Engaging Employees in Your Company Purpose: 4 Key Drivers & Why They Matter: Physical Environments and Amenities (part 2 of 4)

February 21, 2017by Mike LepisEmployee Engagement


This is the second blog post in a four-part series about the importance of strengthening employees’ connection to company purpose to drive employee engagement.

Let’s talk about the second driver today: the physical environment. From free gourmet meals to napping pods to on-site massages to indoor go-kart tracks, it seems companies these days are continually one-upping each other in offering jaw-dropping office perks to their employees. Even cooperative working spaces such as WeWork market their amenities, contemporary design, and beautifully designed common areas.

This increasing focus on improving the physical work environment for employees isn’t just a feel-good move on the part of HR (or it shouldn’t be, anyway) …A positive physical work environment has been shown to be a critical driver of employee engagement. Being more engaged can help strengthen an employees’ connection to company purpose—which, in turn, drives productivity and business success. (Read more on the topic of company purpose and employee engagement in Part 1 of my series.)

Examples of Employee-Centric Work Environments

So what constitutes an employee-centric work environment? I believe that, first and foremost, the way a company shows up for its consumers should be mirrored within its own walls to the furthest extent possible—and that doesn’t have to mean nap pods and go-kart tracks. Here’s an example. Facebook’s stated purpose is to make the world more open and connected, and that shows up in the company’s cube-less Palo Alto headquarters, where even Mark Zuckerberg sits at a basic white desk out in the open. Transparency is the mission, both externally and internally.

Here’s another example. The Whole Foods purpose statement—one I particularly like because it explicitly includes employees—reads: “Our deepest purpose as an organization is helping support the health, well-being, and healing of both people—customers, Team Members, and business organizations in general — and the planet.”

Company Amenities Should Serve a Company’s Purpose

You can argue that Whole Foods does a good job of meeting this commitment with consumers. How about with its Team Members? Quick research reveals that Whole Foods offers its employees discounts on products and a whole slew of innovative and affordable health programs. Even at the corporate HQ in Austin, employees enjoy on-site yoga, ergonomic chairs and more. This is all in service of the company’s purpose. And as a result, Whole Foods earns high marks from employees on key satisfaction indicators and has been ranked on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list for 17 consecutive years.

3 Emerging Trends in Employee/Employer Relationship Through the Physical Environment

When employees feel connected to your company purpose, they do better work. So, as Internal Communicators (particularly those of us who often work with more limited budgets and resources), how can we move the needle in strengthening that connection through the physical environment?

It’s worth noting that environment design doesn’t (and shouldn’t) belong to just one group. Internal Communications, HR, Marketing, and Facilities should collaborate to design a seamless employee experience that extends to every touchpoint. So partner up with the right team, and make sure you’re advocating for smart spaces that enhance your employees’ connection to their work and their teams. Here are a few tips for smart office design:

  1. Know your people. Not all organizations run the same way, nor should they. Take startups for example: Most startups benefit from a lot of both formal and informal collaboration. Open spaces get a bum rap, but they are great for idea exchange, quick huddles, and efficient communications. On the other hand… deadline work, sales calls, customer support? Not so much. You need some structure, privacy, and boundaries. You can find a ton of horror stories out there about open workspaces.
  2. Personalize. Who says every office worker has to have a boring, company-issued desk and dreary filing cabinets? Lucy Lyle, an ex-Googler, saw an opportunity to start a new, design-focused office products company called Perch. Lyle says that having a workplace that reflects people’s personal identity increases productivity, “but there was no go-to for everything you need to create a workspace you’ll love working in.” I think Lyle’s onto something here. In researching this blog post, I ended up spending a few bucks on the site. Really nice stuff.
  3. Move around. Have you heard? Apparently, “Sitting is the new smoking.” Yeah, we all know sitting is bad. A recent recommendation said that for every 15 minutes sitting; you should stand for 45 minutes. That may not be realistic all the time, but there’s a new design movement that supports the idea of “collisions” in the day-to-day rhythm of the office. Google and other Silicon Valley companies are embracing the idea of organizing space to maximize chance encounters. (This is an introvert’s nightmare, but I digress.)

Here’s an idea for 2017: Come up with a few ways to enable employees to share their ideas for improvements to the physical environment—perhaps via a social networking channel or survey. Share the feedback with your leadership team, and also encourage employees to share their ideas directly with their managers. With leadership buy-in and partnership with teams like HR, you could help make at least some incremental changes to boost morale and engagement. A little goes a long way. In the next installment, I’ll talk about another key driver of the employee/purpose connection: A sense of teamwork and fulfillment. Until next time …

If you missed the first post in the Engaging Employees in Your Company Purpose: 4 Key Drivers & Why They Matter series be sure to check it out in the link below and stay tuned for the next two posts.

  1. Belief in the Company’s Products and Services
  2. Physical Environments and Amenities (current post)
  3. Drive Engagement to your Purpose by Elevating Diversity and Inclusion
  4. Employer branding is Driven by Storytelling

Mike Lepis

As a Chief Strategy Officer, Mike leads our team to develop strategy, insights and creative solutions to drive employee engagement. He believes through human-centered design and strategic communications—employees will get behind a brand and its mission.