Driving employee engagement and competitive advantage through changes in real estate, technology and human behavior
Today’s businesses are looking for ways to increase their competitive advantage by improving employee engagement, increasing productivity, expanding globally and doing all this while ensuring security and lowering costs. While this is no easy task, many organizations are seeing success by rethinking the problem. What if your organization redesigned its office space to move away from assigned 1950s cube farms that were built to scale office factories? Instead, what if your organization moved to an open office design that fostered collaboration and innovation? What if your workspace was designed for mobile-first instead of desk-first?
Workplace transformation requires a new way of thinking
Workplace transformation occurs when real estate, technology, and human behaviors are leveraged to create fun, flexible, collaborative environments that foster innovation and enable a variety of work styles. To truly embrace workplace transformation, it takes new way of thinking. It requires moving away from traditional beliefs about work being a place, and instead embracing work as a concept, as a thing we do from anywhere. To be successful in this transformation, organizations must:
- Focus on “objectives”, not “supervision”. Traditional office spaces were built to ensure line of sight supervision of employees. This is because managers were taught that if you can’t see your employees, they aren’t working. However, according to a recent Work Life Fit study, 90% of employees feel their managers trust them to get their job from anywhere. So why are office spaces still built around making employees visible to their managers? Instead leadership should focus on employee objectives to determine success. This shift will cause managers to focus on employee results that will directly correlate to business outcomes, and will remove the factor of visual sight from the equation.
- Think “dynamic”, not “anchored”. Cubicle offices are rigid – they force people into assigned locations to get work done. Unfortunately, this doesn’t leverage human potential and preferences as different types of spaces are needed to take confidential calls, collaborate with colleagues, and meet with customers and partners. Instead, office space needs to be built to address the dynamic needs of business. Organizations need to create offices that account for private phone call requirements, the need to collaborate and host clients and vendors, and the reality that new people join teams and they need to be near coworkers that will be part of their day to day
- Enable “variety”, not “uniformity”. People are unique. So are their work styles. Some employees require silence to complete a task, others are engaged by loud music, and others require a mix depending on what they are working However, the traditional office layout does not support these requirements as people on the phone are distracted by those that need silence; people who need music are constantly being asked to be quiet; and meeting rooms are taken for group activities and thus unavailable to those who need them. Some employees thrive in an open stand up desk environment, but others need a traditional seated desk to be productive. What is needed to support a diverse group of people is a variety of available spaces designed to meet each of these needs. Often times, this means creating collaboration rooms, privacy rooms, team rooms and allowing people to work at home or in coffee shops to ensure people can take advantage of the space they work best.
- Embrace “distributed”, not “centralized”. When organizations make hiring decisions, one of the most limiting factors is Managers want their employees together, centralized in a single location. A byproduct of this is that the best person for the job may not be hired if they are not in the same city, state, or even country as the hiring manager. This is not good for busi- ness. Instead, organizations should embrace an anywhere work environment, allowing employees to work from the locations that enable them to get the most work done. By sup- porting a distributed workforce, employees with the best skills, regardless of their location, are doing work to support business growth
- Support “collaboration”, not “hierarchy”. Office spaces are often designed to treat employees of similar position equally. Therefore, it isn’t uncommon to see cubicles for rank and file employees and offices for more executive employees. Unfortunately, this design ignores the type of work being done. Offices should be transformed to accommodate the work that sup- ports business outcomes. This means that offices should be redesigned to support collaboration, team meetings and more formal customer gatherings as this work requires this type of space.
A new mindset regarding what “work” is and how and where it is accomplished is the first step. The next is to focus on the capital, technology and human elements of embracing this transformation.
Transforming your workplace focuses on three areas
There are three areas you must focus on to transform your workplace: real estate, technology, and people.
- Move away from assigned seating to open seating where organizational or project teams can sit together
- Provide a variety of environments to give employees the flexibility to choose their work setting
- Decouple the physical space consumption from employee headcount to lower real estate costs
- Leverage existing investments in wireless infrastructure and remote access solutions – augment with additional tools to ensure employees have secure access to data and applications wherever they are
- Provide collaboration tools so that people can work together on projects or have face-to-face meetings regardless of their location
- Support employees’ choice of device(s) to enable them to focus on their objectives
- Conduct trainings to teach employees about how these new and different ways of working will improve their engagement and allow them to be more productive
- Encourage collaboration with peers via meeting rooms and tools
- Give employees the freedom to work from anywhere
Now is the time to start your workplace transformation. Once implemented you will discover that your employees are more productive and happier; you are able to hire the best, most qualified candidates for your job openings as location no longer dictates success; and your space utilization will increase as you are only providing space for those who come into the office on a given day. This results in increased employee engagement and ultimately, competitive advantage for your business.