What Does a Trust-Based Workplace Look Like?

As we adapt to rapid changes in how, when, and where we do our work, it is more important than ever to consider how to build trust into the workplace.

If this pup's languor is any indication, Fingerpaint's new Saratoga Springs, N.Y. office is totally trust-based. Photo by Gary Gold.
If this pup’s languor is any indication, Fingerpaint’s new Saratoga Springs, N.Y. office is totally trust-based. Photo by Gary Gold.

Trust is a difficult thing to measure, but Gallup has conducted extensive research on engagement in the workplace, which is closely linked to trust. The results are dismal, and not only in the United States. The research found that, across the globe, only 13 percent of employees are engaged at work. Trust leads to engagement. Engagement helps to improve job satisfaction. And all these attributes impact a company’s bottom line. But what does trust in the workplace look like? We often think about trust as something we feel, not what we see.

We investigated this question around the framework of reasons employees choose to come into the office, given that many employers no longer require employees to be in the office every day. A trust-based workplace can be an attractive incentive to bring employees into the office for face-to-face collaboration, innovation, and a number of other activities. In our research, we discovered some common visual elements of trust-based workplaces. One thing they all have in common is employee-centric design. Here are some of the other results we found:

Collaborative conversation pits in Fold7’s London office are affectionately referred to by employees as “dry Jacuzzis” and reflect the organization’s cheeky, collaborative culture. Photo by Hufton + Crow, courtesy of Paul Crofts Studio.

Mission and cultural values

There is a high level of trust when a workplace is designed for the people that use the space, not for those who visit the space. Trust-based workplaces manifest their corporate mission and culture through the design of the space, which reinforces the brand and the people. These visuals confirm that what employees do day-to-day is contributing to the success of the company.

A variety of high-tech and low-tech communication tools in IdeaPaint’s Boston HQ. Photo by Neil Alexander.

Tools and technology

Meaningful work can certainly happen without the latest and greatest cutting-edge tools and technology. However, trust-based workplaces give employees a variety of low and high-tech tools and resources to optimize their work, such as writable surfaces, high quality printers, and video conferencing. It’s about encouraging engagement and productivity and giving employees a choice on how to do their work, in the office or elsewhere.

A variety of meeting spaces are visible in this image of law firm Ballard Spahr's new Philadelphia office. Image courtesy of Francis Cauffman.
A variety of meeting spaces are visible in this image of law firm Ballard Spahr’s new Philadelphia office. Image courtesy of Francis Cauffman.

Variety and balance

A trust-based workplace offers a variety of formal and informal spaces that help employees effectively do their work, individually or as a team. Employees have the choice which spaces best meet their needs. Give employees the opportunity to configure these spaces, and the sense of trust is even greater.

Homey, residential touches in London Communication Agency's new office. Photo by Chris Gascoigne.
Informal, residential touches in London Communication Agency’s new office. Photo by Chris Gascoigne.

Domestication of space

Trust and safety are closely intertwined, and for most people the safest environment is their own home. Trust-based workplaces leverage the comforts of home in a variety of ways. Bringing elements such as domestic-like furniture, accessories, and finishes to the office creates comfort and that feeling of safety. Layout can also enhance the domesticity of a space. For example, the proximity of benching solutions to informal meeting or social spaces, rather than private offices, is synonymous to a kitchen’s proximity to the living space.

This article was sponsored by MOI.
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