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The Optimized Workplace

Today’s “optimized workplace” is a response to the continued influx of dynamic technology, the immersion of future generations, and a multitude of economic drivers facing businesses. The evolution of one dimensional metrics, space flexibility and densification all create their own set of challenges. When care is taken by looking at the three key drivers of workplace as a balanced ecosystem, then a high-performance workplace is possible.

People Strategy: Understanding how and where PEOPLE are working while connecting to their own personal passions and the common purpose of the organization. Insight into employee activities and work processes, coupled with organizational support of employee well-being, leads to enhanced performance.

Technology Strategy: Providing a ROBUST TECHNOLOGY infrastructure and appropriate hardware and software to support fluid communication, operational business needs and workforce choice and control. When technology strategy is not a key driver, the balance of the Optimized Workplace is easily disrupted.

Space Strategy: The WORKPLACE continues to play an integral role in supporting business, culture and human performance. Organizations are reallocating and reassessing their real estate portfolios so that their workplace reinforces the overarching business mission while still addressing both the collective and individual needs.

People Strategy

The first component, and perhaps the most critical to support culture and human performance, is insight into the workforce. It’s the second most costly expense after physical facilities, but the workforce is obviously the most important factor for a company’s success. Progressive companies think of space as another tool in their arsenal. The workplace plays an integral role in supporting both the business and culture.

Some questions to be explored for an effective People Strategy include:

  • What drives your workforce to come to work each day?
  • When and where is the workforce performing work and where are they most productive?
  • What personal and work commonalities connect the employees to each other and to the community?
  • How does your space support excellence in your market?

Today and in the future, the workforce’s capacity to find their own balance in the workplace through choice and control, in conjunction with technology and real estate strategy, will define the future of The Optimized Workplace.

 Technology Strategy

Our industry research and dialogue continue to trend towards the significance of technological influence in every aspect of our lives. As we explore a robust technology strategy in the Optimized Workplace, several metrics promote this concept:

  • From a recent Adobe survey: US Workers believe technology makes them more productive (85%), improves work-life balance (70%) and would make their workday better and easier (74%).
  • Past surveys conducted by Little posed two questions:
    • Of these hypothetical situations, which would you prefer? (A) Company provided personal device of your choice, or (B) State-of-the-art tech in shared workspaces? 63% preferred a personal device of their choice.
    • What are your top 5 “go-to” tools to get your work done? The top 3 responses tied directly to technology.
      • 98% Laptop
      • 66% Smartphone
      • 51% Digital Reference Materials

Perhaps it’s no longer surprising to see these increasing percentages. Our digital tools are an integral part of work and life, in part because of the constant access we have in most of our daily experiences. As a result, it is impossible to talk about the Optimized Workplace and not discuss how and where organizations should plan for technology.

An overarching technology strategy should always support the business and the workforce’s choice and control. For technology to meet the needs of the workers, three areas should be addressed collectively:

  1. Infrastructure: Is there a plan and budget to invest in a strong network foundation, including wireless connectivity and power? How will you future-proof and support the rapid changes in the digital workplace?
  2. Devices & Equipment: What devices and equipment are the right fit and meet the needs of your workers’ daily work activities? How do these devices support choice?  
  3. Business Operation Software: What does the work process look like? What software applications and tools are available to enhance the business as well as communication and collaboration?

When technology is not a key driver in overall Workplace Strategy, the optimization balance is disrupted.

Space Strategy

It seems like for as long as we have been talking about the workplace, our clients have always been looking for ways to “optimize”, drive down costs, and engage, attract and retain employees through their real estate portfolio planning. Organizations are moving toward a more dynamic planning approach that balances efficiency, effectiveness and flexibility. Mobility, Adaptability and Flexibility are key drivers in workplace planning, design, and physical infrastructure. Mobility can be defined as the workforce’s capacity to have both choice and control over how and where they perform work, externally and within the workplace. As it relates to the optimized workplace, flexibility is key to that choice and control. Also, the more adaptable the workplace becomes with intuitive technology, a variety of work settings, and flexible furniture, the more inherent workplace mobility becomes.

So where does an organization begin when implementing a space strategy that includes mobility?

  • An initial step is to fully understand workplace utilization; the process of understanding and tracking workspace usage as well as employee occupancy within the office environment.
  •  Thoroughly assessing when people are in the workplace and how they are using space provides key insight to the space strategies that must be developed or realigned to better support an optimized and balanced workplace. Once organizations are able to understand workplace utilization, how can this understanding directly impact space strategy?
  • Allocation ratios can be explored to improve overall workplace performance. These ratios address the correlation of the designated seats to the number of people allocated to a floor and/or building.
  • Historically, planning has specifically targeted 1:1 allocation ratios (1 seat for 1 person). Space strategies and workplace utilization inform the optimized workplace so that it is responding specifically to where and how people are working.
  • Optimization can lead to real estate and operational cost savings. As the quantity of people allocated to a floor or building increase, the SF per person begins to decrease, allowing for potential SF savings.
  • Looking at allocation ratios coupled with concepts such as free address (unassigned seating), desk sharing and hoteling, support ultimate flexibility, choice and control.
  • The concept of equitable ME and WE spaces means that the work-place becomes a representation of all of its workforce needs.
  • The physical space must find reconciliation between the square foot area that is distributed to all types of spaces; both dedicated and common, both open and enclosed, both collaborative and focus.

To promote mobility, strong executable People, Technology and Space strategies must be in place to address the future of work and the workplace. This means that Real Estate, Finance, HR, IT and key Business Leaders must be working together toward a common vision, with every-one on the same page and supporting the same goals.

About the Author: Rebecca Sistruck is a workplace strategist on Little's Workplace Consulting team.