Time to Talk Workplace Strategy


It’s no secret that I’m a huge proponent of businesses having a workplace strategy, simply defined as the alignment of an organization’s work patterns with its physical environment. In fact, one of my first guest columns in this publication was essentially a long love letter extolling the virtues of workplace strategy. I received lots of positive feedback from it, as one does when they discuss a concept that could lead to increased productivity and cost savings. That’s why I’ve decided to talk about it again, this time sharing with you the top five reasons you should consider taking the time to bring this up with your internal team and architect.

After all, the extra planning involved in looking at the efficiency of a space, commuting patterns of those who work in it, the co-tenants in the building you occupy, lighting, furniture and ergonomics and layout of offices, workstations and shared spaces is, I assure you, time well spent. Here are some of the outcomes you can expect from the effort.

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1) Better employee engagement – Involving the people who work in an office in the conversation about what it should look and feel like is a real game changer. It often inspires change during the design and build-out, or expansion of an existing space, and helps decision makers rethink how everyone works. These talks also help a company stay up-to-date on trends, allow them to come up with fresh alternatives and spur discussions that aid in the design process. While these concepts still need to be vetted and explored — and not all will be accepted — the ones that are can yield enormous results. For instance, during a recent interactive workshop with a bank client of ours, a discussion ensued about office management executives sitting in the same area as the head of banking, when it really made sense for them to sit with their own teams that they meet and work with each day. Since that set-up had been in place since the founding of the bank, nobody ever thought to change it or explore if another solution made better sense. Yet, out of this workplace strategy meeting, and thanks to an open mind set on the part of team, a change was embraced with full consensus. This scenario was a perfect example of how collaboration can create stronger leaders and workers and can inspire culture and brand loyalty.

2) Coveted cost savings – Did you know that most firms use only 30 to 50 percent of their offices at any given moment? Surprising, isn’t it? Workplace strategy can uncover hidden profit centers, allow firms to save on real estate costs beyond basic densification or add value through better, more efficient systems. Win, win and, oh yes, win!

3) A happier, more productive workforce – It’s been well reported that the right environment can lead to a boost in the health and output of employees. Could a more open office environment, or one with collaborative spaces, change the office dynamics? Certainly! Not to be discounted are incorporating amenities areas, such as snack bars, into design. A recent study of 1,000 full-time workers, by grocery-delivery service Peapod, noted that employee satisfaction jumps from 56 percent to 67 percent when there’s access to complimentary food. Millennials, in particular, are drawn to free snacks, with 48% of them weighing the availability of them in job search decisions.

4) Workforce stability – Workplace strategy is key to recruiting and retaining top talent. To effectively compete, companies ought to design not just for the present, but for the future. Analyzing trends and looking at patterns can ensure that you’re keeping pace with workers’ needs and borrowing a page from the playbook of other firms that are attracting the best and brightest, even if you’re not an Internet technology company.

5) A handle on where you’re at and where you can go – As workplaces change from closed environments to more open ones, it’s critical to perform benchmarking studies to compare your firm with others in a similar industry. Data gathering and analyzing metrics allows you to go back five to ten years to see how your firm measures up and to implement a strategy that makes sense for you. Maybe it’s looking at the raw square footage per person, ratios of open versus enclosed offices, or the number of meeting room seats to employee seats, to see if your law or accounting firm is keeping pace with others in your city.

Go on, have “the talk.” I can almost certainly guarantee you’ll be glad you did.