your employees about what they like and don’t like, what would make their environment more productive, and then collaborate with HR and IT to come up with the right strategies,” says Jordan.

Understand how employees work

Another important process is to understand how employees work. This will help organizations or corporate real estate teams create an appropriate design that supports the types of work that employees undertake. However, employee experience is not just about providing fit-for-purpose workspace at the office. The strategy should extend beyond the workplace to take into account the entire eco-system of work.

“Ensure that people who work from home too can have the unique employee experience that the organization offers at the office,” says Jordan. For instance, this may involve collaboration with the IT for the development and implementation of technology solutions that will ensure employees who work from home will also enjoy a productive work system. This is highly important considering the fact that JLL’s global report on human experience showed that home-working is survey respondents’ top alternative workspace outside the company’s premise.

As improvements in aesthetics and layout, as well as enhancements in technology and automation take place across the commercial real estate sector, corporate real estate strategies are also evolving such that employee experience is at the centerpiece and the workplace is people-oriented.

Technology companies, in particular, pay close attention to employee experience as evident in the faster refresh rate in their facilities compared to other industries. We find that faster-paced companies refresh the interiors, design and layout, or amenities and technologies as frequent as every 18 months.

Best practices that drive employee experience

Regarding best practices that can help improve employee experience, Jordan points out several areas of focus that many companies today are adopting.

Offer a variety of workplace options

A top priority for employees is to be given the choice of where they work. There should be an area designated for collaboration and teamwork, space for contemplation, service desks, community-focused spaces, health-based environments, creative spaces, and controlled places for getting together.

Keep the workplace clean and safe

A clean workplace is also a significant driver of employee productivity, performance and well-being. Maintaining a clean workplace help keep staff safe, healthy and efficient.

Provide break rooms and basic services

Whether it’s a five-minute diversion that boosts focus, or a 17-minute coffee break that improves performance, mental downtime can increase productivity and replenish energy during demanding workdays. Break rooms should have natural light and view, nutritious food and beverages, a place to eat and relax zones.

Locate where your people want to be

Besides interior designs, layouts and amenities, the office location can also be used as a tool to drive satisfaction and productivity. By studying the demographics of your workforce, you will be able to identify the most desirable location for your office. Instead of measuring employee experience only within the office, organizations must also consider establishing their headquarters in a live-work-play environment.

Remember the little details

Enhancing employee experience doesn’t necessarily require major fit-outs and huge amounts of spending. Small details such as putting the stapler by the copy machine, providing water bottles in the conference room or having a microwave in the kitchen so that employees can easily warm up their food, go a long way to ensuring that employees are content and happy at work.

In a nutshell, employee experience is driven through engagement, empowerment and fulfillment. Under JLL’s Human Experience model, this is far more than just ensuring work-life balance—it also embodies company culture and values, as well as efforts to improve the internal and external perceptions towards the organization.

Although recommendations may vary from one real estate portfolio to another, the future of the workplace will generally be more human than ever. As the human experience in real estate increasingly becomes a significant differentiator on how employees engage with an organization, corporate real estate teams need to tip the scales a bit more towards this factor and exceed expectations to attract and retain talent.