This is the second in a series of 12 posts on the world of Workplace and Facilities. If you missed the first one you can find it here.

Whilst many of us around the world are working from home during national lockdowns, social distancing or even quarantine, this post may appear to be out of step with what is going on in the world. But, as I wrote in 8 Workplace Themes and their Implications Post COVID-19

We need to take time to deeply examine how we need to change, not only the physical environment of the Workplace but how we interact in order for people to feel safe to return”

The return to the Workplace after COVID-19 is likely to be traumatic for many and concerns around the health and safety of workers will no doubt be top of mind. We will need to change certain protocols at least in the short term. Physical distancing will still be required but we will need to mend the damage that prolonged periods of isolation and social distancing has meant to social cohesion.

This is the moment to reset the dial. We must not miss the opportunity to shift our perspective on how the purpose and values of the organisation are reflected in the Workplace and consequently how this contributes to the wellbeing of the institution as well as its employees and stakeholders.

How does your Workplace make you feel?

The Leesman Index tells us that those people who work in the best offices are proud of their Workplace and demonstrate this by actively encouraging a friend or a family member to come to visit in order to experience it. A further indicator of the very best Workplace is where staff members report having a best friend at work. So this is somewhere you are supposed to feel good about.

Juxtapose this against offices where there is a mass exodus of people who go and do work in a restaurant or a café or even at home. This is a sure sign that their Workplace is less than inspiring and inhibits them from working productively. So, your organisation’s bottom line is likely to be suffering as well.

As occupiers, we tend to place a lot of emphasis on the aesthetics of a Workplace. We have been bombarded with glamorous images from Google and the other West Coast tech companies that have ‘weaponised’ Workplace to the extent that Deloitte reports that 63% of Millennials believe that their Workplace is more important than leadership.

While these companies are sinking trillions of dollars into the latest and trendiest artefacts, furniture and design, You do not need to follow suit. However, if your Workplace does not reflect your organisational culture then there is a disconnect. This will lead to your staff lacking trust in your organisation as you try to be something that you’re not.

Your Workplace has to reflect the organisational culture and values, whatever that may be. This must be immediately apparent to all who enter not just those on the inside, Clients, suppliers and other stakeholders must feel it too. Even members of the public must understand what this says about your organisation.

Companies need to actively develop and nurture a culture. To allow it to emerge organically is risky and abrogating corporate responsibility. In either event, the Workplace can be used to design or reinforce that culture. On the flip side of the coin, it can operate to actively undermine culture, reduce value and destroy your competitive advantage.

The most visible element of a Workplace is the physical environment. The workspace is the catalyst and facilitator for the other elements. It is the physical environment that enables the culture to be displayed through services, symbols and icons.

A company’s premises often give tell-tale clues to the real culture of an organisation. Layout and certain icons within the buildings as well as processes and services can often be at odds with the desired or stated culture.

The presence of cellular offices, biometric clocking devices, name badges, security devices as well as more subtle signals such as artwork and the use of colour tell us much more about the culture of an organisation than the mission, vision and values posters on the boardroom walls ever can.

It is the physical environment through different working spaces that promote the working culture and allows the technology to surface its capabilities.

It is the physical manifestation of the Workplace that will put an organisation on the first rung of the Workplace experience ladder.

The Business Case

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

Even before the COVID-19 lockdown, modern day living means that we spend 90% of our time indoors without enough daylight or fresh air. We don’t think about it any more, but science has shown that this can be harmful to our health and wellbeing.

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.”

Creating and Managing a Winning Workplace is crucial to your survival as a business.

The 12 E’s of a Winning Workplace

We have seen the inexorable rise of the Experience Economy which has meant that organisations need to understand employees as consumers of the Workplace to get the most out of their teams. This will be even more so in a post coronavirus world.

Staff and Customers experience your brand in the Workplace and their expectation is that they don’t just want the goods or services, they want an experience to differentiate you from your competitors.

To deliver a meaningful Workplace experience WorkplaceFundi believes that it has to perform on 12 different dimensions. We refer to these dimensions as the 12E’s of a Winning Workplace.

1. Economic

If we are to create great Workplaces we need to be in step with the financial agenda of the organisation. The Workplace has to fit in with the organisation’s commercial objectives.

2. Efficiency

We need to consider cost efficiency as well as space efficiency. Efficiency is an important element in being able to justify workplace transformation, but this must not be to the detriment of effectiveness.

3. Effectiveness

Effectiveness and efficiency are yin and yang, they are inseparable and need to be considered holistically to create opportunities for your business.

4. Enablement

Enablement is about more than just productivity. A person’s performance is impacted by a broad range of factors. A Winning Workplace enables communication, innovation, creativity and collaboration to work in harmony and increase revenue

5. Elements

Our environment and physical space is key to our performance and wellbeing. We have identified 13 physical elements that need to be optimised and maximised to make up a Winning Workplace that will improve healthy work environments and energise and inspire staff.

6. Emotion

The Workplace may ultimately be a functional space, but Workplace professionals should always consider the emotions and feelings that the space will elicit in the user; as this will have a significant impact on their experience.

7. Engagement

Bringing people together in a place that foster connections and unites them can be the first step in improving levels of employee engagement and retention as well as linking the physical environment to people based metrics such as absenteeism, staff turnover and employee satisfaction.

8. Expectation

Understanding which physical and service features impact the creation and management of an effective workplace for users allows you to improve brand, image identity and culture that best reflects your organisation and meet the expectations of all stakeholders.

9. Experience

Creating a Workplace experience that can engender loyalty and advocacy requires consideration of emotions and how the space makes the user feel.

10. Environment

With the built environment contributing over 40% of the world’s carbon emissions, a Winning Workplace must reduce environmental impact be as sustainable and responsible as possible.

11. Ether

In today’s hyper-connected world every organisation and their Workplace exist both physically and digitally. The need to work from home during the COVID-19 lockdowns is showing us that the digital workspace opens up the potential for significant advantage or weakness for organisations.

12. Evolution

The Workplace, as with the organisation that it serves, needs to be in a permanent stage of ‘beta’ development. Spaces and systems within the Workplace should underpin the principle of organisational agility and flexibility, enabling the physical Workplace to be able to adapt to market conditions, occupancy challenges and be easily reconfigured to support growth and changing business needs.

Where do you start?

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

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.

WorkplaceFundi will undertake a Deep Dive analysis though the use of a scientifically designed Workplace survey tool that takes into consideration a wide spectrum of issues ranging from;

  • Collaboration
  • Furniture and Layout
  • Environment Design
  • Indoor Environment Quality
  • Facilities and Services
  • Technology

The output from these are then validated and linked to

  • Activities: Which work activities are important to employees and how well each is supported by the workplace.
  • Impact: How the workplace impacts an employee’s sense of productivity, pride, enjoyment, culture and community, etc.
  • Features: Which physical and service features are important to employees and how satisfied they are with these.

Conclusion

Today’s workplace is more than an aesthetic conjured up by an interior designer. It needs to be a technology-enabled experience aligned to your brand, values and the way people want to work. You may need to make trade-offs to balance the 12 E’s, so having a well-rounded and experienced Workplace team will ensure the project stays on track.

Done without a thoughtful approach, the workplace will still reflect your corporate culture, but it might not be the culture or brand you want.