“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”

- Richard Branson, Investor, Author, Philanthropist and Founder of the Virgin Group.


Augmenting the Employee Workplace Experience

Gallup’s “State of the Global Workplace” report 2017, analyses 155 countries and demonstrated that only 16% of employees across the UAE are engaged with their work . Engaged employees being defined as those employees who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace. The global average for engagement as measured by Gallup is 15% so you can see that the UAE doesn’t differ dramatically from the norm. But when I think that 85% of adults worldwide aren’t engaged or worse are actively disengaged, I imagine a great deal of financial and human capital being flushed down the drain.

Let’s put the human capital element to one side for a second and assess the financial consequences of what the low level of employee engagement can have on your organisation. Gallup further highlights that highly engaged business units realise 17% higher productivity, 20% higher sales and 21% higher profitability. Just like businessman and entrepreneur Richard Branson, this tells me that focusing on your employees is good for business.

Now consider the human capital for a moment. What are the attrition percentages (attraction and retention) in your company? Gallup further observed that highly engaged business units demonstrate 41% lower absenteeism and 24% lower staff turnover.

Effect of remote working on employee engagement

Gallup also found that 70% of the variance in engagement among workgroups can be attributed to their manager and employees who worked from home 20% or less had the highest level of engagement and lowest level of disengagement.

But workplace can be part of the solution!

At Herman Miller we’ve been monitoring human motivation in the workplace and discovered that there are six fundamental human needs that unite everyone in work today. These are similar to Maslow’s theory on human motivation from the 1940s called ‘Hierarchy of needs’ which you might already be familiar with.

Herman Miller’s focus is the sociology of work – how people affect their work environments and how it affects them. By better understanding what drives us to perform in the workplace we can better serve our customers with space and product that supports these human needs.

Here is a brief exercise for you to discover your own human motivations and proprieties. Using the chart below, score yourself out of 10 (10 being high) for your present feelings at work for each of the six fundamental human needs. Make a point and connect the dots.

Once you have completed this first exercise I would now like you to put the needs in priority order i.e. 1. Security (most important to me) to 6. Status (least important to me).

So, let’s look at your results. First let’s look at what is important to you and see if there is a discrepancy with work currently meeting your needs. What are your top 5 on the priority list? Of the top 5, which ones score below 5 out of 10? Of your top 5 priority list, if any of them score below a 5 out of 10, then you probably have an issue that you may want to address. Conversely, anything scoring a 2 out of 10, isn’t necessarily important to you so you might not need to address or rectify.

The Sociology of Work

One’s first thought when considering human motivation is often to mistakenly think that this is 100% determined by culture and or management. Through researching Herman Miller’s methodology for office design ‘Living Office’ we discovered that interior design also contributes to employee motivation. By analysing 6 companies pre to post implementation of a Living Office we were able to observe the affect space has on employee motivation.

Implementing a Living Office

As you can see all indices of human motivation as per the Fundamental Human Needs increased pre to post implementation of a Living Office. However, what we can take away from the findings is that Autonomy and Security are the most significantly affected by our Interior Design intervention.

Findings such as these fires my own internal drive as we can now confidently say that anyone who is in the business of providing space and or design for employees in the workplace quite literally hold in the palm of their hands the employee’s feelings for Autonomy and Security for the project they’re working on. 

Employee Engagement

Finally, I would like to come full circle and address the relationship with engagement and Interior Design.

During the course of this extensive research we also measured employee engagement pre to post implementation of a Living Office.

As you can see through purposeful design that is founded in supporting employees work activities it is possible to increase engagement to a significant degree. 7% may sound marginal but given the current global state of engagement of 15% I don’t think any company can afford to not capitalize on this fixed asset ability to augment performance.


 “We shape our dwellings, and thereafter they shape us.
- Winston Churchill, Former British Prime Minister.

If you would like to further discover how you can augment human motivation through purposeful Interior Design then visit https://www.hermanmiller.com/solutions/living-office/magazine/ or conversely email info_dubai@hermanmiller.com and arrange an in-house seminar at your convenience.

- State of the Global Workplace, 2017, Gallup. www.gallup.com 

- State of the Global Workplace, 2017, Gallup. www.gallup.com  p. 39

State of the Global Workplace, 2017, Gallup. www.gallup.com  p. 38

State of the Global Workplace, 2017, Gallup. www.gallup.com  p. 47


- “Fundamental Human Needs” Herman Miller, March 2015. Illustrations by Daniel Carlsten




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