When employees are disengaged and dissatisfied with their jobs, it shows – especially in a business's bottom line. Unhappy workers are estimated to cost the U.S. economy as much as $550 billion annually due to issues like more frequent sick days, higher turnover rates, and wasted time at work.

As managers, we're always looking for methods to better identify and address employees' concerns before these issues impact their job performance and satisfaction.

However, it can be easy to forget that the workplace itself can often play a part in maintaining employee happiness.

The Evolution of the Workplace

The American workplace has shifted time and time again throughout the past century to meet the changing needs and expectations of new generations of workers.

Before modern design, achieving adequate lighting and ventilation were a primary concern of office spaces. But the conveniences of modern infrastructure allow managers to consider office spaces from a perspective of how these spaces impact employees psychologically rather than just contain them physically.

Consider the changing popular opinion of the cubicle; while it was once considered the height of office design convenience and flexibility, many employees today feel that the design discourages collaboration, independence, and creativity.

On the other hand, open floor designs aren't a blanket solution for these concerns. While open floors provide a great work environment for some, many managers have received backlash noting that they can damage workers' productivity, attention spans, and job satisfaction.

While there are pros and cons to just about any office plan imaginable, many employers are realizing that the key to providing a more satisfying workplace is making them flexible to the unique needs and personalities within a workforce.

Learning from Example

Younger generations of employees are increasingly expecting a greater amount of freedom at work, in addition to more respect to their work-life balance. In response, employers are concentrating more thought and resources on office design than ever before.

To meet those changing expectations, top tech employers like Facebook and Google are constantly pioneering new design concepts in their workplaces – and their example is inspiring workplace designs across the globe.

You can discover more of these examples, along with an illustrated history of the evolution of the office space, in the infographic below created for USC Dornsife's Applied Psychology Program.

Psychology of the Office Space – An Infographic