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In last month’s blog “Hybrid Workplace, Strategy v Tactics” I set out the dangers of organisations rushing to refit and remodel their Workplace based on a predisposition to aesthetics before determining a Workplace strategy in what is an increasingly digital and hybrid world.

There is no template for the Workplace of tomorrow. There is no successful design model to draw on for spaces that are now temporarily distanced, no proven real estate strategy for a portfolio of Workplaces that are currently empty.

Those organisations that want their workers to return to the Workplace, even if only for 2-3 days a week, will need to provide a compelling reason that attracts them back to the Workplace rather than trying to compel them to return.

The world has changed in so many ways but so has the balance of power in favour of the employee. Executives need to understand that having trusteed their employees for the last 18 months to work from home they cannot revert to a Dickensian workhouse mentality that substitutes presenteeism as the illusion of control.

New furniture, a barista and a lounge area will not cut it, you will need to fundamentally rethink the purpose and operation of the Workplace. To do this you need a Workplace strategy.

Why defining a Workplace strategy is important?

Any change without a plan gets messy, quickly. As ambiguity and complexity grows, so do your expenses. Workplace change does not need to be expensive but, without a strategy, the chances of success are remote, and this will have a costly price ticket with no chance of returning it to the shop for a refund.

Earlyon on the COVID crisis I set out in “Why you need a Workplace strategy now more than ever”. that we are at a watershed moment, that will change how, when and where we work. So, it is important to take charge of this change with a Workplace strategy

So, what is a Workplace strategy, and why do you need one?

What is a Workplace strategy?

A Workplace strategy aligns your company’s processes and work environment to achieve the business’s goals. But keep in mind this is a ‘one size fits one approach’ and it will be as unique as your company mission, vision, values and business goals.

By definition, a Workplace strategy is “the dynamic alignment of an organisation’s work patterns with the work environment to enable peak performance and reduce costs.” In simpler terms, your Workplace strategy outlines how the built environment and the experiences you create there, will help achieve the business’s objectives.

The environment in which he we work is such an integral part of the success of the business and the number 1 catalyst for productivity that

If your Workplace doesn’t work, then your business cannot perform.

So, does a high impact integrated Workplace that is streamlined, cost effective, efficient and that supports your strategic objectives seem like a tantalizing ideal that dangles just out of reach?

Here are some indicators that you need a Workplace strategy.

  • You are uncertain as to how you can maximise the commercial benefits of your Workplace.
  • You need to understand how your Workplace experience contributes to your employee’s engagement.
  • You are anxious about employee performance & productivity in a hybrid working environment
  • You need to prepare for the future of work how, where and when work is done.
  • The business requires greater levels of innovation and collaboration
  • You need to provide a compelling reason for employees to come back to the office.
  • You need to reduce staff turnover as well as retain and attract talented workers
  • Covid restrictions have left your office more hospital than hospitality.

Like most projects, it helps to break it down into pieces. So, let’s take a closer look at the five key components to building a thoughtful and actionable Workplace strategy.

1.   Alignment to business objectives

Like all serious undertakings, the starting point is an objective led approach to what the Workplace experience is seeking to achieve in tangible organisational terms.

Before you define your Workplace strategy, first consider the larger context of the business. What is the organisation trying to achieve commercially and in what ways does the working environment impact on these drivers? How is the Workplace performing currently? How productive is the workforce, and how can this be improved? What can the organisation afford?

Whether your company aims to increase revenue, reduce costs, or retain key talent, your Workplace strategy should help the company achieve these objectives.

Think about the company’s current priorities, and what you expect the priorities will be in the next three to five years. For instance, is your company gearing up for rapid expansion after a new round of funding? Or are you streamlining costs in preparation for an IPO, or to become profitable?

Use the answers to these questions to craft your objectives as a Workplace organisation. Your objectives should illustrate at a high-level what your team intends to accomplish in a set period. Now you’re ready to define the strategy that will empower you to achieve these objectives.

2.   Tap into your employee’s insight.

Employees are the key ingredient to the success of your Workplace strategy. It is their input that will guide you in the required changes and will create a sense of ownership and build trust with the Workplace team. However, a word of warning! Trust cannot be built overnight and existing organisational issues or internal politics that lay under the surface can negate both the response and the resulting data.

This exercise needs to be conducted in a safe, anonymous environment that protects respondents’ identities. As external and independent “research partners” we are really in a good position to assist as we are not involved in any internal politics or agendas, and as experts we are able to interpret the data and probe deeper where necessary.

Surveys are a great way to get a collective understanding of how people use your space and how they would like to see it evolve. These assessments are a great way for clients “dip their toes in” as a low cost first step to understand the sentiments of their people.The WorkplaceFundi Deep Dive Diagnosis uses 4 preparatory tools to undertake a thorough audit both on the portfolio and processes.

  1. Workplace (inc. home) Experience Assessment (WXA)
  • Activities: Which work activities are important to employees and how well each is supported by the workplace and home environment
  • Features: Which physical features both at home and the workplace are important to employees and how satisfied they are with these.
  • Services: Which service features are important to employees and how satisfied they are with these.
  • Return to the workplace: How do employee feel about the potential return to the office
  1. Service Experience Assessment (SEA)
  • Overall Satisfaction-The level of overall satisfaction with the users service experience
  • Service Quality Index– The overall service quality as measured on 5 dimensions
  • Nett Promoter Score– Customer loyalty, satisfaction, and enthusiasm with the service provider
  • Customer Effort Score– The amount of effort required to receive satisfactory response to request or service deliverable.
  1. Business Impact Assessment (BIA)
  • The impact of the 16E’s of a Winning Workplace on the Business drivers
  1. FM Evaluation Assessment (FMEA)
  • Assessment of the 10 key critical competencies of your FM provider (in-house or outsourced)

3.   Be prepared for changing work preferences

Understanding where your team and workplaces stand today is just as important as looking to the future. But, before making changes, try to understand why things exist the way they do. What has been successful and what hasn’t. Workplace change can be an expensive exercise, but it can be more than offset with the potential optimising of the space, greater alignment and productivity.

Next, we need to go a level deeper and assess how your Workplace measures up to the metrics that matter most. A good Workplace strategy is proactive and accounts for expected changes. Predicting the future is never easy but listening to your employees and staying on top of Workplace trends is an excellent place to start.

As we look towards the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and reopening offices, expect employees to have notably different expectations regarding flexibility. For instance, Almost 70% of employees want a hybrid solution of working from the office 1-4 days per week.

This means that you need to think about adapting your physical space to allow for a greater degree of amenities, agile working, activity-based working and allocating more space for group collaboration and social activities. Also, consider how you can empower employees to get help and resources whether they’re working from home or at the office.

4.   Build a multi skilled integrated Workplace team

This is probably the most important step in the whole process

If the CEO of your company were to ask “Whose responsibility is it to make sure the Workplace is delivering to its full potential” what would be the response? Perhaps more poignantly, who would respond? Who is responsible for the workplace? Is it FM? Is It HR? Is it IT or even Corporate Real Estate?

The modern Workplace is already a complex area being an amalgam of at least 5 different disciplines, and now it is in the middle of a strategic transformation

  1. HR who are responsible for the People,
  2. Operations (or Finance?) who are responsible for the performance,
  3. Corporate Real Estate who are responsible for the place.
  4. IT (not exclusively) are responsible for providing the network and tools by which the people create the output and
  5. Facilities Management who are responsible for the contribution to the bottom line of the building assets as well as delivering the Workplace environment and services that underpin the Workplace experience

In truth, all of these disciplines can all lay claim to a part of Workplace that is critical. The integration of people, place and process has always been a convoluted and obtuse area and one that leadership has perhaps shied away from because of the entrenched empires and the intractable nature of the problem.  But, I would advocate, that unless someone is given overall responsibility for the Workplace we will remain in a permanent state of disarray and we will lose the potential benefit this Workplace  revolution promises us.

The bad news is that, with the hybrid working model now a reality, the Workplace has just got even more complex and ambiguous. In organisations that need to rebalance their portfolios in a move to a more distributed, networked, structure, these functions need to emerge from their organisation silos and integrate their capabilities into a cohesive Workplace team that has improvement of human performance as their key objective.

In order to manage this level of intricacy, Collaboration and information sharing between multiple support lines needs to be established by the workplace experience delivery team? The Workplace needs to become the function of a specialist with appropriate levels of access and influence.

Support teams HR, IT, FM, Corporate Real Estate (CRE) and Procurement, need to do more than simply provide effective infrastructure, but act as educators and internal communicators to ensure the same experience can be delivered consistently and reliably on a daily basis through economic ups and downs, at different sites, and in different regions.

The Chief Workplace Officer role is now meaningful for the first time because of the need to reinvent the Workplace.The CWO role sits at the centre of these disciplines. The CWO acts as a ‘super-connector’ to removes obstacles, foster collaboration and oversee an environment in which peer-to-peer information sharing, collaboration and production can occur. The CWO needs to engender a ‘one team’ approach across all disciplines and to empower the Workplace team to act as integrators, not just facilitators

5.   Streamline Strategy

The Workplace strategy agglomerates all the information and data collected in the previous stages to establish a blueprint for the Workplace which aligns with the organisation’s commercial objectives.

This blueprint is about ensuring that the Workplace acts in conjunction with, but as a coherent extension of, the business strategy by explaining where you will focus your efforts and why as well as how you will achieve your Workplace objectives.

The Workplace team needs to be able to fulfil the requirements of the brand, acting as advocates for the business to both employees and end customers and ensure that the workplace is in sync with the culture & brand

The world of work, and the places that support it, are undergoing substantial, dynamic, even volatile change. Driven by changes in economics, technology, demographics and ways of work, workplaces must evolve to be more flexible, supportive, innovative, and agile.

Workplaces are important strategic assets from which organisations can expect a return on investment. Through Workplace strategy, the planning, design and management of workplaces will increase the efficient and effective use of space to support workers in the performance of their work, realising the full potential of this important strategic asset.

Once you’ve laid out your Workplace strategy and identified your objectives, it’s time to align your work patterns and the work environment to achieve these goals. Change is hard, which is why your Workplace strategy needs a flexible and detailed change management plan to ensure it’s executed effectively.

People  I  Place  I  Performance

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