August 08, 2016

If You Build It, They Won’t Come: Choosing Well

Dr. Tracy Brower, PhD, MM, MCRGlobal Vice President of WORKPLACE VITALITY™MARS DRINKS

Want to give people a sense of well-being? Give them control over what is important to them, especially where the facility is concerned.

In our research on WORKPLACE VITALITY™, we found that one of the most important factors to a sense of well-being, was a sense of ‘control over what is important to me’ and the opportunity to make meaningful choices in the workplace.

We learned that it’s about both choice and control.

  • Providing choices for people in the workplace sent powerful messages that their opinions mattered.
  • Empowering people with the power to control – and actually choose among those options provided – communicated that they were valued.

Companies that MARS DRINKS studied are seeking to provide variety and empower people in all kinds of ways. From offering a range of office settings (think phone booths, casual areas, and huddle spaces) to providing multiple selections in their office coffee, they are seeking to engage workers through choice.

But sometimes organizations create terrific new workplace features and the space remains inactive and underutilized. Why? Because the culture may not yet support people using them. If the company vibe says ‘you must be at your desk in order to be perceived as working’, it will be difficult to convince people to use the work café as an alternative space or to spend a portion of their work day in a pod away from their traditional work station.

If you build it, they may not come. Unless the business empowers people to make choices about where and how they work. The companies we studied are taking the following steps to give people not only choices, but control over those choices:

  • Leaders have a key role to play. Leaders can set the tone toward utilization of the workplace by using the space themselves. In addition, they can spend time in the coffee bar chatting casually with people. Over coffee, leaders can communicate a strong message that people can feel free to make their own choices throughout the day about where they choose to get their work done within the office.
  • Protocols provide guardrails. Often it’s helpful to set protocols about the use of space and explicitly give permission and encourage team members to use multiple spaces in response to the shifting nature of their work during the day.
  • Activating the space enhances utilization. Schedule coffee chats in some of the new spaces in order to encourage their use. Sponsor team discussions over refreshments in order to reach agreement on how the variety of spaces should be used. Sponsor a scavenger hunt where team members have to familiarize themselves with the spaces.

Providing for a sense of choice and empowering people with control contribute to a great workplace, but also to their sense of well-being. These, along with supplying a variety of great coffee, are key ways to contribute toward WORKPLACE VITALITY.