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by | Sep 18, 2018

The Power of Happiness is in Design

Haworth’s very own Dr. Michael O’Neill has recently put out a report with an interesting new angle on office design – happiness. With workplace design over the past few years, companies have been adding in some attempts such as slides, ping pong tables, and beer kegs, to promote fun and social connection within the office. But recently, the conversation has shifted. This shift is due, in part, to the Millennials, who blend their work and personal life, bringing a more holistic version of themselves into the office. Companies are aspiring to a broader, more enduring outcome than productivity or engagement. This emerging conversation is around the idea of happiness, as Dr. O’Neill suggests. Not the short-term emotion, but one that has real meaningful lifetime value – and can lead to more healthy, engaged, and productive employees. Dr O’Neill suggests that happiness is intrinsically motivated – these “perks” at work are superficial and not the answer – so how exactly can space design contribute to a happy, meaningful life and work like he suggests?

These shifts and changes led Dr. O’Neill and the rest of the Haworth research team to investigate whether the office could become a driver of happiness and meaningful work, instead of simply a machine for productivity or increased engagement. They conducted a study where 2,000 office workers were researched at businesses in the USA and beyond. And with their findings, they discovered that the work experience affects happiness in two ways: 1) thoughtful workplace design gives employees more control at work (and in return, they feel happier when they can focus and get work done), and 2) organizations that invest in flexible interiors where people are empowered to work the way they want demonstrates they care about their employees. In the Haworth’s research team study, participants rated a broad array of features in the work environment that impact meaningful work, frustration, well-being, contentment, and happiness. From these features, Haworth’s team learned that the five most important features that influences the ability to focus and feel values (which in return, affects overall happiness) are below.

  1. Legibility

    Ensure your employees can see and find each other in the space, and that they can understand the layout, as well as that the different work areas and furnishings convey their intended use. Not every job and every task will fit the same mold – and in return, can impact a worker’s productivity.
  2. User Control

    Increase the control your employees have over their primary workspaces, or in other words, adjust the space to fit the task. For example, using height-adjustable desks and different interactive work monitors or whiteboards.
  3. Technology

    Ensure that your employees have the right technology in their individual workspaces. It’s important to understand the technologies that employees use everyday and in turn will impact employee’s productivity and happiness.
  4. Daylight

    Access to daylight has proven to be one of the most important features, next to legibility. Natural light is proven to provide renewed energy and vitamin D intake. Plan your office build accordingly, or if this is not an option, encourage a work-from-home day or a longer lunch break to increase exposure to sunlight.
  5. Storage

    Provide your employees adequate storage in their workplaces. It is important to clear clutter and be organized – this contributes to the overall feeling of having control over their workspace, which impacts happiness.

Understanding the above design recommendations and implementing them within your workspace can create a space for happiness and positivity for your employees. These subtle differences can really contribute to the overall happiness of your workers – which in return, leads to satisfied workers who are more likely to stay engaged, and perform better.