Often, the magic ingredient that gives certain businesses an edge in difficult times is the quality of their people. No matter what the prevailing economic climate, a team of talented, high-performing staff can provide the ideas that lead to successful business strategies, and the expertise to implement them to maximum effect.
A well-designed office can be an important asset in this respect: both as a tool for drawing these valuable people to your company, and as a means of fostering their long-term loyalty by supporting and rewarding their efforts.
Attracting & retaining staff with a strategically planned workplace
An attractive, strategically planned workplace can be one of the most compelling benefits a company can offer to its staff. Realisation of this approach has resulted in many companies undertaking a radical rethink of not only their office design, but also their professional development processes and corporate cultures as a whole.
Maintaining a stable, high quality staff is a classic case in point. In an attempt to prevent its most valuable teams from being poached by rival firms, one major firm turned to M Moser Associates for assistance in creating an office environment which would ensure their long-term loyalty. Once design concepts for the new office had been finalised, M Moser urged the client to forward visuals and information about the design to members of its staff. The message was clear: “The new office we are building is our commitment to you, and to being the best firm in the industry.”
Managing change in the workplace
Maintaining staff loyalty levels in the face of changing dynamics such as co-locations, mergers and changes in management style can be vital to ensuring a company's long-term success. A recent office redesign workshop M Moser conducted with the senior management of a leading investment bank identified several factors that were critical for maintaining staff morale. Key among them was the need for an office environment that not only motivated and energised staff, but also 'gave back' to people. M Moser helped the bank deliver on these promises by creating a large café-style meeting space on each office floor where people could 'catch up and chill out'.
Informal areas can be amongst the most productive and profitable areas in the whole office
Other tactics used by companies to encourage staff to buy into change include the creation of Starbucks-style 'third place' casual breakout areas in the middle of the office. Here, staff can escape the confines of their workstations, relax and exchange ideas with colleagues over a coffee and snacks from an outsourced caterer.
Ultimately, informal spaces do more than just help staff to better balance the demands of their personal and professional lives. They can often become amongst the most productive and profitable areas in the entire office.
The workplace as an expression of company values
Increasing numbers of companies are now leveraging state-of-the-art in-house training centres that act as both corporate showcases and clear demonstrations of commitment to the professional development of their staff.
Outside office hours, such facilities offer the additional benefit of providing an informal space where staff can bond over drinks or enjoy football matches and other entertainment on the big screen. This '3D branding' of the entire office is yet another proven means by which companies can redefine their corporate cultures. Ultimately, such a policy makes sound economic and marketing sense as it transforms an enormously visible and costly space into a dynamic 'billboard' for company values.
A strategically designed space can effectively communicate values and dynamism to staff. At the same time, it can present company credentials and image to clients.
Understanding & meeting staff expectations
Employee needs and expectations were actually far more reasonable and easily manageable than expected.
A staff survey of working styles and satisfaction conducted by M Moser Associates across several leading companies revealed some surprising findings: Among the most-requested workplace enhancements were relatively minor matters like better air-conditioning, ventilation, equipment, more mobility and additional informal gathering areas.
Early and adequate responses to such quickly resolvable issues can go a long way in ensuring the loyalty of existing, key staff. In today's ever-escalating 'talent wars', building loyalty among team members is half the battle won.
Flexibility: Maximising space & time
Working hours are becoming blurred, and there is a trend for outsourcing work on a paid-by-the-project basis. 'Telecommuting' is perhaps the simplest way for companies to integrate more flexible working hours into their corporate culture.
By freeing staff to work from the time and place of their choosing, telecommuting makes it easy for companies to cut down their space and cost overheads. More importantly still, surveys have shown that telecommuting policies can increase the productivity of individual staff members by up to 20%.
With this approach, planning must allow for variable numbers of staff in the office at any one time. First pioneered in the early 1990s, 'hot desking' or 'free addressing' was the recipient of much publicity - not all of it favourable - when initially introduced.
Enabling employees to use desk spaces and facilities on a first-come, first-served basis has subsequently gone from strength to strength, partly due to new advances in technology and a higher degree of mobility.
Its variants include the 'hotelling' concept whereby staff that are out of the office for extended or regular periods of time can prebook their own personalised workstation when returning to the office. 'Desk sharing' is another variation on the same theme in which team members who are familiar with each other's work patterns can share workstation space. While these options can help save space, they also provide workspace flexibility and offer staff alternatives in terms of where and when to conduct business.
Although these methods can be effective for certain work patterns, they are not necessarily right for every organisation or team. Ultimately these approaches challenge traditional 'reward' mechanisms and need to be contemplated thoroughly from and business and end-user perspective prior to implementation.
Discovering your goals, analysing your needs
There is no such thing as an effective 'one size fits all' design solution. A successful workplace design is a unique combination of solutions optimised for a particular client. To achieve optimum results, close collaboration between clients and individual professionals within project teams is crucial both before and during the design process.