This is the first main sub-question to answer ‘Is the learn/work environment adding value?’ It is about people’s well-being at the learn/workplace, employee experience, bonding and engagement which are inextricably linked to productivity, organisation culture, team morale, and meaningful social impact.
Providing people with a feeling of connectedness and belonging that’s energising and inspiring requires structured and frequent dialogue with stakeholders to align perceptions as well as the sharing of information to support continuous improvement. At the same time being aware of zones and thresholds of user satisfaction and experiences and the impact of cultural context and dynamics.
Do people feel better when they leave the learn/work environment than when they arrived?
A quantitative and qualitative good building positively affects the behaviour, well-being and development process of the students and pedagogical staff who use the building daily. Therefore we should be looking at it from a people, place, and technology perspective to shape how, where and when work takes place. Matters that are mostly beyond the current building legislations (minimal thresholds), but affect the accommodation’s quality throughout the entire lifespan. Work is no longer a place people go, it’s a thing they do — and when, where and how it happens is no longer written in stone. Levels of workplace satisfaction are also linked to job satisfaction.
Thriving people is what will give organisations a competitive advantage in today’s turbulent economic environment. People who inspire themself (motivational spark) and/or inspire others (inspirational flame). The learn/work environment should support their well-being, encourage healthy behaviour allow them to be at their most productive, and provide higher-level life experiences. Taking into account individual differences and personal situations while also enabling everyone to take charge of their own health and well-being.
The ideal workplace satisfies various types of spiritual needs for people, connecting their personal goals with professional ones. Besides that, our buildings should also be sustainable, with positive impacts on nature and biodiversity.
How to make the learn/work environment an attractive proposition to employees and students who, after the COVID disruption, have more choice in where, when and how they work? How to make the learn/work environment a greater ecosystem and more purposeful? How to measure this?
Greater autonomy is a trend but it requires trust between employer and employees. Trust and confidence in one’s ability are important factors that can influence employee morale. Humans thrive when there is structure and accountability, not total autonomy. It is about striking the right balance between carrot and stick, between short-term improvement and long-term value, and between making sure line managers themselves take responsibility for change.
It requires a change from the constant competition model to one of collaboration, harmony and interdependence, where teams will forge stronger bonds and retain historical knowledge. Promoting the practice of self-reflection, awareness, respect, coaching and mentorship as well as personal/professional development of employees.
Everyone perceives the world around them in a slightly different way, but there are fundamental principles that describe how people experience their outer environment. The need to belong is a powerful and fundamental motivator of human behaviour. A holistic environment scales down to the individual. Do they have a notion of inclusion and belonging? Is there a social environment (culture) based on respect and trust where people dare to speak up and to self-direct? Does it promote positivity, and reduce stress?
“There is no such thing as a neutral environment. There is always an effect on people.” (René Stevens)
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? To what degree can users control and adjust the appliances in their environment?
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 and hang out? 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 it deliver an enjoyable work-life balance? Does the look and feel reflect individual personality and organisational culture? 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)
All of these questions are central to facilitating health, well-being and engagement in the learn/work environment. Providing people with a feeling of connectedness and belonging that’s energising and inspiring. There is a growing emphasis on human experience to elevate and maintain a positive Engagement, as opposed to the more conventional preoccupation with Effectiveness and Efficiency.
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 and create and maintain healthy relationships to foster a community of understanding, respect, and inspiration.
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.
Does your environment support or hinder your study/work?
We use the eight constraints of a project, Scope, Time, Risk, Experience, Resources, Information, Cost and Quality (STRERICQ). These aspects are made SMARTI, coordinated and integrated into one approach because they are all inseparable parts of the whole learn/work environment.
- EXPERIENCE: How satisfied should the users be? How closely matches the outcome for people’s engagement? Are we able (and willing) to deliver to the employee’s needs and user experience?
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 (Behaviour) learn/work environment and the work itself.
A marriage of Architecture and Neuroscience can deepen the understanding of how the learn/work environment affects human health, well-being, consciousness and performance. To create great experiences in amazing spaces.
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. It involves 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 stakeholders aware of the financial consequences of their demands and the difference between ‘need to have’ 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.
Health and well-being determine our e-motions, or “energy in motion.” The positive or negative energy in motion in an organisation feeds feelings, which in turn determines thinking and determines behaviour, getting along with others and performance in the workplace.
The human body is an instrument that, when well-tuned, emanates greater harmony. The physical, digital and social environments not only provide the backdrop of the learn/work experience but are integral influencers. A vibrant environment is a zone for encounters and impromptu interactions.
The environment generates behaviour and behaviour drives environment design and management.
- Force of energy – Engagement of Spirit (Being).
- Focus of energy – Engagement of Mind (Thinking).
- Quality of energy – Engagement of Heart (Feeling).
- Quantity of energy – Engagement of Body (Doing).
We are multi-sensory creatures that can see, hear, smell, and touch the environment that we are in. Enriched environments that promote sensory, motor, cognitive, and social engagement can, besides satisfying basic human needs, 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.
Can people make time free to connect, charge and relax so that they can feel good mentally, physically and socially? As Janine Vos, CHRO and board member of Rabo Bank puts it “Work is so much more than just earning money. Work is having meaning, structure, learning, being social, and being seen.” Places to connect socially are what people generally want.
The design of the learn/work environment is often businesslike on the outside and soulless on the inside. It 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.
A holistic approach to the learn/work environment ecosystem is an essential precondition. It’s about the entire play, not just the script, the actors, the audience or the physical theatre. The building has physical characteristics size, climate, safety, etc. but also intangible characteristics such as appearance, atmosphere, etc. that colour the message. It’s the tone that makes the music.
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.
It’s easier to think outside the box when you’re not staying in one.
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 and some control for the users. 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.
The environment is a catalyst for human performance and therefore has a strategic impact on the core business of any organisation. But it comes with social responsibility because it has also an effect 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.
Change begins with a choice. 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 connecting the physical realm with the metaphysical, the mundane with the transcendent. Like Sacred Geometry that is associated with venerable structures such as cathedrals, temples, henges, and pyramids that serve as conduits between the human spirit and the enigmatic forces that shape our world. This may sound foolish to modern people who perceive everything spatially and materially. However, for those who are more conscious of their inner life than their outer material surroundings, it represents a concept that speaks to a true and profound experience.
A growing body of research demonstrates that it is not the objective environmental conditions, but the subjective interpretation of them, 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.
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 constrains 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, the state of BEING, is created, and 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 appropriate cultural development in the social environment. This is the Human Resources (HR) department’s 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. As well as enhancing the health and well-being of people.
Behaviour is about respect, 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 effectively support behavioural and culture development programs in the social environment.
A place where employees are treated with respect, valued for their unique contributions and empowered to make decisions that help the organisation, their community, and the world thrive.
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.
The identity of an organisation does not stop with printed material and the website it also expresses itself in the building and its location. A building can support the image of your organisation. An image that is going to be imageable and rememberable. Space is an opportunity to communicate as an organisation. The way in which one is accommodated says a lot about the organisation, just like clothing says something about the person wearing it. The design of the environment conveys information and produces psychological effects that influence the occupants’ engagement.
“What clothing is to a person, is accommodation to an organisation.” (René Stevens)
The learn/work environment is a means, just like a sports outfit for a football club. Putting on another fashionable outfit doesn’t make you a better football player. But it does help to radiate connectedness, team spirit, belonging, promoting values, success, giving a proud feeling and perhaps intimidate the opponent.
The learn/work environment is therefore much more than a functional shelter alone. The physical and digital environment has the potential to support the strategic objectives of the educational and communication functions. People seek the core, the heart, the inspiration, of an organisation and its purpose. Accommodation helps to manifest this tangibly.
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 with regularly changing thought-provoking displays encourage conversation between lecturers and students themselves and together outside of the conventional learning spaces.
The aesthetic lifespan (corporate and brand image) is one of the three fundamental qualities of a building, in addition to the 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. This is not only reflected in the education curriculum but also the accommodation.
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.
Accommodation is ideally tailored to the rational and emotional needs of the target user group—a symbiosis of business styles of organisations with the work/study styles of individuals. However, there is no average employee or student. A ‘persona’ segmentation based on personal characteristics and needs of employees/students can help make choices in (differentiated) accommodation and Facility and IT services offered and appropriate policies (e.g. Mobility policy or Smartphone policy).
When education, business and government work together the vitality in the region can be strengthened. It connects education and research with the region and ensures a good and context-rich learning environment.
The learn/work environment can be used to give physical shape to collaboration with partners in the education chain, knowledge alliances, the business community, 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 working together more can be done with the same budget.
The learn/work environment can be actively used to facilitate collaboration and knowledge alliances and have a community focus to improve the quality of life in the neighbourhood. By (partly) available shared (green) spaces, places of connection for work/live/leisure/retail. Having adequate student housing, and short-stay facilities on the campus creates a competitive advantage over other universities that haven’t. All of this adds to the university rankings and student enrolment.
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.