Is Your Office Space Strategy Disengaging Your People?

by Len on January 25, 2011

Companies have significantly altered approaches to the physical work environment provided to employees over the past few decades. These changes range from reconfiguring office space to allow for more creativity and collaboration to deploying advanced networking technology to enable telecommuting.

As these and other workplace changes increase employee mobility and reduce the time workers spend at their desks, the average amount of space allocated by companies for each employee has dropped dramatically. According to a recent New York Times article, in the past 25 years the square footage allocated to each employee has dropped from 400 square feet down to 250. Within 10 years, that is expected to drop further to 150 square feet or less. Making matters even more challenging, many companies want to allocate as many as three employees to that single space!

Rethinking workplace configurations for maximum profit and productivity is a business imperative in today’s economic climate. The reality is that every company has a unique set of circumstances based on legal/regulatory requirements, business model and strategy, values and culture. Consequently each strategic solution must be developed company-by-company within the context of these factors. In addition, strategic office space considerations must be an integral component of the overall workplace philosophy with site location, building design and space configuration decisions driven by a goal of creating an environment most conducive to productivity and high-performance, two key business outcomes of an engaged and motivated workforce.

Success in changing office environments, however, ultimately depends on involving employees in the decision process and ensuring they’re being considered in a way that motivates them to embrace the new environment and to do what is necessary for the change to take effect. Employee involvement also leads to fresh thinking and new ideas often not considered by those typically assigned the responsibility for leasing, office moves and workplace design. Not only does this ensure a smooth transition to a new workplace, it also guarantees an increased ROI as employees are consequently more engaged and thus more effective in moving the company closer to reaching its objectives.

One Engagement Strategies client, a division of a large company, recently took this approach toward an office move and in doing so, significantly reduced management time dedicated to the change because employees:

  • Took ownership of the process
  • Materially changed the plan
  • Eliminated certain aspects that were unappealing to employees
  • Introduced new ideas management hadn’t considered
  • Ultimately created a more positive, productive environment for the employees.

Some months after the move, the company’s annual employee survey revealed the division which moved offices earlier in the year had the highest employee engagement level of any group in the company. Coincidence or not?

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