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Don’t Forget People’s Fundamental Human Needs

By Mark Catchlove, Herman Miller Director, Insight Group

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During extensive research, Herman Miller’s research team identified that we fundamentally have 6 needs that need to be met for their health and well-being… I have regularly talked about these in relation to designing and managing workplaces.

However – these fundamental needs still apply with many people now working from home. What are you doing to make sure these needs are being met?


We strive for excellence and take pride in our accomplishments – Achievement is strongly linked to a desire to not only take responsibility for our own work, but also to receive recognition for reaching the necessary standards. Motivation to achieve is at its greatest when the goals are attainable. A sense of achievement correlates with self-esteem, productivity and performance.


We seek freedom in our actions and decisions – Autonomy or independence within our sphere of work is connected to job satisfaction and commitment to the organisation. More recently autonomy is the freedom to decide which tasks we will tackle, in which order and in which way, rather than simply on content. So, it might mean taking the time out to think about a project or having the space to discuss an idea with colleagues.

However, autonomy must be balanced against the needs of the wider team or organisation – if either the team or the individual have too much control over the other, then everyone’s work will become less effective.


We want a meaningful connection to others It is human nature to want to belong – we feel better if we are included, and is connected to reduced stress, enhanced engagement and productivity, and greater performance. The need to make connections within our social groups, work teams and the wider organisation is what drives us to spend time with others or joining in with conversation.


We want to make a difference – Purpose is experienced as a feeling of meaning in one’s work, and the feeling that the work matters. This feeling is fundamental to all, at any job or career level. It is strongly linked to attendance, engagement, job satisfaction and performance. Volunteer work shows just how significant purpose is to the workforce.


We desire health, safety, familiarity and competence – As one of our fundamental needs, security is about stability, predicable outcomes and knowing what to expect, as well as the more traditional feelings of physical safety and job security. Humans are creatures of habit – at work as well as at home, we take comfort in familiar surroundings and routines. Security is considered a ‘lower order’ need and it is necessary to access higher order needs such as purpose. The absence of security can inhibit performance and negatively impact mental health. A paradox of a deeper understanding of security is that people often feel most secure if they are given a lot of flexibility.


We seek recognition for our contributions Status at work isn’t about a promotion or salary increase (though both are great). What status really means is that we are valued and appreciated by our peers. Humans are predisposed to seek out this recognition because when we receive it, our body releases the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin. Status is also based on the group to which we belong, not only on a social or team level but also the status of the company itself – a prospective employee will consider whether they want to be associated with a brand.

So, I repeat – What are you doing to make sure these needs are being met?

We have set up a series of webinars – if you want to join us check out this website –

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