7 Ways Financial Institutions Can Turn Their Offices Into a Recruiting Tool

Employee workspace expectations have changed. They want flexibility and mobility and a comfortable place to chill ... yes, with a pool table. But choose carefully because bowing to every trendy upgrade can backfire.

With the unemployment rate below 4%, it’s a tough hiring market right now. Banks and credit unions trolling for top talent to fill increasingly important data analytics, customer experience, and digital transformation positions need every edge they can get.

Think about it: we spend most of our lives working. A boring office space doesn’t help. Do you or your employees consider your place of employment a fun place to work? While the workspace may not trump the comp package, a financial institution’s office layout, design and overall vibe definitely can help attract and hold top talent.

If your workspace is coming up short, consider introducing some of these design elements that can bring people together to remain engaged and energized, without compromising privacy.

1. Offices On the Move

In traditional financial institution headquarters, people are assigned offices or cubicles. But there are other options banks and credit unions should consider for their office spaces that can increase productivity and collaboration without sacrificing privacy.

For example, an office can be set up with many mobile, agile elements. Basically, if it can be on wheels, then it is. Having the ability to reconfigure, expand, and move at a moment’s notice can instantly bring the right teams together, making collaboration and brainstorming much more organic.

Further, employees like to have the flexibility to move around — sit with their laptop on a sofa or lounge chair, or work in a living-room-like area—TV included! It’s important for financial institutions to allow employees to choose how they want to work. These collaborative spaces are called “resi-mmercial” — a combination between residential and commercial design.

This kind of flexible work environment is being adopted by many forward-thinking companies.

“We define our spaces as me, we and us,” says Lou Trebino, Principal of Advisory at KPMG. “Me space is an employee’s permanent or assigned space. “We space is where employees are working more one-on-one with somebody, and then that larger us space is collaboration space.”

Read More: 9 Spectacular Headquarters Designs From Banks and Credit Unions

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2. Try a ‘Hoteling’ Approach

Because of rapid growth and demand for space and time flexibility, some financial institutions have implemented a “hoteling policy.” KPMG has implemented this in its Denver office.

“If somebody is there an average of two days a week, or roughly 40% of their time,” Trebino explains, “they get designated and dedicated workspace. If somebody is there less than that, when they arrive, they swipe their badge and go to a kiosk to pick an open workstation that is theirs for the duration of their time.”

3. Sit, Stand, or Both

Another form of office mobility being used increasingly at financial institutions is sit-stand desks.

“It started out in IT departments and call centers where employees there were moving around a lot, but now it’s migrated to all departments,” notes Jill Schumaier, Director of Interiors at NewGround. “We are being asked now to provide adjustable-height desks in the offices and admin areas of bank and credit union branches. People enjoy having the option to move around more at their desk and not be stuck in the same spot all day.”

Read More: Banks Should Turn Branches Into Branded Coworking Community Spaces

4. Tone Down The Noise

High noise levels are a challenge in open concept bank office designs. Studies and articles on the subject have been cropping up more frequently in recent years.

“The challenges are more profound for some people, depending on their role and department,” states Tom Auer, Senior Vice President of Design at NewGround. He says the design and delivery company has met this desire for “acoustical privacy” in different ways, including using sound masking acoustical materials.

That can help, but Auer says master planning and adjacency planning must be considered to avoid having noisier call centers or lending departments near human resources or other departments that require or desire more sound privacy.

“The main things to consider when you talk to each department are the amount of privacy and collaboration space they need, and whether they can share that with adjacent areas,” adds Schumaier. “Establish those adjacencies in the very beginning, and then look at the workflow between people in the department.”

5. Rethink That Bench Idea

Trendy long-bench seating may seem like a good open-office solution — the kind often trumpeted in the tech world — but Auer questions that approach used universally.

“People end up adopting quiet rooms as private offices, causing the open-office concept to backfire.”
— Tom Auer, Newground

“With a 100% benching concept, everybody’s got their headphones on,” he observes. These bullpen situations can be inflexible and intimidating. “When the CEO is sharing a six-foot section of the bench next to somebody else, and when that person needs privacy that the workstation doesn’t provide, they end up migrating to one of the quiet rooms,” Auer notes.

People end up adopting quiet rooms as private offices, causing the open-office concept to backfire. Providing a variety of work environments can solve this dilemma and ultimately improve productivity.

Read More: Trends in Branch Design From Banks and Credit Unions Around The World

6. Create a Place to Chill And Mingle

One thing everyone looks forward to: break time. Give employees a comfortable space for breaks to keep them happy and let them recharge.

“Pool tables or shuffleboard tables are a different kind of break area to relax, have fun, or collaborate. You can also set up a section for employees to have quiet time to check social media, game, or eat,” said Schumaier. “It can really bring different people in different departments together.”

A few institutions, including KPMG, have created such central social hubs that feature special lighting and furniture along with the pool table and a large-screen TV. The idea behind these hubs is that at some point during the day, employees flow through that space — often they’re set up as the only way to access coffee, water, snacks, and vending.

“We’ve actually had solutions born out of pool-playing time,” states KPMG’s Lou Trebino, “and I’d rather know that employees are doing that for five or ten minutes than spending time on Facebook during the day to disconnect. People really enjoy the hub space because they learn something new and are exposed to different solutions from different groups.”

7. Work Hard, Play Hard

Want to reward your employees with a fun, exciting culture and a facility that motivates them? Bust out games and host events!

“We designed a headquarters in Alabama, where they have a big football culture,” explains Schumaier. “We named and designed different areas after different teams, and the outdoor space was designed so they can all get together to watch the big games.”

Employees can sit back, relax, eat some food, and enjoy the game, creating a fun dynamic company culture that the staff looks forward to.

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