The Power Of Choice In The Workplace

The degree to which people can express their independence at work is influenced by the environment they're in and how they make use of the facility to drive their productivity.

By Dr. Tracy Brower

A greater sense of choice at work leads people to be more engaged and more satisfied, but what does this have to do with the facility in which people work? Everything. The degree to which people can express their independence and choice at work is influenced by the environment they’re in and how they make use of the facility to drive their productivity.

We’re living in an age where customization and personalization are the norm. From customized playlists to personalized benefits packages, people are increasingly demanding more choices, especially in the workplace. Connected to this trend, we find that creating independence has some positive payoffs. In our recent Mars Drinks study, the Power of Choice at Work, we discovered that when people have a sense of choice, they are:

  • 57% more likely to be engaged
  • 55% more likely to be collaborating
  • 53% more likely to be productive; and
  • 86% more likely to have sense of well-being.

This research was in support of the Mars Drinks concept of Workplace Vitality™, which describes a workplace that is vibrant, thriving, and alive with potential. It is at the intersection of engagement, collaboration, well-being, and productivity.

(Photo: Mars Drinks)

In terms of their work and their workplace, people want freedom in when they work, how they work, and where they work. Facilities that support a wide range of work styles and settings provide these kinds of options. To reap the benefits of choice for people at your workplace, consider:

  • Outfitting the facility with multiple space types for occupants to use throughout the day, depending on the type of work they are doing
  • Providing for plenty of light, views, and access to the outdoors
  • Providing furnishings that support variations in: length of stay (supporting quick breaks as well as longer times to linger); size of groups (from individuals to larger collaborations); and duration of use (for those who use space sporadically to groups who need ongoing creation/project space).
  • Offering privacy for people who need to work individually and more public spaces for those who are energized by the activity of a more highly-trafficked space
  • Including design features such as bright colors or unexpected materials so the space engages the senses; and
  • Updating spaces regularly so they don’t become stale.

Access is also key — both for destination spaces and for break areas. For all kinds of people doing all kinds of work, the coffee/tea/beverage area that is easily accessed makes an important contribution to productivity — so people can grab a cup of their preferred beverage and get back to their work. Coffee areas embedded in team spaces and within conference rooms are also convenient, and therefore effective.

Another important guideline in creating choice and control at work is to offer variety in taste and choice of coffee, tea, or specialty drinks. Our research suggests that all generations, and particularly Millennials (78%), demand good quality coffee and specialty drinks. They view it as a signal that the company values them.

The payoff for providing people with control over how and where they work is significant. When they have greater choices, people at work are also more likely to report positive outcomes, such as: greater life satisfaction (96%); good health (91%); positive relationships (91%); and greater happiness (96%).

What organization would not want to foster these types of results? Because of their role in the workplace, facility managers can help to do just that.

productivityBrower is the global vice president of Workplace Vitality for Mars Drinks, an international workplace beverage solutions provider based in the Greater Philadelphia area. She is author of “Bring Work to Life by Bringing Life to Work: A Guide for Leaders and Organizations”. Brower is a three time recipient of the CoreNet luminary award for speaking and a recipient of the UofH Real Estate Innovative Practices Award.