Great Workplace Traits for the Future and Now

  • Brace
  • March 4, 2019
  • 11 min

A great workplace is more than furniture and walls, it’s a system, a style, and a culture. But the tools to build it aren’t part of sci-fi fantasy, they’re already here. The right conditions for productivity and engagement need elements like technology, design, feedback, and work-life balance. Read on to find effective physical and cultural elements of a workplace, why and how to encourage work-life balance, and key takeaways to build a great workplace for the future and now.

Out With the Old: Problems of the Classic Workplace

You know the image: Cubicles as far as the eye can see, employees typing away at their desks, the occasional rumor at the water cooler, a missing red stapler. These all belong to a common nostalgia that is going the way of the dinosaur and the department store. The workforce is changing, with Millennials set to make up 75% by 2025. With the new demographic comes new ideas and solutions; aspects to which companies have to appeal to attract and keep the best talent.

Line graph. U.S. employee engagement rises to 34%.

Gallup, 2018, Employee Engagement on the Rise in the U.S.

The workplace of yore had perks, but also drawbacks. Among them was the consistently poor employee engagement rate, with the number of engaged employees consistently hovering around 30%. Sometimes new solutions can help solve old problems, and this is the hope of the changing workforce with their new concepts of management, communication, company culture, and even office design itself. Embracing these elements can help companies improve and build a more attractive workplace for veteran and younger talent alike.

New Work & the Digital Revolution: What the Future Holds for Workplaces

Not only new demographics are changing the workplace, but technology as well. Digitization and automation are revolutionizing the type of work employees do and the way they do it. Gig and project work have increased, as well as the need for collaboration and employee development. And the trend doesn’t look like its letting up.

These elements change what employees need and expect from their workplace. With the human factor becoming ever more important through the growth of automation, employees need the right space and structures to succeed. The strategies to address the future of work are known as New Work and involve changing not just office decoration, but how you approach the workplace. With more machines, the more employers have to cater to the human strengths and needs of their employees to keep the best talent and stay competitive and productive.

>> Learn more about New Work and future of the workplace here. <<

A New Blueprint: Defining a Great Place to Work

The ideal workplace looks different than it once did and the changes can be broken down into two categories: Physical and Cultural. These elements influence each other, with the right design supporting culture, and the right company culture justifying design choices. We’ll go through the components of each part and discuss the why’s and how’s of both.

On the Surface: The Needs of the Physical Workplace

We’ll start with the obvious, each company, and indeed, each employee, is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. In this statement, however, is also a solution: Flexibility. Adapting the physical workplace to the individual needs of the employees and teams has become a driving idea among younger workers and Millennials. Creating workspaces that are inclusive, enhance concentration, creativity, and collaboration, while catering to individual needs drives both employee engagement and productivity.

Elements of a Great Physical Workplace:

  • Open Workspaces. Collaboration is important to many in the growing workforce. It allows for an exchange of ideas, finding effective solutions, and encouraging a team atmosphere. Designing an office with open rooms for coworking helps fulfill these desires and brings out the full talents and interests of your team.
  • Task-Oriented Spaces. Not everything is solved through conversation. Creating rooms that inspire certain aspects of work can increase productivity. Examples include a quiet room for research or a creative space for new ideas. The trick here is to create spaces that put your team in the right mindset to get the right results.
  • Individual Spaces. Forgotten in the excitement about collaborative spaces is that some employees like to work alone or need private time. Get more out of your less extroverted team members by providing doors they can close behind them and communication methods that require less face to face interaction.
  • Learn more about the needs of extroverted and introverted employees here.
  • Stay Cutting Edge. Millennials expect it and the work world demands it. Recruiting will be easier if you equip your workplace with the digital communication that 41% of the new workforce prefer, while other new technologies, such as AI, digital feedback tools, video conferencing, or even just faster internet, increase productivity, data-informed actions, and innovation.

A Culture of Engagement: Work-Life Balance for a Better Employee Experience

Creating a great place to work and attracting new talent goes much farther than just a few bean bags, a nice room, and a foosball table. As Alan Kohll states in his analysis of US work-life:

“ …it’s important for employers to understand that the same factors that have pushed prior generations to choose which company to work for (pay, career trajectory, job location, etc.) are still the major differentiating factors to the largest working generation in the U.S.”Unfortunately, almost 2 out of every 3 workers of this generation are concerned that there is no career path available to fulfill their lifestyle hopes. For employers, this means two things: Great coffee isn’t everything and focusing on work-life balance, company culture, and the employee experience is more important than ever in getting and keeping good talent and making a great workplace.

Steps for Great Work-Life Balance

Offer Flexible Hours.

Different employees are productive at different times, while others have personal schedules that make a 9-5 impractical. With flexible hours, leaders can take advantage of their teams most productive times, while employees can build the life they enjoy and become more engaged and connected to their workplace.


  • Set up open start and end times (e.g. 7-3 for early birds or 11-7 for night owls).
  • Offer a shorter week alternative with longer days (e.g. 4 x 10-hour days).

Allow Remote Working.

In industries where remote working is possible, it can be a game-changer for employees and leaders. Whether it’s from a cafe, library, home, or from their child’s doctor’s office, allowing one day a week for working outside the office can help staff fit work into their life, even at its most chaotic. With common tech such as video calls or Slack, coordination isn’t a problem and leaders benefit from a more satisfied and productive team.


  • Set aside 1 day per week as an optional remote day.
  • Integrate digital communications into your workflow so you can be open to remote day requests.

Set Up Parenting Options.

Parents and children require time to bond and recover, while growing children make for unexpected needs, putting stress on employee parents and their managers. Make this easier on everyone by providing parental options that help you keep good talent while letting employees stay connected and productive in the workplace. Along with remote working and flexible hour options, available parental leave and childcare help employees balance life and work, and spare employers the cost of replacing good people.


  • Offer childcare options either onsite or external.
  • Organize parental leave and remote working arrangements that benefit everyone.

Establish Boundaries.

Remote work and flexible hours don’t mean the workday has no limits. Maintain a structure that ensures employees know when their workday is over, and that employers know when their team will be present and productive.


  • Establish the earliest and latest times employees can come and go.
  • Ensure that remote employees have agreed times when they are active, and respect this by not calling or writing once they’ve “clocked out.”

Work-life balance is just one element of healthy company culture that drives and attracts engaged employees. Learn more about the whole Employee Experience here.

Perks of a Great Workplace

If you build it, they will come. With these elements in place, your new workplace won’t just look nice but will help improve employee engagement and company culture. Along with these perks comes a list of business benefits that will help your company going forward into new generations.

A great workplace can expect:

  1. 73% rate of good decisions in collaborative and inclusive workplaces
  2. At least 44% engagement in Millennials, compared to 20% in workplaces without great communication and regular feedback
  3. 51% of employees want to stay at jobs with flexible schedules
  4. 65% better retention rates at engaged workplaces
  5. 21% more productivity with employees that are engaged

Key Takeaways

  • A great workplace is a combination of complementary workspace design, healthy company culture, and work-life balance options.
  • Diverse spaces in a workplace offer everyone an area where they work best and can be most productive.
  • Options such as remote working, parental leave, and flexible hours help employees realize their work-life balance hopes, make your company more attractive, and inspire productivity and engagement in your team.
  • Communication and regular feedback are desired by many employees, especially Millennials, and help managers to learn what drives their team and lets them build a great workplace around it.

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kununu engage is an application that allows you and your entire company to share continuous and anonymous feedback about what working in the company is like. This insight and transparency can help a company function better and build a stronger company culture.