How does workplace satisfaction help boost employee engagement?

Businesses need people who come to work energized, ready to generate new ideas, create new strategies and make meaningful progress every day. They can’t afford anything less. But the reality is there aren’t as many highly engaged workers as organizations need.

In fact, the number of disengaged office workers outnumbers the engaged, which has a direct impact on the bottom line. Solving for this level of disengagement is a complex, difficult task, and many organizations have studied a variety of ways to address this important issue.

The Steelcase Global Report on Engagement and the Global Workplace is the first study that explores the relationship between employee engagement and how people feel about their workplace.

Its key findings demonstrate the fact that where people work can influence not only productivity, but also shape employee attitudes and beliefs. It demonstrates that the workplace can be part of a holistic strategy to increase engagement. Employee engagement is a serious bottom-line issue.

When workers become disengaged, it costs companies money, slows projects, drains resources and undermines company goals, as well as the efforts of their engaged counterparts. This is why employee engagement is one of the key issues facing leading global organizations today.

The study further found that more than one-third of workers in 17 of the world’s most important economies are disengaged and another third are somewhere in the middle, not working against their companies but not driving better business results either. Can the office be used as a strategic lever to impact engagement? What kinds of changes to the work environment will make the biggest impact?

The data shows that workers who are highly satisfied with various aspects of their workplace also demonstrate higher levels of engagement. Yet, only 13 percent of global workers are highly engaged and highly satisfied with their workplace. The inverse is true as well: 11 percent of employees are highly dissatisfied with their offices and are also highly disengaged.

The positive finding here, however, is the correlation between engagement and workplace satisfaction, which indicates that changing the work environment, can be an important tool for organizations to deploy as part of a strategy to improve engagement.

Engaged employees tend to work in organizations that support two-way communication: Real-time information about the company is available and people are able to freely express their ideas. Findings suggest that a key design principle for the workplace is to create a range of spaces—for groups and individuals, mobile and resident workers—and corresponding work policies that enable employees to make choices about the best ways to work.

While the perception is being generally created that workplace design has evolved in the last decade to bring about open, informal and collaborative spaces, this is only true in certain cases. The reality of employees around the world is most people work in traditional office environments, with an emphasis on hierarchy and desk-based individual work.

Workplace design and work experiences vary widely, even between neighbouring countries, yet nearly two-thirds of employees say they work in either individual or shared private offices. The most highly engaged employees tend to hail from emerging economies and the least engaged often come from countries in well-established markets. Cultural context can have a tremendous influence on employee engagement and workplace satisfaction.

Employee satisfaction with their workplace is directly correlated with higher employee engagement. The most engaged workers are the most satisfied with their work environment. Not surprisingly, those employees who are dissatisfied with their workplace are the least engaged. Highly engaged workers are also highly satisfied with various elements of their individual workspace, such as its size, furniture, lighting, ambient noise levels and temperature.

Workplaces should make employees feel optimistic about what they can accomplish at work. Consistent with their feelings about the organization, disengaged and dissatisfied employees find little to like about their individual workspace or their workplace overall.

About one-third of the global workforce falls somewhere in the middle range: possessing some degree of satisfaction with their workspace and somewhat engaged in the work they do. In general they say they like their working environment and are satisfied with the working atmosphere.

The most disengaged employees have the least amount of choice and control over their working environment. The majority, 86 percent, are unable to choose to work in alternative settings based on the tasks they are doing. 87 percent of disengaged workers are frequently interrupted when they work in teams and only 15 percent say they can concentrate when doing individual work.

Clearly, providing employees with a greater sense of control over their physical environment and how they work is an opportunity to positively shape behaviours within the organization.

This article first appeared on HR in Asia.

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