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Using Design to Keep Employees Happy

While the expression “designer office” is often used only in relation to Google-like IT giants, creating an outstandingly good work environment is becoming a tool for employer branding at companies in Hungary too.

A few years ago, it was mainly only the IT sector that realized the benefits of a designer office, but nowadays companies from many sectors are ready to invest in creative and tailor-made workspaces. The deepening labor shortage has definitely placed a higher value on office conditions, too, as research shows that work environment is the third most important factor behind salary and career.  

“No matter how cool a company wants to look, if it forces its employees to work like little mice in a small grey box, young and qualified people will leave very soon,” Ferenc B. Nagy, managing director of real estate consulting firm Stay In Hungary tells the Budapest Business Journal, adding that investing in a good office space costs much less in the long-run than coping with workforce fluctuation. However, in Hungary office design is still often little more than a dog and pony show, he says.

“Many times, there is no real concept or purpose behind [the design], just the superficial idea of being cool,” he says. “To serve HR purposes successfully, there has to be so much more. It really has to put the employee into focus.”

Linda Erdélyi of LAB5 architects, who is also one of the creatives behind Skanska’s internationally-acknowledged Budapest HQ, agrees: “It is not that I place a swing next to the desks and so the whole thing is cool and fancy.” She says that building “Google-like playgrounds” is just one type of office design, which always has to reflect to the habits of those who will work there.

“Creative agencies with people physically moving around a lot have understandably different needs than accountants who spend most of the day at their desks,” she points out.

No Boring Spaces

Out-of-the-box office arrangements can create a room for keeping employees satisfied. “For example, I enjoy playing around with conference rooms and showing that these are not necessarily fully separated and boring spaces,” Erdélyi says.

Ideally, community spaces have to be integral parts of the office space too. “In this way, HR departments do not have to organize silly team-building events, but the community is naturally born due to the well-arranged space,” Nagy notes.

Employers also have to accept that there are some personal things that people have to arrange during working hours, Nagy points out. “When someone sits surrounded by colleagues all day, from where should they call the baby sitter, arrange an appointment at the doctor or ask the car mechanic about the costs?”

Such everyday human situations have to be catered for in the office design. Small corners where personal phone calls can be made as well as community spaces are equally crucial to make a workplace livable.

For the best results, designers should be involved in the project as soon as possible. “In the best case, we take part in choosing the office,” Erdélyi says. As offices are usually rented for a minimum of about five years, thoughtful planning is crucial. “The concept has to work even if you add or take away something. You have to be creative by adding a type of ‘buffer zone’,” Erdélyi says pointing out that the number of employees at an office can change significantly in the medium-term, while businesses understandably do not want to spend too much on the rental fee of unused office space.

“There are world-class designers in Hungary and there is also a network of equally great manufacturers behind them,” says Nagy. From carpet makers and carpenters to the famous concrete design brand IVANKA, the products of local creatives appear in many Hungarian offices. “Supporting Hungarian artists and manufacturers is an awesome thing to do and can also become part of a company’s image.”