Back Office Design and Worker Comfort –


As hotel designers, we are constantly thinking about how to create something beautiful for guests – a world-class resort, a luxurious room, a 5-star restaurant – but how many of us embark on a project saying, “I want to design a really cool employee space”?

Contributed by Danae Tinsley, JCJ Architecture, Hartford, Connecticut

During an ongoing labor shortage, employees are in high demand. Now is the time to think about how to attract and retain top talent with more than just a paycheck. It’s an employee market and the importance of design behind the scenes is more important than ever.

Front-of-house solutions for back-of-house

We know that strategic facade design contributes to the overall customer experience and plays a huge role in attracting and retaining customers. By this logic, applying the same principles to back office design will help companies better retain employees who support this customer experience. So what do we do for the facilities team, housekeeping, administrative staff and call center employees? The design features we prioritize for guest areas (natural lighting, sustainable materials, spaces to relax) translate well to employee areas. Just as customer comforts and amenities play an important role in attracting and retaining customers, employee comforts and amenities also play an important role in attracting and retaining team members.

Create moments of respite

In the gaming industry, casinos have long been required to provide dining facilities for employees, but the days of cafeteria-style services are over. Now, these employee dining areas are built with stations offering fresh, local ingredients and healthier options. Some even incorporate an action station, where a meal can be prepared by the chef or even the employee himself in real time. In terms of decor, decorative lighting and comfortable seats have replaced fluorescent lights and plastic chairs. The objective of these spaces is to allow employees to recharge their batteries physically and mentally so that they feel ready to perform their daily tasks when they return from their break.

Comfort of the work area, ease of movement

Beyond the break room, work areas must also consider employee comfort. Certain material selections provide increased comfort, such as carpeting or anti-fatigue flooring in areas where staff must stand for long periods of time. It is also important to provide a facility that takes operational efficiency into account. As designers, we always have to think about how we can create a more convenient way to get things done while reducing the pressure on employees. If a customer spills a meal on the restaurant carpet, do we want the Environmental Services team to travel to a remote location for cleaning supplies? Or do we build a household cupboard discreetly tucked away behind a column? The easier it is for employees to do their job, the better the job will get done.

The bottom line

Some may question the point of spending additional budgetary funds on back of house workspaces and employees, but in my mind, it’s money well spent.

Creating thoughtful spaces that increase employee comfort and job satisfaction improves the hiring and retention process. Employee engagement will show through in their interactions with customers, which in turn will foster a more fulfilling experience for the customer. The bottom line: Happy employees make happy guests. Is the hospitality industry ready to commit to the workers who make it work?

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