This is the first main sub-question to answer ‘Is the learn/work environment adding value?’ The need to belong is a powerful and fundamental motivator of human behaviour. Do people feel better when they leave the learn/work environment than when they arrived? Do they have a notion of belonging? Is there a social environment (culture) based on trust where people have the courage to speak up and to self-direct? Does it promote positivity, and reduce stress?
Does the learn/work environment stimulate and support people’s natural curiosity, creativity, motivation and eagerness to learn? Is the environment enticing with intuitively operable systems and excellent facilities to support learning and working?
Does it create a state of relaxed alertness (flow-state) for a mix of objectifiable functional needs and subjective personal learn/work styles? Is there a culture of emotional connection, recognition and communication within the teams and the overall organisation? Do employees feel supported and valued?
Do career development and motivational leadership play a role in creating personal growth and purpose, stimulating intrinsic motivation and job satisfaction? Are physical learn/workplace perks and experience already translated to the digital learn/workplace? Do employees and students have the autonomy to choose where, when and with whom and how they perform their work? Are the users consulted in the making up of the usage and behaviour agreements of the learn/work environment so that they feel ownership of them?
Does it enable learning and relationships, motivation and positivity, which each trigger innovation and creativity? Is there a culture for innovation where people are stimulated to experiment to generate new ideas and are allowed to make mistakes and learn from them? Is there a balance between the subjective personal preferences and learn/work style of people and the objective physical and digital environment dictated by the organisational configuration and management style?
Are the employees and students satisfied with and enthusiastic about their learn/work environment? Does the learn/work environment play a role in their pride and does it confirm the brand identity and contribute to the image of the organisation? Does it support behavioural change, culture building, and make cultural values as tangible as possible?
“Show me your learn/work environment and I’ll tell you who you are,
and how much your employees and students are actually valued.” (René Stevens)
Health and well-being determine our e-motions, or “energy in motion.” That energy in an organisation, positive or negative, feeds feelings, which in turn determine thinking and determines behaviour and performance in the workplace.
The human body is an instrument that, when well-tuned, emanates greater harmony. The physical, digital and social environments do not only provide the backdrop of the learn/work experience but are integral influencers.
The environment generates behaviour and behaviour drives environment design and management.
- Force of energy – Engagement of Spirit (Being).
- Quality of energy – Engagement of Heart (Feeling).
- Focus of energy – Engagement of Mind (Thinking).
- Quantity of energy – Engagement of Body (Doing).
Enriched environments that promote sensory, motor, cognitive, and social engagement can aid neurogenesis and prevent cognitive decline. Complex-place contexts (enrichment + engagement) and positive associations can help strengthen cognitive activity and reduce stress. The brain is malleable and can generate new connections through neurogenesis.
The environment is a catalyst for human performance and therefore has a strategic impact on the core business of any organisation. But also, on the health, well-being and consciousness of people, on a body, mind, heart and spirit level. Consciousness is the state of being aware (or sensitive) of and responsive to one’s surroundings.
The Inner Environment (Mind-Body-Heart-Spirit) of human consciousness can be changed by personal coaching and practice. Changing the Outer Environment physical, digital and social) of people is extra leverage to unleash the capabilities of the multi-dimensional human being. It is spirituality at work.
The employees’ Inner Environment dynamics of doing (body), thinking (mind), feeling (heart) and being (spirit) are cogs in the human experience. They are influenced by the Outer Environment of natural, built and social dynamics. Each of the Outer Environment components enables or constrain human performance. The inner and outer environments are distinct but not separate, they are a continuum of the same universal energy flow. All parts are interconnected and interdependent.
The Integral health & well-being of people is, besides personal traits (preferences for privacy, interaction and autonomy) and situational factors like sociodemographic characteristics, determined by the balance and harmonization of quantity (Doing), focus (Thinking), quality (Feeling), and force (Being), energy in the Inner Environment.
Your physiology and personality are equal to how you think, how you act, and how you feel. Multiple DOING and/or THINKING creates a FEELING that is stored as an automatic program in the Spirit/Soul (BEING).
Your personality, state of BEING is created, you carry out the thought/action on the automatic pilot. (Unconsciously skilled). The end product of an experience is an e-motion (Energy in motion).
There is a growing understanding that structural behavioural change requires much more than merely physical and digital facilitating desired behaviour. In combination with this, attention should also be paid to awareness, stimulation and coaching to provide an appropriate culture development in the social environment. This is the Human Resources (HR) department field of expertise.
An integrated approach of HR with the Real Estate (RE), Facility Management (FM) and IT departments can make the learn/work environment a powerful tool for inducing culture development, facilitating innovation and enhancing a learning (knowledge-based) organisation.
Behaviour is about trust, autonomy and flexibility that determines motivation and satisfaction. A well (re)designed physical en digital environment can actually contribute to healthier thinking and behavioural patterns and effective support behavioural and culture development programs in the social environment. Motivation does not only come from money, but also from meaning, mastery and autonomy. Employees with a motivation that comes from within, experience their work as meaningful and more often want to be the best in their field.
To what extent does the physical (Bricks) and digital (Bytes) learn/work environment support people’s activities, well-being and health? However, it is also closely linked to satisfaction with the social (Behavior) learn/work environment and the work itself.
Employee satisfaction with the learn/work environment (the interplay of Real Estate, Facility Management, Information Technology and Human Resources), is the extent to which the combination mix meets their wishes and needs. It nudges employees to bring their creativity to work.
The work performance of employees and students’ learning behaviour largely reflects the characteristics of the environment in which they are to work/study. A seamless user experience of the learn/work environment requires an incredibly high level of satisfaction, frictionless, easy-to-use, and a Wow-factor.
A growing body of research demonstrates that it is not the objective environmental conditions, but the subjective interpretation of it, that affects the well-being, resilience and performance of people. The workplace is also a state of mind. That is why the way people experience their environment also influences their potential, health & well-being, effectiveness and efficiency.
- EXPERIENCE: How satisfied should the users be? How close matches the outcome for people’s engagement? Are we able (and willing) to deliver the employee’s needs?
A marriage of Architecture and Neuroscience can deepen the understanding of how the learn/work environment affects human health, well-being, consciousness and performance.
A symbiosis between architecture and its occupants creates (more) value. The physical learn/work environment promotes interaction. Architecture can bring people together, and unite them as one force. It protects, supports interaction and engagement and expresses unity and identity. It also invites learning engagement and knowledge generation through quiet and relaxing individual reflection and social spaces for collective conversations with supporting amenities. To make it work the social environment (culture) should encourage and allow extended periods of thinking/concentrating as an accepted part of the daily work.
Support is indispensable for the implementation of a good learn/work environment strategy. Involve the right groups of stakeholders at the various stages of your accommodation roadmap. Inform and involve the broad group of stakeholders as frequently as possible. Communicate in a visual, compact, clear and simple manner. Ask users not only about their satisfaction with the learn/work environment but also about their preferences.
Where relevant make them aware of the financial consequences of their demands and the difference between need and nice to have. Granting one user group it’s ‘nice to have’ can block the ‘need to have’ of another group because available budgets are most of the time tight and limited.
Desired behaviour for the organisation can be achieved by responding to the intrinsic needs of the users of the learn/work environment. Finding for your organisational culture the right balance between involvement and pleasantness.
The Outer Environment of BRICKS (Real Estate/Facility Management) and BYTES (Information Technology) creates impulses on the Inner (personal) Environment of people. This then creates a response in their BEHAVIOUR (Human Resources/Culture/Corporate Identity).
From research, we know that employee engagement and customer experience are interlinked. The more engaged employees are, the better customer experience will be provided to clients and end-users.
The way an organisation is accommodated says a lot about it, just like clothing says something about the person who wears it. The learn/work environment is therefore much more than a functional shelter alone. It makes tangible what you stand for as an organisation. This is not only reflected in the education curriculum, but also in the accommodation. The physical and digital environment has the potential to support the strategic objectives of the educational and communication functions.
Education institutions can be seen as an ecosystem, where explicit and implicit knowledge and skills are developed and exchanged (a place to construct knowledge). Informal meeting places encourage open interaction between lecturers and students themselves and together.
The aesthetic lifespan (corporate and brand image) is one of the three fundamental qualities of a building, in addition to functional lifespan (fit for purpose) and technical lifespan (solidity and durability). Making this ‘soft’ and subjective aesthetic quality measurable is a challenge but not impossible. It focuses on people-centric design, concerning the psychological, social, cultural and aesthetic performance of the learn/work environment.
It makes tangible what an organisation stands for, their product brand(s) and the overall employee and customer experience. The integration with economics results in a value-adding environment. A place where people feel connected to a sense of purpose, solidarity and community that extends well beyond the job contract.
Design of the learn/work environment is – or should be – inextricably linked to both an organisation’s identity and its culture and the health and well-being of the users. An environment in which people are immersed with these qualities. Eventually, the organisational policy and work culture (social environment) have more influence on our happiness at work than the physical and digital environment.
Is the culture of an organisation such that employees still feel connected in a hybrid model of working, where they split their time between working at the office, at home and third places in between? There is a sense of pride when you belong somewhere, and the learn/work environment is an important part of that. The environment is an element of job satisfaction and therefore compensation.
The environment generates behaviour and behaviour drives environment design and management.
A learn/work environment for “free-range” people or for “battery-cage” people?
A change in the learn/work environment will lead to a specific outcome in the behaviour of people.
It is important to provide within the learn/work environment customization and individual freedom of choice. To accommodate over time individual preferences and perceived importance of physical, digital and social environmental characteristics for a specific activity. Besides the physical place and space plus the digital connectedness and interface, the social dimension of privacy, interaction and autonomy play an important role as well in people’s performance and learning outcomes.
Job surveys and student surveys should look at not just what is being taught and experienced in the learn/work environment but the environment in which it all happens as well. The interdisciplinary field of environmental psychology investigates people’s interactions with their environment – their perceptions, attitudes and actions and how they affect one another. How people act individually or in groups, and how they create and use their environment.
A university campus stands not on its own but forms a part of the city. The learn/work environment can be actively used to facilitate collaboration and knowledge alliances and to improve the quality of life in the neighbourhood. Having adequate student housing, short-stay facilities on the campus itself creates a competitive advantage over other universities that haven’t. All of this adds to the university rankings and student enrolment.
The learn/work environment can be used to give physical shape to collaboration with partners in the education chain, knowledge alliances, incubators and student startups by sharing buildings and facilities. Making not only the connection between educational practice and the results of science and research but affect also innovation and economic spin-off.
By breaking the question ‘Is the learn/work environment adding value?’ up into chunks it becomes more manageable. To answer it, four main sub-questions must be addressed. But be aware that Engagement, Effectiveness, Efficiency and Evidence are not ends in themselves but means to an end. Pay attention to what is important, not just what is quantifiable. Go for the good of the whole.