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Designing Workplaces for Employee Retention

March 18th, 2022 | 6 min. read

Designing Workplaces for Employee Retention


VergeSense is the industry leader in providing enterprises with a true understanding of their occupancy and how their offices are actually being used.

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Employees are quitting their jobs in record numbers after finding positions with more flexibility and a more comfortable work environment. Some are sticking to their industries and just finding new employers, while others are pivoting entirely to new fields and types of work in pursuit of better office culture.

Economists are calling it The Great Resignation, and it’s been in progress for the better part of a year. Younger employees, mostly millennials and Gen Z, are more vocal than ever about their needs and desires when it comes to the workplace experience — and many employees of all ages are no longer willing to stick to the status quo, especially amid rising costs of living and with the reflection and perspective that two years of COVID has caused. 

This puts pressure on People Operations teams to update their employee journey and workplace policies to meet the needs of their employees more quickly than ever, which is no small feat. 

Workplace Challenges Your Head of People Operations is Facing

People Operations (or HR) teams have to handle a lot of responsibility, particularly during transitional times. HR typically handles filling positions, onboarding new employees virtually and ensuring they get off to a strong start, working with facilities and operations teams to manage ever-changing COVID protocols and occupancy plans, and keeping employee retention at the forefront of every project and activity — it’s a lot to manage. 

There are three main areas keeping your head of people operations up at night: employee expectations, recruitment, and retention. We’ll get into each of these, and then outline how to design a workplace experience that encourages productivity and helps employees feel their best.

Understanding Employee Expectations in Today’s Workplace

Workplace expectations have shifted dramatically. Pre-COVID, it was the exception for a  business to offer the perk of working from home. Some startups offered one day a week work-from-home, while most large established companies required full-time, onsite attendance of all employees. Very few companies were fully remote. But after two years of COVID, employees across dozens of industries have found that their jobs could be done just as effectively from home. 

Work-life balance has become increasingly important, too. Many working parents and caregivers report that they appreciate the flexibility of working remotely, or having hybrid work options. 

And 60% of employees working from home miss the camaraderie and connection that working in an office provides. 

Remote teams can feel more disjointed, and onboarding new employees and helping them feel part of the team is more challenging than ever. 

That’s where the need for agile working comes in.

Recruitment Challenges in a Digital Hybrid Office

Recruitment problems facing talent acquisition and onboarding teams affect employees throughout their whole journey at your company, starting from day one.

Hiring challenges for people operations teams to solve include:

  • Creating an onboarding experience that can be done virtually and onsite, that gives all employees the same feeling of being welcomed and thoroughly trained.
  • Reflecting on benefits that motivate employees to come into the office, such as transportation stipends, autonomy for flexible work, and collaboration spaces.
  • Evaluating how company culture and perks compare with other companies in the same industry — and considering where improvements can be made.
Implementing a New Employee Experience to Increase Retention

Today, nearly every company is grappling with retention strategies. Some employees are feeling increasingly undervalued and disconnected from their companies — especially if they’re being forced to come back to the office full-time — which lets recruiters swoop in easily with offers of better pay and promises of a more flexible and supportive culture. 

Aside from providing great pay and great benefits, including the flexibility to work from home sometimes, there isn’t a one-size fits all solution..   

How to Design a Workplace Around Retention

1. Create a workplace design and layout that’s conducive to productivity.

Workplace strategy:
Use surveys, workplace analytics, and industry data to understand how employees are using spaces and what space types are most in demand. 

Survey your employees regularly to find out how various aspects of the workplace experience are impacting their work and their happiness. Then, combine survey results with employee behavior data and industry benchmarks to determine the best possible setup. 

2. Ensure a frictionless workplace experience.

Workplace strategy:
Provide all the amenities that employees may need, and include training or signage so they are empowered to use them right. When employees come into the office, are they able to find the tools and resources they need? This can include desk and room booking apps, tech support, a map of the available spaces, and opportunities for employees to provide feedback.

People Ops and Facilities teams are working hard to ensure real estate and amenities provided by the workplace are being used effectively by employees who do want to come in. Is there a shortage or abundance of meeting rooms? What about desk space? Is energy being wasted to light and heat entire areas of offices that go unused?

The VergeSense platform can help you answer these questions and solve the problems they post with the use of sensors, analytics reports, and integrations with every part of the workspace.

3. Build meaningful workplace culture.

Workplace strategy:

Developing flexible but clear policies on a hybrid work environment is a critical part of attracting great talent and keeping them happy. 

Consider the following questions when structuring your company’s policy:

1. Will each employee get to choose if they’re fully from home, onsite, or a combination of both? 

2. Will it vary by team and function? 

3. Will employees have to choose days to come to the office in advance?

4. Will employees have their own dedicated desks? 

4. Empower employee engagement with technology.

Workplace strategy:

Equip spaces with technology and ensure employees have access to all the tools they need to collaborate with teammates, no matter where they are.

There’s also plenty of technology solutions available that can help you increase employee engagement. Investing in learning management systems, great room and desk reservation platforms, and automated survey technology can help an employee progress in their career path, make their day to day go more smoothly, and make them feel heard — all of which contribute significantly to engagement.

5. Map the employee journey.

Workplace strategy:

Join together HR or people operations, facilities management, leadership, and employee representatives to understand every phase of the employee journey, from their first interaction with your organization and on.

Employee journey mapping tracks the experience of a team member from the moment they hear of the company, through their application, interview, hiring, onboarding, training, growth, promotion, and retention. Doing deep research into the employee experience at every stage helps discover issues early so they can be fixed, and can keep employees happy and on your team for years to come. 

The most important step towards improved employee retention is listening to your teams and giving them a voice in workplace decisions. 

Read more: How Companies are Using Spatial Intelligence to Solve for Employee Experience