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Creating workspaces for tomorrow that work for your business

Creating workspaces for tomorrow that work for your business


Creating workspaces for tomorrow that work for your business

Enabling office-based employees to achieve maximum productivity is the holy grail of performance optimisation in large organisations today. For industries such as manufacturing or construction, there are tools, applications, and technologies that may help to improve efficiency by automating manual tasks. But in a knowledge-based working environment, raising productivity is more challenging owing to the complexity and variety of the work activities involved. Some tasks need a high level of individual work and concentration; others require more collaboration and discussion.

Workspaces for tomorrow​ – otherwise known as activity-based working or smart working – is aimed at raising the productivity of employees by allowing them to match the physical space in which they work to the type of work activity, or work style, required to complete their tasks efficiently and effectively. The goals are to better utilise space and power, and to create an environment that’s more welcoming and geared towards the way people interact and collaborate today. The result is a more productive work force and potential savings of up to 30% on your real estate costs.

What’s wrong with today’s workspaces?
The style of many workspaces still in use today is a product of the 1990s, when offices were designed around the way people worked then. Every employee used a desktop and needed a semi-private desk on which it could stand, which led to the dreaded office cubicle layout. There was little in the way of communication infrastructure other than a fixed-line telephone for each desk and a power point and network connection for each desktop. None of these facilities were mobile, which resulted in a static environment. 

In the last 20 years, we’ve reduced the space per person, but the approach of one desk per user has remained – a situation that needs to change to boost productivity, even though this may not be the initial aim. In 2015, we have a number of additional factors driving new workspaces:

  • the rising cost of real estate.
  • enterprise mobility and wireless communications
  • users moving from a homogeneous to a heterogeneous environment, from a Microsoft® Windows-based desktop to multiple devices, using multiple operating systems
  • changes in the way we work, in particular, a greater emphasis on collaboration
  • the influence of a new generation of workers who have grown up with mobile technologies, and who are geared towards collaboration​​


Curbing costs and attracting people
Most organisations initially become interested in developing workspaces for tomorrow because of a change of property and/or high property rental costs. After employee salaries, property rental is usually the next largest corporate expense. Both real estate costs per square foot/metre in large cities, as well as the cost of electricity to serve these spaces, are already high, and rising. A city-based business may, for example, need to review the size of its occupied floor space, or may already be moving to a new space due to either growth or downsizing. The question then arises: do we need as much space, or more? Or is there a more cost-effective, efficient way of using the current environment?  

Today’s office-based employees are more demanding in terms of how they prefer to work, and which tools they use to perform their tasks. As a global trend, enterprise mobility sees organisations adopting policies such as bring your own device. Employees can choose from a variety of mobile devices, either their own or company-owned, to access their data and applications smoothly and seamlessly, regardless of location. Organisations that offer this flexibility can reduce travel expenses dramatically, and attract and retain the most discerning employees.

Compare previous approaches
Creating workspaces for tomorrow has been attempted in various forms before, but with limited success. It’s not the same as hot-desking, for example, where the number of office desks is limited and have to be booked in advance. With hot-desking, the employee may still struggle to find a useable desk for the day, as booking systems often provide insufficient visibility. Also, equipment such as telephones, network access points, or even hardware such as mice or docking stations may not be standardised or universally available. The use of meeting rooms can be another frustration owing to their general unavailability, or by being booked and used for the wrong purposes. 

Workspaces for tomorrow is about linking people, technology, and the work environment. Complete visibility, flexibility, and ultimately, improved employee retention and productivity are the main goals. But what are the most important factors to consider when moving to such an environment? 

Know your people
Workspaces for tomorrow extends directly into your organisation’s culture. Does it have the necessary vision, strategy, and courage to embrace this progressive way of working? Creating a workspace for tomorrow therefore has to be championed by senior executives. But it’s also about understanding the current work styles of, and protocols for, everyone in the organisation. 

For example,  can you identify which employees must be desk based due to the tasks they perform? Workspaces for tomorrow isn’t just about accommodating mobile, remote, and guest workers, it’s also about enabling and satisfying your desk-bound, task-based employees who need to be in the workplace every day. Compare, for example, the activities and related spaces used by a sales executive, with those of a personal assistant. How much time do these employees spend at their desks, and how much time in meeting rooms or other areas? 

Moving to a new way of working is also about change management: how will you effect the change to a new workspace through, for example, training, thereby ensuring that the change occurs smoothly? How will you communicate the change to employees, and align it with your HR policies? People and culture are aspects often overlooked when implementing workspaces for tomorrow, but they should be the starting point when you conceptualise the type of environment required.

Think about the work environment
What aspects of practical design and aesthetics need to be considered when you create your workspaces for tomorrow? Which areas will be used for which activities, such as:

  • ​​individual work requiring a desk and a degree of privacy and/or soundproofing
  • private, one-to-one conversations that require a small meeting room
  • larger meetings in formal boardrooms with high-quality videoconferencing capabilities
  • quick brainstorming sessions in standing-room-only meeting rooms with a white board
  • casual collaboration or taking a break between tasks  in larger, informal areas​​

Often, architects and interior design firms are consulted for the practical and aesthetic aspects such as lighting, furniture, and accessibility. But do they understand your organisation’s people, their work styles, or the specific requirements of the technologies your employees need to use in these spaces?

Irrespective of what the final combination of physical spaces may be, the aim is creating an environment that works for the employees and the tasks they need to perform. A workspace for tomorrow is a pleasant, practical place that suits every work style and attracts people to the workplace, rather than alienates them from it.

Consider your technology
Technology shouldn’t be the starting point for workspaces for tomorrow. It should rather be the binding agent that holds together the people, the work, and the environment in the most effective and efficient way possible. Workspaces for tomorrow implies an end-to-end approach which enables a more productive way of working – it’s more than simply having enough desks, meeting rooms, and phones for the number of people you employ. However, foundational technologies for collaboration, networking, and security are also critical to the success of workspaces for tomorrow.

Develop a strategy and roadmap
It’s important to formulate a sound strategy and a roadmap to help you create a workspace for tomorrow. In doing so, you need to involve the right stakeholders and decision-makers in the organisation early on in the process: for example, HR managers to look after aspects of culture, people, and policies; facilities managers for the office environment; and ICT managers for the technology components. Success will be determined by identifying your current worker/user profiles and their work styles, workspaces, and utilisation; envisioning what these should look like in the future; and the preparation of a roadmap with clearly documented steps to reach that goal. 

In order to achieve this, it’s best to seek the guidance of a solution provider that has more than isolated areas of expertise in people, environment, or technology. Often, consultants in these areas are brought in individually and at a late stage in the creation of new workspaces or when an overall vision and plan are lacking. This makes it difficult to implement adjustments and changes that could have a significant impact on the overall success of the space. The ideal partner should be involved early in the decision-making process, to help you understand your current situation in terms of strategic and operational capability, and determine where you need to be tomorrow. This partner should be able to offer extensive experience in bringing together all the elements required to create workspaces for tomorrow that work for your business.