Bringing Humanity to the Workplace

02/08/2016 10:42 pm ET | Updated Feb 08, 2016
  • Despina Katsikakis Globally renowned expert on how to transform the workplace to inspire, motivate and make your business the place to be to succeed and thrive.

We now recognize that, the need to 'go to work to be working' has ceased to be necessary as technology has enabled us to work from anywhere. However, most of us still spend dark early winter mornings in overcrowded public transport or gridlocked motorways, struggling to remember why we are there -- other than having to 'go to work.' In spite of all the technology enablement, the majority of office workers continue to 'clock in' to their white collar factories and sit at their soulless desk, looking at a computer screen and waiting for the time to pass when they can 'clock out' to get on with their lives.

We look at published images of the playful work environments of some tech companies and the increasing popularity of co-working spaces with envy and think that we too might like to work there. They feel more humane and look like fun places, where people enjoy work, but we dismiss them as only available to the young and footloose, not those of us that have families, commitments and still need to 'go to work.'

What if - we left work more energized than when we arrived?
What if - our workplace actively supported our life at work?
What if - we had a say in the way we work and could make a difference?
What if - we felt genuine connection to our community of colleagues?

People no longer want to just go to work to be seen, but want to have a sense of purpose and to feel valued. There is strong evidence that businesses with healthy and happy people enjoy high levels of morale and productivity and ultimately, enjoy healthy long-term profitability. Investing in staff wellbeing is now a priority as organizations realize, that they need engaged and inspired people to succeed.

Our places of work have a key role to play in supporting engagement and inspiration, as they are always communicating corporate values, culture and enable behaviors.

As the war for talent intensifies, employees are behaving more like customers; being choosy about who they work for and looking for organizations that convey authentic culture and values in their workplace. Everywhere we look there is now a demand for genuine, authentic experiences. From craft beer, artisan cheeses and locally sourced products, to mindfulness meditation, we are constantly looking for ways to increase our awareness and to reconnect with our humanity, with nature and with a sense of purpose.

The office workplace evolved to support the uninterrupted flow of paper processing, where the purpose was focused on efficiency. As the process of work has changed to focus more on the value of knowledge and the production of ideas, we have become confused about the purpose of the office. In order to successfully create and share knowledge and to innovate, we need to bring the focus of the workplace back to people.

We need to bring humanity into the workplace and provide environments with a new purpose -- environments that delight, that stimulate, energize and connect us with each other.

Some organizations think this is an easy change. They look at what others have done and believe they might be able to bring more life into their workplace with some bright furniture and a game room; but whilst the place might look a bit different, it will still feel the same. Changes to the design of the workplace are only effective if there is an empowering workplace culture to support it. It is vital, therefore, that any workplace design change is championed by leadership and accompanied by change to management practices and policies to establish appropriate protocols and engender the right behaviors.

A workplace that sounds, looks, feels great and reflects the individuality of the people in it, while meeting business needs, will be more efficient and morale-boosting. When space is designed with people and purpose in mind and has a clear narrative, it can make our life at work more meaningful. It can help make us more aware of what we are doing and who we are 'being' at work; to more meaningfully connect with others, to share knowledge and ideas, to concentrate and focus, to activate our mind and body, to connect with nature, to recharge our energy and to inspire ourselves and others to thrive.