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Does our workplace support our business goals?

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 objectivesIs the workplace you occupy, manage, or deliver, proactively supporting the roles of those they accommodate? Is it enabling cultural transformation, competitive advantage, innovation, agility, capital efficiency, talent optimisation and facilitation of effective leadership?

Corporate real estate is worthless unless it supports the goals of the organisation irrespective of its actual monetary value. Workplaces have a role to play in the execution of not only an HR strategy but its support of the company culture and values as well as the IT strategy.

The workplace plays a pivotal role in the execution of the core management agenda. Initiatives such as remote working, collaboration, innovation, agility, employee engagement and leadership all have workplace related dimensions.

In a hyper-competitive world, the workplace is a key differentiator in the attraction, development and retention of the best candidates. According to a 2015 resources and talent planning survey by Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development(CIPD), job candidates consider physical workplace a more important factor than leadership, CSR, technology and the diversity and inclusion agenda.

According to research, satisfaction with the variety of different types of workspaces, which support various activities is the highest probability indicator that an employee will agree that ‘the design of their workplace enables them to work productively’. This applies in particular to scenarios where the complexity and variety of work related activities increase.

How do you calculate the ROI of the workplace? 

Until now there has been no way to scientifically  measure the value add of the workplace however, the WorkplaceFundi Return on Investment (WROI) model is unique which for first time uses unique scientific research to calculate the workplace effect on 5 key Performance metrics , The WROI tool is formulated based on 105 identified unique scientific research sources, and a total of 194 individual assessments of performance.

This culminates in the isolation of 9 workplace Elements that drive 5 dominant and recurring performance metrics:
1. Increased individual task performance of between 0.3 and 3.5% -this refers to changes in cognitive performance tests such as memory/recall, mental arithmetic, concentration, and proof-reading tasks etc.

2. Reduced absenteeism of between 0.1 and 0.4% – Studies that monitored, or calculated, changes in absence from work due to sickness and other factors.

3. Reduced staff attrition and increased attraction of between 0.3 and 4.5% -  Relates to studies that measured the impact of the workplace parameters on staff attrition (turnover rates) or increased attraction of new staff (recruitment).

4. Increased organisational performance of between 2.4 and 5% - This refers mostly to high-level embedded hard business metrics like sales, income/turnover and profitability, or softer metrics like customer satisfaction and repeat business. Team performance was also monitored in a few isolated studies.

5. Improved health and wellbeing of between 0.1 and 0.6% – mostly high-level reviews, highlighted the link between the workplace design elements and wellbeing or physical health.

This tool will ensure that you are spending money in the best area to ensure a return on that investment and it may just have a bigger impact on your bottom line than your CFO!

What are the benefits of a great workplace?

The most important driver for employee engagement, productivity and feeling connected to the culture is Whether or not people like their workplace.

So, workplace matters, and it matters in ways many leaders don’t realise. Data collected in the 2022 Steelcase Global Report-The New Era of Hybrid Work has shown us that employees who like their office are: 

33% more engaged, 
30% more connected to their company’s culture,  
20% more productive and 
9% less likely to leave.

The evidence is damning but clear. Even if your office perform on average you will struggle to have employees willingly return under their own steam, simply because they can perform their role better from the comfort of their own home. so the bottom line is that having a great place to work and getting people into it, is a competitive advantage.

How will EWM-360 Help?

Step  1 - Experience 
We do a deep dive assessment of on the employees experience both working from home, the workplace and their thoughts on returning to the workplace . This forms the fundamental base data and insight from which the workplace strategy is formed.  

Demographics –
allows us to analyse the data by demography

21 Workplace activities – Those work activities that are most important to each individual and how well the workplace supports those activities

10 Workplace impact factors- Measures how well the workplace supports overall sense of productivity, pride etc.

20 Environmental components - which internal environment components  are important in creating an effective workplace?

11 Psychological/Cultural dynamics – which policies procedure or practices are important and how satisfied employees are with them

30 Functional elements- Those physical features of the workplace that are important and how satisfied employees are with them

25 Service features - which service features in the workplace are most important and how satisfied employees are with them

13 Home working drivers  – What factors are driving employees preference of working from home or the office  

10 Return to Work considerations  – Understanding the important issues about the employees returning to the workplace and how satisfied they are with them 

Step 2 Evaluate
We assess the data and insight from the workplace experience assessment and marry them with the strategies of the organisation as they relate to business , the workforce, CRE  and the workplace.

Step 3 Engage
This is where we look at the integration of all of the workplace disciplines  including HR, IT, FM and CRE and understand what performance means on an holistic level 

Step 4 Execute
We bring the IBOS standards to bear on all of the pillars of operation excellence and put them into action along with the required resources and processes.

Step 5 – Excel
This is where we set the workplace up for success in how to manage  the workplace how to measure the metrics that matter most and how it can evolve into the future. 

What's the value of the office in a virtual world?

Covid-19 has forced the world’s largest remote-working experiment to be activated at short notice and it has raised challenging questions on the purpose, value and need for the corporate office. It may seem counterintuitive but I believe that Organisations don't want offices, what they want is a productive workforce.

The death of the office has been predicted many times in the last 100 years and this is no different, but as before, it is unlikely to be a prediction that comes true.

The office will be here for many years to come, albeit significantly transformed. The sustainability of employees working remotely is a critical factor in determining this.

But what is the optimum formula? and how can we use the established corporate real estate to best effect? Organisations need to view this break in ‘business as usual’ as an opportunity to re-imagine the workplace so that it becomes a better, more productive and a more fulfilling experience for everyone.

One that is more human, more attractive, more connected, more flexible, more distributed and more sustainable, economically, environmentally and socially.

Do we need a workplace strategy?

The idea that the workplace can be a lever for strategic advantage is by no means new, but it’s one that many senior leadership teams have failed to act upon.

The Coronavirus has accelerated the need for change and we need to reset the dial and view COVID-19 as an opportunity to re-define our workplace strategy for what will be the ‘new normal’ for your business and the workplace needed to support it.The strategy of the organisation is led and implemented by the CEO.

This provides the overarching context and direction to the activities of the organisation. The CEO should, therefore, be driving a workplace strategy that supports the overall enterprise strategy.

Workplace exists at the junction between its two most valuable assets its real estate and its people and how they contribute to the over all strategy.

For a workplace strategy to be enacted there needs to be an appraisal of the workplace to understand how it currently supports the activities of its occupants and how this contributes value to the enterprise.

While management has the responsibility of appraising the performance of its people, who will be responsible for the measurement and appraisal of the workplace?

If the workplace is second only to the cost of the people it houses, it is myopically short-sighted not to understand how it is performing and how it supports organisational objectives?

This appraisal need not be elaborate or expensive, but each organisation needs to know how its workplace best supports its employees and what they are charged with trying to achieve. This at its very heart is the essence of the corporate workplace strategy.

Workplace why now?

The problems we need to face and the opportunities we need to exploit, don’t lie somewhere on the horizon, they are here, and we need to act now. There is an accelerated pace and focus on defining the future of work as the future of the workplace experience and worker well-being.

This may be a bitter pill to swallow but organisations will have to listen to the needs and concerns of their people like never before.

Organisations will need to confront the conundrum of the previous shift towards the open-plan office and agile working. Both these disciplines are characterised by the close proximity of people within the workplace. This against a backdrop of a need for physical distancing which will remain in the psyche for some time to come all of which will likely negatively impact much-needed team collaboration and service innovation.

The shift to greater numbers of employees working from home brings with it a whole new set of dynamics. Benefits of removing the lengthy commute will be counterbalanced by the mental aspects of the lack of social cohesion and collegiality afforded by the workplace. Security, communication and collaboration will also be challenging.

These different perspectives are all wrapped up in our notions of ‘work’ itself. Work as ‘something you do, not somewhere you go’ has become a cliché, but the notion of ‘I’m going to work’ is now having to be critically reassessed.

These warnings expose the reality that the majority of companies are likely to squander opportunities to use their workplace strategy to drive improved employee engagement that will provide a compelling reason for employees to return to the office as opposed to compelling them to return which will all lead to improved organisational performance.

What is a workplace strategy?

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.

A workplace strategy aligns your company’s processes and work environment to achieve the business’s goals.

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

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.

How do we create a workplace strategy?

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.

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? Now you’re ready to define the strategy that will empower you to achieve these objectives.

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.

Build a multi skilled integrated workplace team.
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? 

This extraordinary situation is further complicated by the historically siloed approach which meant that HR, IT, CRE and FM had differing views of the workplace that were often further exacerbated by reporting lines into Finance or Operations.

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.  

I advocate that this mishmash and mismatch will be a millstone around the neck of organisations if they sleepwalk into a future thinking that nothing has changed. We need to prepare our organisations for the upturn. The new economy will require increased agility and resiliency if we are to turn back the clock on historically rising costs and occupancy densities that were inexorably married to falling levels of productivity.

How should we take on this unprecedented task? How can we prepare for the impending workplace re-entry? What should that look like? The bad news is that, with the hybrid working model now a reality, the workplace has just got even more complex and ambiguous 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. 

Streamline Strategy.
The EWM-360 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 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.

What’s driving the demand for workplace strategy?

In truth business leaders haven’t had to worry too much about a workplace strategy until recently but now there are several forces bringing the need for an integrated approach to the forefront. Some of these have always been there but the global pandemic has given rise to the acceleration of the complexity that arises when an employee can work from anywhere (WFA)

We need to achieve more with less.
Budgets are tight and organisations no longer need the same amount and type of real estate with its associated costs.

Technology enables people to work from anywhere.
We need to cater for an increasingly mobile workforce, making sure they have a productive and compelling space to touch down in when they arrive at the office.

Work is becoming more complex.
As innovation and communication speeds up, spurred on by technology, we need to achieve new levels of creativity. As the demand for creative problem-solving increases, so does our need for collaboration, as well as time for learning and focusing and the workplace to support it.

We’re in a state of constant beta development.
As the pace of change continues to accelerate, it no longer makes sense to have a static workplace. Instead, we need to create an agile environment that allows us to adapt spaces to our changing needs.

Cultural expectations are shifting.
These days people value meaningful work and autonomy more than ever. To attract and retain the best people and enable them to perform at the top of their game we need to provide spaces that are not just functional, but inspiring and remarkable, so they can do remarkable work.

What is the business case for workplace?

Winston Churchill once said "We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us

So, there is a powerful argument that says, the workplace is the number one tool for the organisation's executive to implement cultural transformation and change in the way people work.

This starts by ensuring that the workplace reflects the companies values that enable employees to feel engaged and do their best work.

A powerful business case for building a workplace that reinforces a positive culture is expounded upon by world-renown change-management guru and Harvard Business School Professor Emeritus John Kotter in his book 'Corporate Culture and Performance' where he says; "Over an eleven year period those firms with cultures that emphasised all the key managerial constituencies … outperformed firms that did not have those cultural traits by a huge margin.

The former increased revenues by an average of 682 per cent versus 166 per cent for the latter, expanded their workforces by 282 per cent versus 36 per cent, grew their stock prices by 901 per cent versus 74 per cent, and improved their net incomes by 756 per cent versus 1 per cent."

Where do I start?

So how do you get started if you want your workplace to reflect your brand and reinforce corporate culture?

There is no template for the hybrid 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.

Each organisation is unique and so there is the is no cut and paste approach to workplace strategy that can reconcile these factors while still prioritising the needs of the people so heavily impacted by all this change.First, do your homework.

Don't assume you already know what is needed. Your company may be making major investments in new ways of working or other change-management initiatives. Why not put the same level of analysis into your workplace as an important tool for recruitment or productivity?

The best way to find out is to ask through surveys, focus groups and occupancy studies. However, workplace surveys are becoming more and more popular so what makes the difference between a good workplace survey and a bad one?The difference, quite simply, is careful and informed design, contained in the EWM-360 Blueprint. 

What is workplace?

As indicated by the Google definition, workplace is more than just the corporate office. It is any place where people work. All work happens somewhere so, a railway station, warehouse, hospital, school or stadium is a workplace.

All workplaces and their users need the provision of a conducive space, environment, and services to be productive. Workplaces need to be viewed holistically to ensure that their Environmental, Functional and Cultural components are aligned.I formulated the following descriptions to recognise that there are fundamental differences in the focus of different workplaces, their output and the requirements needed in servicing them.

Hi-Tech workplace
These workplaces are predominantly concerned with maintaining the physical ‘hard’ assets that support production. Whilst people will be part of this, the focus of the workplace is on physical, mechanical or electrical assets, their operation, maintenance, and lifecycle.Typically, these workplaces include most industrial type premises such as factories, warehouses, power stations and more modern type premises such as data centres.

Hi-Visibility workplace
These workplaces need Customers to access the facilities for organisations to be able to serve them and to generate revenue. The workspace is therefore highly visible and central to the creation of the desired Customer experience. These facilities need to reflect a 3-D representation of the desired brand.Typically, these workplaces include shopping malls, retail shops, schools, universities, hospitals, stadia and even public transport facilities.

Hi-Touch workplace
These workplaces need to support the working activities of employees as their primary purpose. These environments are increasingly supporting knowledge workers. Knowledge workers need a variety of different work settings to maximise their productivity. The currency of these workplaces is employee experience. The workplace enables the human production line and the organisations competitive advantage.

Typically, these workplaces include corporate offices, serviced offices, homes and people working on the move.