The what, why, and how of the human-centric workplace

The what, why, and how of the human-centric workplace
March 6, 2023
Linkedin logo iconTwitter logo iconFacebook logo icon
Download PDF
Featured in:

  1. A human-centric workplace is designed around the needs of employees, such as flexibility in work schedules and location.
  2. Maximize the benefits of in-person days by bringing people together with intention. Have a game plan beyond mandating attendance.
  3. Involve employees in new decisions about the office, whether it’s policies or design. In a human-centric workplace, employees should have a prominent voice.

People first

Amidst layoffs and tight budgets, many workplace leaders still aim to maintain their company's productivity. Employees often bear the brunt of this ambition, having to work harder to make up for smaller teams and fewer resources. It doesn't take long for this to lead to burnout and disengagement.

Employees are much more than a company resource. Remembering the whole person — their work-life balance, physical and mental well-being, and personal development — is essential to a company's success in this economic climate.

Creating a human-centric workplace is an effective way to preserve (or even increase) employees’ productivity and reduce expensive turnover. 

What is a human-centric workplace?

A human-centric workplace is designed around employees’ needs and well-being. The policies, culture, and office design are optimized to create an environment that bolsters productivity by making workers feel understood and emotionally supported. In turn, employees are more invested in the company’s goals and dedicated to high performance and productivity.

Gartner reports that within a human-centric workplace, employees are:

  • 3.8 times more likely to be high-performing 
  • 3.2 times more likely to stay 
  • 3.1 times more likely to report lower fatigue

In short, investing in human-focused office policies and design can help your company maintain high productivity and a low turnover rate.

How to create a human-centric workplace

When creating a human-centric workplace, consider these three areas: a flexible-hybrid work model, intentional in-person days, and employee input.

Use a flexible-hybrid work model

A flexible-hybrid work model places more emphasis on employee autonomy than a standard hybrid model does. Rather than a policy requiring workers to be in the office a certain amount of time, flexible-hybrid allows employees to choose when and where they work. Managers evaluate them by their output rather than how and when they complete their work.

A night owl can’t do their best work if they have to start at 9 a.m., and an early riser might need a nap by late afternoon. With a flexible-hybrid model, these employees can build nonlinear workdays — in or out of the office — that support their natural energy cycles and allow them to reach peak productivity. 

Gartner’s study found that this level of autonomy makes employees 2.3 times more likely to achieve higher performance than employees without it. The ability to choose nonlinear work styles also reduces fatigue, allowing employees to sustain their high performance and productivity without fear of burnout. 

This is a radical change from what most employees are used to, so it’s important that they feel supported when making these decisions. Build a company culture that values asynchronous communications and nonlinear work days, and you’ll be rewarded with an engaged and productive workforce.

Bring people together with intention

The office has a vital role in the human-centric workplace, even with a flexible-hybrid model. It serves as HQ for all-hands meetings, team building, collaboration, and day-to-day work for those who prefer an office environment.

These in-person interactions are important for cementing company culture and building trust. “The organizations that understand and invest in building trust with...employees will outperform everyone else by orders of magnitude,“ Ashley Reichheld, principal at Deloitte Digital, says. “Why? Because trust earns the behaviors we're seeking.”

Building trust and culture takes more than just gathering everyone in the same building. It requires intentionality. Have a plan for what employees will do on in-office days. 

It’s a great opportunity for intentional collaboration, which has been shown to increase employee performance by 2.9 times. Schedule team meetings, brainstorming sessions, and other collaborative work on office days.

You can also use those days to foster a sense of community by providing lunch or planning team-building activities. Over time, these personal interactions develop into trusting relationships that improve productivity and the employee experience. 

Involve employees in decision-making

A human-centric workplace is built around the needs of employees, so it’s vital to involve them in office-related decisions. You can use workplace experience surveys, employee interviews, focus groups, or even a digital version of the tried-and-true suggestion box. 

While employee input is essential, it’s equally as important to understand that this is biased data. People are notoriously uncertain about their actual utilization of spaces and equipment. Compare employee feedback with unbiased utilization data collected through technology such as occupancy sensors to get the full picture.

Employees may say they love the ping pong table in the break room, but sensors show no one actually uses it. This insight could be caused by one of two possibilities: 

  1. Employees want amenities that allow them to decompress, but the ping pong table isn’t the right choice to serve that need.
  2. Employees would love to use the ping pong table, but the current office culture doesn’t support employees taking time during the day for stress relief. 

Using this information, you can tailor your next round of surveys to pinpoint which of these scenarios is applicable and make the necessary changes. 

As you work toward a more human-centric workplace, keep in mind that this is an iterative process. Rather than searching for a final, static solution, you’re working toward a flexible office that can adapt to meet new employee needs as they arise. It will be an ongoing collaboration between workplace teams and employees. Let employees know this, and emphasize how important their input is to the success of the workplace.