Workplace Strategy: How to Go From Lifeless to Lively

The following is a guest blog written by Jill Zunshine, Corporate Real Estate, Procurement, Supply Chain, and Operations Executive.

The Journey to Workplace Productivity is a lot Like the Journey to the Wizard of Oz

Have you ever thought your workplaces were boring and lifeless? Have you ever wondered what could be done to turn your boring and lifeless workplaces around? I did. Once I inherited boring, lifeless workplaces. When you find yourself in this situation, you may be tempted to adopt the latest workplace trend. Remote working. Open office. Free address. Co-working. Back to the office. But how do you know that any of these trends will work for your business?

The best workplace strategies are designed around the people and the work. They boost workplace productivity by improving the employee experience, attracting and retaining talent, and improving business productivity. By how much? Here’s a striking example. One of Serraview’s large corporate real estate clients achieved:

  • 89% of people recommending their new workplace to others,
  • Four times more job applicants, and
  • 92% utilization of their corporate real estate portfolio, up from 50% three years ago.

How do you get there? The journey to workplace productivity is a lot like the journey to the Wizard of Oz. A tornado strikes. Dorothy is lost. She follows the yellow brick road to the Wizard of Oz. On the way, she meets three characters: the scarecrow, the tin man, and the cowardly lion.

  1. The scarecrow needs a brain. The brain in workplace strategy is gathering the data and creating design principles.
  2. The tin man needs a heart. The heart in workplace strategy is engaging people in the design and creating a design that engages people.
  3. The cowardly lion needs courage. Courage in workplace strategy is leading the change, especially when it’s difficult.

Brains, heart, and courage. Are you ready to get started? Here are three steps to transform your workplace from lifeless to lively with workplace strategy.

Workplace Strategy Step 1: Gather Data & Create Design Principles (“The Brains”)

“The role of the workplace strategist is to get to know the organization in a really deep way,” says Randy Howder, Gensler workplace strategist in Interior Design. “It’s more than just one vision session. It’s really living with the client, like how Frank Lloyd Wright used to go live with clients, to really respond to the environment.”

Gather Data

To get to know your company and inform your workplace strategy, gather the data to learn:

  • Business Strategies – for your entire company, every business line, and every function, especially human resources, information technology, and brand.
  • Industry Trends – for the industry your company is in, and perhaps even for related industries.
  • Employee Feedback – employee engagement surveys, workplace satisfaction surveys, and facilities satisfaction surveys.
  • Observations – real-time, in person workplace observation studies by a trained industrial engineer who observes activity in both dedicated and shared spaces.
  • Utilization % – how and how much space is used. This is where it helps a lot to have tools to collect and analyze the data. (Learn more from this white paper: Managing Workplace Utilization.)
  • Financial Results – operating expense, capital expenditures, and assets. Get it by site, if possible.

Gathering data to get to know your company and its business, can be the hardest and most time-consuming step, especially if you don’t have good systems, data, or relationships. But you must do it. Without it, you can’t design a workplace strategy that would meet your business needs.

Create Design Principles

When I gathered the data about my company and its business, and analyzed the data, here are the principles that I came up with. Some of them may apply to your company.

  • Connections – How can workplaces become the hubs and connection points for people, places, and partnerships?
  • Focus & Flexibility – Where will we work quietly, free from distraction and noise, and have the ability to change our workplaces based on our needs?
  • Engaging Experiences – How will we design engaging experiences rather than merely spaces?
  • Technology – How can technology bring the physical and digital worlds together? How can technology enlarge our world beyond the four walls?
  • Brand/Culture – How can workplaces communicate brand and culture?
  • Sustainability & Wellness – How can workplaces contribute to better health and better environmental outcomes?

Read more in this related article: Components of the High Performance Workplace

Workplace Strategy Step 2: Engage People in the Design & Create a Design that Engages People (“The Heart”)

Engage People in the Design

To create a design that engages people, start by engaging people in the design. If you prefer a more structured approach, consider ideation workshops or design thinking. If you prefer a less structured approach, consider focus groups or just talking with people.

Identify Work Styles

Identify the different styles of work at your company. They may vary within a business or function. They’re likely the same for one type of job or group of jobs. In technology companies and companies with a lot of technology, work styles may include:

  • Agile – flexible; where a person changes quickly and seamlessly between collaborative and concentrative work. Typical jobs include systems software engineers.
  • Communicator – connects and collaborates with his or her team; where a person balances face-to-face interaction with virtual meetings. Typical jobs include brand managers.
  • Concentrator – spends the majority of time on focused work; where a person shares ideas and builds community in a team setting. Typical jobs include region counsel.
  • Traveler – continually visits client sites when not in the office; where a person uses free address or touchdown space when in the office. Typical jobs include field technical support consultants.
  • Innovator – develops future products; where a person works heads-down, testing and building products, and also shares their work for feedback. Typical jobs include research engineers.

Create Work Settings and Zones

In your workplace strategy, create zones that bring the design principles to life and serve as primary or secondary work settings for each of the work styles. In the example below, the physical layout ranges from an active buzz at the entry zone to focused concentrative places in quiet zones. Here’s how:

  • Entry Zone – reception, business lounge, and showcase center. Emphasis on connections, engaging experiences, technology, brand/culture, and sustainability & wellness. Primary work setting for travelers.
  • Hub Zone – cafés, open dining, and break out spaces. Emphasis on connections, focus & flexibility, brand/culture, and sustainability & wellness. Primary work setting for agile, communicators, concentrators, and travelers.
  • Garage Zone – open and enclosed spaces. Emphasis on connections, focus & flexibility, engaging experiences, technology, and brand/culture. Primary work setting for agile and innovators.
  • Neighborhoods – team-based zone. Emphasis on connections, focus & flexibility, and engaging experiences. Primary work setting for communicators and concentrators.
  • Quiet Zones – little to no talking. Emphasis on focus & flexibility and technology. Primary work setting for agile, concentrators, and innovators.

You may also provide specialty areas in your workplace strategy, such as customer briefing centers and auditoriums. Consider where they belong relative to the other places. Close? Far away? Completely separated? And, will specialty areas sometimes serve a dual purpose as work space or public space?

Workplace Strategy Step 3: Lead the Change (“The Courage”)

Take accountability for leading the change. Dedicate time and resources to it, and get help when you need it. Communicate early and often. Leading the change is much easier if you’re completing or you already completed steps 1 and 2. Steps 1 and 2 help you make the case for your workplace strategy with facts & figures, as well as feelings.

Take accountability if and when the going gets tough. Ask for and give air cover. Ask for input, and make sure you both listen and hear what people say about your workplace strategy. And above all else, stay focused on the goal: boosting performance of the people and the business.

By following these three steps, you can achieve great results with your workplace strategy, as I did. Plus, you’ll be well on your way to lively, high performance, and perhaps world-class workplaces.

 

workplace transformation strategy

HR, IT & CRE: A Trifecta for Workplace Transformation Strategy

In many organizations, the corporate real estate team is leading the effort to transform workplaces into more modern spaces that better support the workforce. However, to be successful your workplace transformation strategy must be about more than designing better spaces. Moving to a modern workplace also requires significant technology changes, as well as change management programs to help staff not only adjust but flourish in the new environment.

workplace transformation strategy

That’s why your workplace transformation strategy should not be developed by the CRE team alone. Outcomes for the company and for employees improve with interdepartmental collaboration between your CRE, Human Resources and Information Technology teams.

What HR and IT can contribute to the workplace transformation strategy

Moving to modern workplaces with flexible seating can be a monumental shift for employees. The fact is, you’re asking them give up ownership of their desks and significantly change their work habits. In the end (when you do it right), your people will be happier and more productive. But people do resist change, at least initially, so a carefully planned change management strategy is a must. That’s where your HR department is vitally important to your workplace transformation strategy.

HR can and should be your “eyes and ears on the ground” with your workforce. They can plan and execute a frequent, proactive communication plan to help employees understand what you’re giving back and how they will benefit from working in the new environment. HR will also be the driving force behind employee health and well-being initiatives in the modern workplace, as well as training managers for leading in a mobile working environment, and providing the necessary policies around flexible working.

One of the biggest investments you’ll need to make for your workplace transformation strategy is modernizing your technology infrastructure to support mobility and shared workspaces. You’ll need help and guidance from your IT group in implementing the best options for your workforce while also staying within budget.

Typically, CRE already understands that modernizing your workplace is a win for the company, the employees and ultimately, your team as well (even though it will take a significant effort to achieve). On the other hand, your HR and IT departments may not understand why they should contribute to your workplace transformation strategy. So how can you overcome resistance and get them on the team?

Interdepartmental collaboration: how to gain buy in and assemble a team

Here’s a three-pronged plan for convincing your HR and IT people to help with your workplace transformation strategy.

1. Share what’s in it for them

When you want to engage your HR and IT teams, it’s helpful to think about the benefits of the modern workplace from their point of view.

What’s one of the biggest issues faced by your HR department? Attracting and retaining talent has become a huge challenge for many companies, and one that workplace can impact for better or worse. Offering a cool, modern, high-tech workplace can make your organization an employer of choice for applicants.

Read more: 3 Workplace Strategies for Attracting Top Talent

What are the benefits of the workplace transformation strategy for your IT group? One is obvious: the opportunity to try out new technology. However, there are more benefits that can reduce their workload for supporting and maintaining technology. Such as: moving to an IT strategy to support shared workspace and mobility is also an opportunity to standardize equipment, streamline supported applications, and also consolidate the number of devices in the workplace. A great example of this is workplace printers: moving from desktop printers at every workstation to larger, shared multifunction printers reduces the load on IT as well as the service and support budget.

2. Include IT and HR goals in your workplace transformation strategy

Beyond simply explaining the overall benefits of modernizing the workplace, you can win over your IT and HR teams by helping them to meet their specific KPIs and objectives. Start by asking each group about some of the initiatives they are currently working on, and then incorporating those goals into your workplace transformation strategy. Here are a couple of examples of how to do that.

Let’s say your Human Resources group is working on a plan to improve workplace health and safety, with the goal of reducing absenteeism and lost worktime. Your job is to build that goal into your workplace transformation strategy. Giving workers more flexibility and the ability to move around has been shown to reduce lost worktime. That’s a reason why call center workers and others who are traditionally chained to a desk tend to have high absentee rates. Something as simple as giving them wireless headsets so they can walk over to the window while they talk, or walk to the printer to retrieve a document, can improve health and wellbeing, reduce lost time, and even improve productivity.

Your IT group may be working on improving building security. One problem with traditional badge-swipe technology for entering a building is tailgating: when a person swipes in and holds the door open for others. In an agile workspace, you need a better handle on who is using which space and better technology to track your people. That technology can also serve to improve security from an IT perspective. For example, using an app to enter as well as exit a space provides valuable information for space planning, and also makes your building more secure, since it eliminates tailgating (people have to swipe to get out, so they can’t skip swiping to get in. To gain the interest from your IT group, include plans that meet their objectives in your workplace transformation strategy.

3. Address their concerns about workplace transformation

Your IT and HR groups are going to have questions and concerns about your plans to implement a modern workplace. Make sure you address these in your messaging, and let both groups know need them involved so you can develop a workplace transformation strategy that works for everyone.

Common HR concerns:

  • What will be the impact of this new environment on our people? HR needs to understand how employees will benefit from the modern workplace and how they can communicate that information to the workforce.
  • How can we support the behavioral changes we need from workers in a shared workspace? Achieving the desired outcome from your workplace transformation strategy requires not only workplace changes, but support programs, education and policy changes.
  • How can we help leaders to manage in a mobile work environment? Help HR to understand that one of the most important goals of workplace transformation is creating a culture of collaboration and innovation. That requires managers to develop new leadership skills, and training is needed to help them get there.

Read about Suncorp’s change management plan here: 9 Steps to Implementing Change in the Workplace: Agile Spaces

Common concerns you’ll hear from IT:

  • How does the workplace transformation strategy impact the current and long-term IT strategy? You’ll need to work with IT to come up with innovative technology solutions that support new ways of working while also meeting IT goals for security and infrastructure.
  • How do we manage the costs for technology implementation IT may not have the budget to implement all the intelligent workplace technology you want at once. Work with them on the financial impact and to develop a workplace transformation strategy that aligns the priorities over time. For example, instead of going with mobile phones, initially you may be able to use desktop phones where mobile workers can login at a flexible workstation to receive calls.
  • How will flexible working impact service level agreements? In a traditional setting with low occupancy, a 4-day response time for repairs may be fine because there are always free workstations. However, in an agile setting with higher utilization, response times must be stepped up. However, you can work with IT to come up with other strategies for reducing their workload, such as providing self-service access to frequently requested items like keyboards, and standardizing the equipment and software employees use.

Working together improves the outcome of your workplace transformation strategy

When HR, IT and CRE all have a hand in planning and executing your workplace transformation strategy, the outcomes improve for everyone:

  • You’ve got a team anticipating problems from varying perspectives: technology, workplace and workforce.
  • You gain insights from everyone’s knowledge and experience, so you can proactively plan interventions that minimize concerns and prevent problems from derailing your project.
  • With the right workplace design, technology, programs and policies in place, your employees get tremendous improvements in their workplace experience. They can accomplish more, feel better and actually enjoy the environment and their workday.
  • The big gain for the company (in addition to the huge cost savings from optimizing wasted space) is revenue growth from the increased productivity and innovation that result from the collaborative workplace culture.

That brings us to one final point, which will not be lost on top leaders: the interdepartmental collaboration of your HR, IT and CRE teams on this project is actually modeling the collaborative culture you’re looking to develop within your company.

Find out more about how to get the benefits you want from your workplace transformation strategy:

Impact of Integrated Workplace Management System on Today’s Workplace

Is the Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) right for the modern workplace? Today’s workplace has new requirements that have pushed the boundaries of what the workplace management tools and practices of yesterday can support. There’s a new IWMS model that can leverage existing investments and better support the workplace of the future.

 

Learn more from this white paper:

Hi, my name is Simon Davis, Vice president of Business Development with Serraview. As an 18-year veteran in the corporate real estate technology world, I am often asked the question about what I feel is the impact of the integrated workplace management system (or IWMS) in today’s environment.

To give you a bit of history, IWMS systems were developed in the late 90s and early 2000s to help corporate real estate executives manage both the operational and strategic elements of their portfolio.

The integrated workplace management system had a great foundational basis. As needs have changed over the years, IWMS has exploded into a much larger entity.

In 2005 or so, sustainability was added as another discipline.

Very recently the requirements of FASB 13 lease accounting change rules have meant considerable development has been required across all integrated workplace management system vendors.

The success of the integrated workplace management system unfortunately has caused issues when it comes to their ability to develop and serve the traditional tenants of IWMS on a long term basis.

Michael Bell, who is one of the original founders of the concept IWMS, issued a paper recently called IWMS 2.0 where he talks about the power of using multiple different stand-alone systems integrated through common APIs in order to achieve true best of breed capabilities across multiple service needs.

The benefits of these applications are that they can really truly focus on their core components. Applications such as Serraview being entirely space management focused mean that you have the ability to ensure that the capabilities and functionality are continually being developed and evolved.

New technologies are built on an almost daily basis that can help you manage your portfolios.

That 100% focus on space means that your systems are continually evolving and it means that you are getting better information and data from which to make those strategic decisions.

Systems such as Serraview are also built purposefully for today’s environment. In an agile world, which many companies are moving towards, you do have a need to be able to manage not just a one to one relationship of employees to seats, but one to many across multiple different disciplines, enabling your employees to work in environments that serve them better.

Employees wish to work how they want, where they want and when they want and an agile environment supported by a Serraview system can enable that very very quickly indeed.

That’s not to say that the integrated workplace management system as a concept is dead, but I certainly feel that IWMS systems are now getting better leverage by plugging into modern systems including Serraview.

I really appreciate you taking the time to listen to my video blog. If you have any questions, please reach out to the Serraview team through either LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter using #AskSerraview.

Thank you very much.

modern workspace: getting started with a hybrid workspace | modern office design

Modern Workspaces: Getting Started With a Hybrid Workspace

Workplace transformation is not something that can be accomplished in a matter of months or even a year. Rather, it’s a continuous journey of evolution and learning that aligns your workplace with your company’s larger objectives. If your company is just starting out on this journey, you’ve certainly realized that it’s impossible to modernize your entire portfolio at once. That’s why, among all the buzz about the modern workplace, the term “hybrid workspace” is beginning to emerge.

modern workspace: getting started with a hybrid workspace | modern office design

What is a hybrid workspace? Let’s start with what it’s not: an end in and of itself. Hybrid represents an iterative process of moving from traditional to agile, modern environments that support the changing nature of work.

Read more

Digital Wayfinding: Employee Experience Tools for Hybrid Workspace

As large organizations shift to modern, agile workplaces featuring non-assigned seating, there are many changes for employees. One of the biggest changes is giving up their desks and figuring out where they will work each day. With improving employee experience being one of the goals of the workplace transformation, the last thing you want is people having to walk the halls to find a desk every day. That’s the obvious reason why companies implementing agile working need a digital wayfinding system.

digital wayfinding: employee experience tools for hybrid workspace | employee mobile app

However, today’s digital wayfinding tools can do much more than help mobile workers find a seat. They can help to enable collaboration, boost productivity, optimize workspace, and serve as a secret weapon for the CRE team to monitor and improve employee experience.

Read more