New research from Staples shows that a staggering one in ten employees think about changing jobs constantly.

A poor working environment could be the cause. Of the respondents, 76 per cent agree that a well-functioning and attractive workspace encourages staff retention. This can mean anything from comfortable lighting, a space to think or even a working printer, but it can make a difference to staff morale.

Having a poor workspace can be damaging to employee retention

The importance of a physical space

Sir Cary Cooper, Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at the Manchester Business School, stresses that small business owners need to design a good physical office space.

‘If you create the right physical environment, you’re virtually saying to your staff, ‘We value you. We know you spend more of your waking hours at work than you do at home’. It lets them know that you realise the office space is really quite important.

‘SMEs need to retain good people. The costs of finding another replacement, training and getting them up to scratch is more critical, the smaller you are.’

“You’ll have benefits further down the line in turns of less labour turnover and more productivity”

He also says that as you grow, you’ve got to be seen as an employer of choice.

‘Listen to what your staff need. In some cases, the physical space just needs to be redesigned. Is it the space, is it the light? Every environment is different. You may just be in the wrong building altogether; the space may not be appropriate in lots of different ways.

‘The employees are part of the solution to any physical workspace.’

Not knowing the return on investment can be a major barrier, particularly for small businesses. Cooper says that just because ROI is more difficult to measure, it doesn’t mean that focusing on your office space isn’t a good use of time.

‘Any business will invest in stuff if they think there’s a positive output. Big businesses will have estate managers and accountants to say, ‘If we invest this much, we’ll get this much return or see productivity increases of 10-20 per cent’.

‘Small business people don’t have that kind of infrastructure. They need to understand the quality of the workplace that they’re in and the productivity and the health of the employee. That’s fundamental. You’ll have costs upfront, but you’ll have benefits further down the line in turns of less labour turnover and more productivity.’

‘People tell us that they love coming to work’

Anna Jordan talks to Dale Williams (right), co-founder of Yolk Recruitment, about how revamping his office affected staff morale and boosted retention.

Dale Williams explains how renovating his workspace boosted staff retention

Yolk Recruitment moved into a new office on a business park in Cardiff in 2016, and the space was very standard in its furnishing and layout.

It was immediately obvious that this wouldn’t work for us. We’re a young, growing company with a dynamic team; energy and motivation are so important in being able to deliver our service. We needed to create an environment that made coming to work fun with a space that’s homely, comfortable and conducive to socialising and sharing.

The office had to be welcoming to clients too. So, we set about completely re-planning the space and putting our own unique stamp on it.

Making changes

We also wanted this space to double as an events space where we could invite clients and prospects. This means more than a third of the office was allocated to break-out zones. We included a chill out area, arcade games area and a pool table – all designed with a focus on staff wellbeing. The space has even been used for meditation sessions with a Tibetan monk!

There's a break-out area with a TV and snooker table

A designer kitchen was installed with a spacious eating area to create the focal point of the new layout. Food is really important to us; I’m a previous Masterchef contestant and my co-founder appeared on Come Dine with Me. Both of us believe that eating well together is crucial to a healthy working environment and team bonding. As well as herbal tea stations we have healthy vending machines and weekly deliveries of fresh fruit to help staff make healthier choices at work.

Around this central space the creative break-out areas offer positive spaces to relax as well as boosting concentration and productivity. The client lounge and training suite provide designated spaces to engage with clients and encourage continuous skills development.

How it’s helped staff retention and morale

The response from employees has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s been a great morale booster and the break-out space works well to bring the different teams together during lunch hours and for social events after work. For example, when people have hit their targets, we can all celebrate altogether – and frequently do!

It helps with staff retention too. Recruitment can be a demanding industry to work in, and when you’re spending such a large portion of your time in work it really helps to have a space where you can feel comfortable.

For staff who had been with us a long time, they commented that the space finally reflected our ethos and culture as a business, while new recruits fall in love with the space immediately.

Yolk Recruitment's swanky open plan kitchen


Bringing in clients and prospects for informal training and networking events has really boosted our networking efforts. Our staff appreciate this, and it helps our productivity as we’re making more connections.

Our vision was to create a beautiful office space that helped our team feel relaxed, inspired and focused. Working with interior designers and using local suppliers, we now have a warm, welcoming and well-designed space that really promotes productivity and creativity.

People tell us they love coming to work, which is the best feedback we could ask for.

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