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Thoughtful Employee-Focused Designs Increase Satisfaction & Retention

Wednesday, April 25, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Julianna Ems
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AUSTIN, Texas April 24, 2018 –With the low unemployment rate and a limited number of qualified caregivers available to fill the many new positions, staff retention is a hot topic in the senior living industry. It takes a special person to work as a caregiver for a senior: someone with patience, compassion and knowledge. Everyone wants caregivers who treat the residents as if they were family, which can be physically and emotionally taxing. Providers are competing to hire the very best people from a limited talent pool. By 2020, the industry will need 1.2 million caregivers to care for the continued increase in residents. Beyond the employee’s pay, having incentives, being thoughtful and showing appreciation in other ways is becoming more important. Karla Jackson, design director of StudioSIX5, notes that designing employee-focused environments also leads to retention.

“Today, most employees want to feel a sense of purpose and fulfillment in their work. They also crave leadership that supports and appreciates them while caring about their well-being,” said Jackson. “While retention has always been a hot topic, the trend right now is to incorporate employee-focused designs by creating comfortable and well-organized workspaces and breakrooms. For example, communities are aiming to make ergonomic nurses’ stations that feel more like a home office and less like the traditional station. To do this, we are combining bar- and desk-height counters so team members can chart standing up or sitting down. We design flexible environments, making sure that equipment is within reach and that staff has the appropriate amount and kind of storage, including cubbies, drawers and cabinets. Anything we can do to make their jobs easier results in elevated moods and efficient processes. With high turnover in senior living care, many communities realize that the design of employee workstations and breakrooms could help seal the deal when recruiting and keeping skilled staff.”

Employees feel a higher sense of value when the breakroom or lounge is next to the administrative offices, located near the front of the community. Traditionally, the breakroom was situated in the basement or another back-of-house area. In addition, the design of the actual lounge communicates volumes to team members. Many communities invest in extravagant art packages and allow interior designers to outfit the team lounges with pieces of vibrant and cheerful artwork as well. Progressive communities replace vending machines, walls of lockers and tile floors with nicer finishes, televisions and full-size kitchenettes—all things that say, “We care about your experience at work, and we want you to feel like you matter.” One of StudioSIX5’s most progressive clients is Avanti Senior Living, who has worked to “Googlize” its team lounge. Not only do they have vibrant colors and bean bags, they also have ping pong and foosball tables so team members can have fun at work.

“Lounge seating is replacing the standard, outdated plastic tables with stackable chairs,” said Jackson. “Having a variety of seating helps staff regroup and relax in different ways to suit their needs. From bar tables to bean bag chairs, kitchen tables with chairs to lounge seating with couches and chairs, there is something for everyone. Vending machines are being replaced with grab-and-go snack bars with healthy foods that support overall well-being and help team members sustain energy as they work through their shifts. The décor and location of the staff lounge plays a big part in employee retention and satisfaction. If employees are happy because of feeling like they matter, their moods will be elevated and they will provide better care to the residents they serve. For example, studies have shown that with the new design of open kitchens where cooks can see the residents, the quality of the food goes up. Alternatively, if communities have dissatisfied employees and constant changes in staff, it negatively affects the residents’ satisfaction with the community.”  

Offering the use of amenities at a discount is also a way to show employees that the community cares. This includes the wellness center, salon and spa, restaurants and day care if available. Communities that offer day care primarily to staff sometimes open it to the public as well. Having on-site day care is rare, but incredibly convenient for staff. The benefits are wonderful for seniors and children as well, as the community can coordinate engaging intergenerational activities. Beyond the design of workstations and breakrooms, hosting staff parties, recognizing outstanding employees, coordinating employee appreciation outings and rewarding those who go above and beyond are also excellent incentives that go a long way.   

“Anything a provider can do to make their employees’ jobs easier is something that sets them apart from other providers in the market,” said Jackson. “One of our clients is experimenting with robots. They also invested in the “It’s Never 2 Late” system, which is a digital engagement tool designed to entertain memory care residents and help staff create engaging activities. They have everything from small screens on carts to large high-definition screens on the wall offering a variety of tools such as puzzles, music, keyboards and more. For example, its travel program shows different icons from several countries, which is relatable for residents who traveled extensively. You can click on scenery, architecture or food from the selected country. The program shows a dish with a detailed description and prepares it like a live demonstration, showcasing the recipe at the end. Some staff members will turn this into a meaningful activity for residents by leading a cooking class in which they create the very dish they just watched being made in front of them.”   

StudioSIX5 understands that technology plays a huge role in the designs of future communities; not only for residents, but for employees too. Unfortunately, some communities are very outdated in their use of technology, lacking something as standard as electronic scheduling, which would reduce stress company-wide. Then there are other communities who are planning ahead, and in anticipation of younger caregivers being hired they are employing social media as a tool so that caregivers and residents can interact via electronic devices, making it more engaging and fun. When thinking of employee-focused designs, StudioSIX5 talks with the operations team—the people who will actually be working in the community—to find out how best to meet their needs. To maintain continued satisfaction, operations are using “pulse surveys,” done via a phone app, at more frequent intervals to test real-time team member satisfaction. 



Based in Central Texas, StudioSIX5 is one of the nation’s leading interior design firms in the senior living sector. Since 2003, the company has provided holistic design services for all different senior living service levels and prides itself on incorporating a celebration for life in its designs. In addition, StudioSIX5 designs the StudioSIX5 Collection, a line of functional furnishings and floorings designed to meet the needs of seniors. The firm was recently listed at the 29th largest nationally on Interior Design Magazine’s list of 2015 Health Care Giants. For more information, visit or call 512-476-6501.


Lauren Witt via phone at 214-378-7970 ext. 306 or email at
Amy Jones via phone at 214-378-7970 ext. 302 or email at

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