The power of human experience in the workplace

The workplace is more than a just a place fitted with desks and chairs. It is a living environment that helps both organisations and their employees craft and experience a rewarding fusion of life and work based on authentic human experiences.

June 26, 2019

Jennifer Henderson, JLL’s  Human Experience Director for North Asia, shares her views on enhancing the human experience in the modern day and in the workplace.

How do you define human experience?

Experience is really about how you make someone, or yourself, feel. It’s about putting people’s needs in the centre.

My life experiences enable me to understand what others need. I studied hotel management and had worked in hospitality, sales, business development and facility management before joining JLL, where I looked after workplace experience for local and international clients. That obviously translates into a lot of benefits for my current position, since we’ve got clients from all sorts of industries.

Everybody’s got slightly different needs, so it’s important to adapt to their workstyles and understand the key needs from the staff when applying a human-centric design in their workplaces.

What are the key elements?

According to JLL’s 2017 ‘Workplace - Powered by Human Experience’ global research survey, all 12 of the countries surveyed agree that the work environment should facilitate happiness at work (69%), followed by recognition (60%); and personal learning and development (54%).

Work-life balance is key to human experience too, although it means something different for everyone. It’s up to the individual to decide. Hong Kong is a very busy city, but if you choose to, you can easily escape the concrete jungle. There’s so much greenery here. For me, I appreciate how easy it is for me to go on a hike here and be surrounded by nature.

Technology such as smartphones brings a lot of convenience, and I think being constantly connected has its benefits. But I also try to put away the phone for at least an hour a day to spend the time completely focused and be present with my family. Technology has been transforming the human experience and will continue to do so, but human interaction won’t ever go away.

What are a few ways to enhance the human element in a traditional workspace?

Companies should consider a role specifically dedicated to the happiness and well-being of employees. 87% of the respondents in our ‘Workplace - Powered by Human Experience’ survey agree with the idea of appointing a Chief Happiness Officer or someone dedicated full-time to employees’ well-being and experience in the workplace.

At our Hong Kong head office, we have employed a community manager who looks after our colleagues in his role. His job involves meeting and greeting employees, clients and visitors; hosting office tours; and organising fitness and community events for colleagues.

Also to be considered are spaces dedicated to health and well-being, for example, meditation rooms, gyms or quiet zones.

What are the benefits of having a humanised workspace?

Designing a workspace around the human experience can ensure staff feel happy, productive and efficient. Having a community, the right workspaces, collaboration areas such as breakout areas and relaxation areas, as well as the right support system makes your work experience a lot more pleasant.

In fact, employees most desire community spaces (such as coffee/ tea corners, lounges) and spaces dedicated to collaborative working and project teams, as found in our ‘Workplace - Powered by Human Experience’ survey.

These spaces also boost engagement, productivity and fosters an innovation culture if that’s what the company needs.

How can businesses adapt to the rapidly changing needs of their customers without losing the human touch?

We learn from our clients as we try to understand their current states and needs. There are different ways to find out – one-to-one conversations, focus groups and surveys, for example – but I think the best way is to be a mystery shopper, go to their office and experience it yourself! Over time as our experience grows, we can anticipate what clients expect and create detailed designs that work best for them.

* Please download JLL’s 2017 ‘Workplace - Powered by Human Experience’ global research survey which can be downloaded from the campaign web page

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