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The Leesman Index released a report late last year that coined the term ‘Purposeful Presence’. The report outlined the reasons, drivers, and conditions around which employees, who have the freedom to choose, will willingly return to the office.

In this post we will see how 'Purposeful Presence' is created , its super drivers and why you need to repurpose your Facilities Management (FM) team to be able to curate a superior workplace experience.  

To Trust or to Mandate?

In The Workplace Tug of War: What's the Solution? I set out the 3 types of Hybrid working that are currently in play; 

  1. Trust-based hybrid- The employee has full autonomy to work wherever and whenever they like, and productivity is largely based on output or outcomes.
  2. Expectation-based hybrid – the employee is expected to be in the office a certain number of days in a week or month, providing the mandated days are met, the timing and scheduling are largely self-determined.
  3. Schedule-based hybrid – this is where the organisation allocate specific time slots in a week or a month where the employee is expected to be in the office e.g., Tuesdays Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Purposeful presence relies heavily on a trust-based Hybrid model. Those that do have the freedom to choose are trusted by their employer to have the autonomy to come to the office when they need to. However, from my experience, that is not prevalent in South Africa. 

That is not to say the Hybrid model is not in play here, but this is in most instances, either an expectation-based or schedule-based Hybrid solution.

These mandated hybrid models represent a risk to most organisations because of the obligatory nature of the employee's presence in the office and the level of implied control involved. 

Times have changed and employees' expectations have changed. In the current cost of living crisis, the employees undertaking the commute to the office are doing so at their own expense. 

As Leesman puts it so succinctly “the cost of living has become the cost of working” 

The effort and cost of the commute have to be worthwhile for the employee otherwise this cost becomes a grudge purchase and one that might very well make them hitch a ride on the ‘great resignation’ bandwagon.

Whilst we are starting to move towards a ‘new normal’ we must accept that we are still in a transitional phase and a lot of water needs to flow under the bridge before we settle on a definitive solution to the Hybrid conundrum. 

But, knowing why your employees choose their preferred work locations is vital in understanding the new work landscape and without this information, you will not be able to proffer a solution that has any chance of success.

In Three New Truths about the Modern Office I pointed out that employees have invested in creating home working environments that are better than those you have historically provided and managed. The data shows that the home working environment supports the majority of the employees' tasks better than the office.

So, given the choice, employees will only make the journey to the office for two reasons;

  1. To accomplish those tasks that they cannot complete at home or that are better supported in the workplace. 
  2. Connecting with colleagues in an environment that is conducive and provides a superior workplace experience.

Workplace Experience Clusters 

Leesman has distilled the impact workplace has on employee workplace experience into 3 clusters. 

  • Doing - Getting things done 
  • How the workplace enables the individual and their team to work productively. 
  • How it supports the sharing of ideas and knowledge amongst colleagues. 
  • How it creates an enjoyable environment to work in.
  • How it contributes to a sense of community.
  • Sensing - Image and sustainability
  • How the workplace reflects a positive corporate image
  • If the workplace has a positive impact on the environmental sustainability of the organisation. 
  • Feeling - Pride and culture
  • If the workplace makes employees feel proud to bring visitors to 
  • If the workplace has a positive impact on a desired culture.

Super Drivers of Employee Experience 

The drivers of the doing, sensing and feeling workplace experience, are individual work activities as well as physical and service features. All of these prove to be pivotal in driving positive employee sentiment across the three workplace experience clusters.


Out of 21 identified work activities measured by Leesman, there are only five super-drivers of workplace experience that prove to be pivotal in driving positive employee sentiment across all three experience clusters.

  • Planned Meetings
  • Learning from others 
  • Individual-focused work, desk-based
  • Relaxing/taking a break 
  • Thinking/creative thinking 

Of these five super drivers the most recent data suggests that only ‘Learning from others’ is better supported in the Office. The other four are currently better supported at home.

Physical Features

Out of 25 physical features measured, there are only five super drivers of workplace experience that prove to be pivotal in driving positive employee sentiment across all three experience clusters.

  • Desk 
  • Meeting rooms (small) 
  • Informal work areas/break-out zones 
  • General décor 
  • Noise levels 

Service Features

Out of 25 service features measured, there are only three super drivers of workplace experience that prove to be pivotal in driving positive employee sentiment across all three experience clusters.

  • General tidiness 
  • Tea, coffee & other refreshmentfac ilities 
  • Toilets/W.C. 

The Role of Facilities Management 

The thirteen super drivers of a superior employee workplace experience represent the critical priorities that FM absolutely and categorically need to get right if they are to provide a superior workplace experience. 

Once these super drivers are recognised it will provide your FM teams with a target to be able to support your employees better.

This focuses the efforts, but it should not detract from the fact that there is a multitude of other physical and service features that make up the bouquet of features in an awesome workplace and these are all required to be delivered to an acceptable standard so as not to detract from the super drivers.

From Facilities Management to Workplace Management 

Facilities Management is aware of their importance in terms of physical assets, technology and people. But historically FM has been more invested in the first two.

The time has come for FM to focus on the people element to remove obstacles and foster collaboration between HR, IT, and CRE to produce facilitate, support and curate a superior workplace experience.

I am not convinced this is possible for most FM teams currently.

Workplace Management is the new evolution of FM. FM will continue to exist but with new technology, it will become automated to make it cheaper because technical services are those that are going to be hit first and hardest.

The Workplace Management professional will need to blend the disciplines of HR, Corporate Real Estate, design, technology and business processes to address the core questions of  

“How do we need to work to make our organisation successful”?  and “What do we need to provide to enable people to do their best”?

To do this FM needs to change from a Technical discipline to a business discipline.

The question that needs to be answered is “Does your FM teams have the necessary skills to morph from being the invisible Cinderella non-core service that repairs the HVAC to becoming the front-line curator of superior employee experiences”  

I personally doubt it. It is asking too much of your existing FM team and even more so of an outsourced FM service provider.

These teams need to be reskilled to ensure that The Future of FM Services Delivery is Experiential

The risk if you don’t  is huge and you will likely squander any goodwill amongst your staff, and you risk them voting with their feet.

People  I  Place  I  Performance

Dig Deeper:

Hey Workplace enthusiasts! 🌐  Dive into our free Workplace Assessment now to unveil untapped potential and get the workplace experience that you deserve ! 💼

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