Today our workspace is more than an internal political statement, and can offer a personal connection, help us communicate and collaborate, build organisational cohesiveness and foster inspiration. Put simply, where we sit, stand and interact with colleagues is key to our wellbeing and our sense of belonging.
Modern day workspaces are no longer just offices. There is no longer “my desk”, “my in-tray”, “my space”. As employees become more aware and more demanding, HR and Operational departments need to keep up, to keep and attract the best staff. Workspace design is key to retaining your people, keeping them happy and healthy, and most importantly making them as effective and efficient as possible.
Transformation in the Way We Work
The change in how people work is accelerating as fast as the technology they use at work and at home. The requirement for workplace design to meet these changes has never been so important as it is now. As our culture changes so does the workforce and its needs and desires.
During Aug-Oct 2012 there were 7.54m people aged 50-64 in employment which equates to a quarter of the working population. Many generations are now working together, all with different preferred work styles – some are digital native, born into the world of mobile, internet, social media and intuitive technology; some are digital immigrants, who have embraced, to very different degrees, the information age they now inhabit.
Ensuring that the facilities and equipment you offer, the training you provide and the support you give to your teams is relevant for the whole workforce is a challenge. Making sure new arrivals, who might have the technical knowhow but not the life experience, can integrate and collaborate with those who have the experience but not the latest knowledge requires different environments and different ways of working.
It is around 25 years since the Internet entered our working lives, 10 years since social media really started to happen and now we have Cloud Working, Real Time Scheduling, Skype, Facetime and a host of different ways to work together to plan, develop, manage, promote and deliver our organisation’s goods and services.
For many this transformation is exciting and inspiring, allowing them different and more efficient ways of working. Building this evolving technology into workspaces is a constantly moving target. Where it used to be teleconferencing and Power Point presentations it is now virtual conferences and the Cloud as your mobile office filing cabinet.
With the changes in technology, teams can be truly global. One can be sat in New York, another in New Delhi, working together collectively. The increase in teams working cross-culturally and internationally is a reality.
Work style change
In the past work has been organised around functions, often only coming together as a cohesive whole at the top of an organisation. So it made sense for HR people to sit with their HR colleagues, for the Product Development team to be together and for the executive to take up the whole of the 9th Floor.
However, the pace of change is speeding up, along with the speed at which organisations need to respond to market and demand changes. This acceleration means organisations need to be more agile. Decisions cannot be only made once a month at the Board meeting, product development cannot only be initiated once a year at the Marketing budget review. And this has an impact on how and where organisations sit their people. It is becoming more and more common for project teams to sit together, combining different disciplines and lasting only as long as a particular project. This requires a workspace that is flexible, that can allow groups to come together and then reform in different configurations.
Many organisations are finding that to be competitive, increased collaboration is required, which in turn requires more and more varied collaboration spaces in organisations. Making places where people can co-create and where partners and customers can meet to debate and discuss projects, is the future of the workplace. Consultative conversations around clients’ needs rather than selling what you have in your catalogue is the future for developing accounts instead of transacting individual sales.
Many are looking at Customer Experience Centres with digital interfaces, collaboration areas, flexible CMS platforms with integrated app suites and real time feedback to tailor experiences, as a way of instigating this collaboration.
And of course, real estate costs are still a big part of overheads. Finding new ways of working, and making the workspace more flexible can also mean making it more efficient with higher ratios of group and multi-purpose space.
Changing the ethos of ‘mine’ to ‘ours’ can decrease individual space to shared space from 70:30 to 60:40 and increase user to workstation ratios from 10:10 to 10:8, saving space and money.
Allowing team members to have areas where they can meet and discuss informally rather than occupying meeting rooms for one-to-one meetings can increase per seat utilisation of meeting rooms from 50 per cent to 80 per cent. Offering phone ‘booths’ for private calls can decrease meeting room calls by up to 100 per cent.
Different teams, different objectives
Changes in the workplace need to sit well with all areas of the business. The HR Director will need to know how it will work with employees, and whether it will attract and retain talent. Operational Directors need to know how it will work within their processes and existing systems. Chief Finance Officers need to balance the required CAPEX spend against increased efficiencies achieved.
And the future?
The key to all these changes though is to evolve with your workforce. Making sure that as your workforce changes – be it their demographics, the way they work or the technologies they are working with – your workspace needs to keep apace with it. Having flexible spaces that are multi-purpose and multi-functional will take your workforce and your team beyond today and into tomorrow.
Krishna Money is a Director at Platform who weave clever thinking, creativity and expertise in contemporary design, communication and cutting edge technology to produce fantastic places, for fantastic brands.