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Improving outdoor working environment


After years of research and empiric studies, behavioural scientists and psychologists are absolutely positive that there is something wrong with our idea of human motivation. This is how we think it works: You get a reward - you perform better. Basic philosophy of carrots and sticks. What studies have shown is not only that this approach doesn’t work, but it often does more harm than good.

Intrinsic motivation

Most businesses are built around extrinsic motivators that, in most cases, won’t do any good. On the other hand, intrinsic motivation works around autonomy and purpose. People want to be a part of something bigger, they want to see meaning in the work they do. And autonomy means giving them the freedom to do it their own way. This means flexible work schedules, and a working environment that encourages them to interact with each other and that makes coming to the office more appealing. Work can get really exhausting and uninspiring when you have to sit in a cubicle for eight straight hours, resulting in dissatisfied employees and lower productivity.

Workplace environment

The positive correlation between a good working environment and a high level of job satisfaction has been proved through many studies. For example, business parks can benefit greatly from putting some effort into refreshing their outdoor spaces. That way employees are told it is okay to take a break from work, hang out and get to know their colleagues in these leisure places. They will be more committed and engaged when they know they are not being pressured to sit in their office for the whole day.

Copyright Marcin Wichary. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0). Photo downloaded from Flickr.

Copyright Marcin Wichary. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0). Photo downloaded from Flickr. Link to photo. Link to licence.

Google has been a pioneer in implementing these new approaches. It is currently building massive new headquarters envisioned as a series of translucent canopy buildings surrounded by public spaces like pedestrian and bike circuits, cafes, and shops. And in London’s Canary Wharf business district people can charge their phones and read environmental data while hanging out with colleagues at the latest solar-powered street furniture, Strawberry Smart Benches.

Strawberry Smart Bench in Canary Wharf. Photo credit - Marc Ehrenbold

Strawberry Smart Bench in Canary Wharf. Photo credit - Marc Ehrenbold

User experience design

User-experience driven design is becoming the new big thing in corporate real-estate. This model proposes design that is based on people’s needs and preferences. When asked, people often emphasise social interaction as a primary driver for coming into the office. Buildings, locations, and designs all have the power to provide this kind of interactivity. Employees like to have a choice of where to work: in or out of an office. Innovative workplaces are being designed more as destinations and less as “the place my boss tells me to go.” Of course there has to be a balance between individuality and interaction in the workplace so that people are not prevented from doing their work, but are at the same time able to socialize and cooperate. In that sense outdoor spaces in business parks might be best for this kind of social interaction. So far open space office has been a predominant model for encouraging sociability in a workplace, but this concept can be complemented by adding public spaces into the equation.

Mercedes-Benz R&D North America HQ in Sunnyvale, California is a great example of how these new models can be implemented. The redesigned headquarters show a workplace that inspires innovation and social interaction. More in a video below:

The pay cheque isn’t the only area of competition for businesses in retaining their people. More and more these other aspects of work will matter just as much and even more so with Millennials entering the workforce.


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Author: Nevenka Rangelov

Nevenka is a student of journalism and communications at Faculty of Political Sciences in Belgrade. She’s planning on pursuing a career in communications and marketing. Ever since attending educational program “Public Policy Academy’’, she’s had a lot of interest in entrepreneurship and start-ups. An important part of her life on faculty is her activity in the Students for Liberty organisation, where she’s in charge of creating creative content. She practises yoga and loves skiing.

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Strawberry Smart Bench

Strawberry Smart Bench is easily installable and movable street furniture powered by solar energy, that offers charging for mobile devices, environmental sensing, free emergency call and local info in public spaces.


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