5 Workplace Strategy Insights Big Companies Can Learn from Startups

by James McDonald on February 22, 2018

One of the universal characteristics of any startup is volatility. In a startup setting, the workplace and workforce are in constant flux, which means the environment is in a near-constant state of disequilibrium.

And the organizations that beat the odds and make the leap from startup to a full-fledged company are the ones who aren’t afraid to make the sometimes-risky moves that bring everything back into balance. It’s this mindset that enables these organizations to not only survive, but thrive.

Even if your business has been around for years and your approach to managing the workplace has been in place since the beginning, there could still be room for improvement. And it never hurts to take a look at your work environment from a different perspective – specifically, through the eyes of a startup.

Here are five pages from the startup’s workplace strategy playbook that can benefit more established companies.

5 Workplace Strategy Insights From Startups

Examine the Current State of Your Workplace

Where startups have an advantage over older organizations is that they’re starting from scratch when they build their brand, create their culture, design processes and develop their workplace strategy. However, after they evaluate their current resources (such as budget, work space needs and available manpower), they must set realistic goals based mostly on educated guesses.

So while you may not have a blank slate, you do have a leg up on startups since you have existing data on your workforce and workplace, which you can use to make more confident decisions about the future of the business. Yet having that data isn’t enough – you need to analyze it. Choosing a destination is easy. But you can’t get to where you want to go without first knowing where you are.

Take a step back and look objectively at your company’s brand, its culture, its processes and its workplace management techniques. If you weren’t already employed at the organization and you saw the organization’s attitude towards each of these elements, would you apply? Or are there certain aspects of these components that are off-putting? Those are what you need to improve to enable peak performance and reduce costs.

Aim for a Flexible, Functional Workplace Design

Unfortunately, even if you have all of the data you could ever need (and then some), you still can’t see the future. And this lack of a crystal ball is especially frustrating for startups.

Startups live in a world of uncertainty and unpredictability. As a result, every part of the business must be designed for the unknown – especially the workplace. Workspaces and the assets and tools within them must not only be flexible but also functional; there’s no room for wastefulness.

Established companies have a bit more wiggle room in this respect. But if a business wants to grow, it must value flexibility and functionality the way a startup does. Now, of course this means creating flexible workspaces, and we’ll discuss two strategies for making the most of your corporate real estate later in the article. But scaling an organization doesn’t just mean rearranging workstations and updating workspaces to accommodate a larger workforce. It means having the ability to guarantee that once the work settings are rearranged and updated, employees still have easy access to power outlets and WiFi connections and the technologies and the data they need to do their jobs. Form should follow function, not the other way around.

Implement Activity-Based Working

Activity-based working (ABW) is a workplace strategy where employees are given the choice between several different types of work areas that are designated for specific activities. Rather than being assigned to an individual workstation, employees in an activity-based working environment have access to various spaces where they can work in a quiet area without distraction, meet with a colleague to collaborate on a project, host a larger meeting or just take a short break.

Employees can choose the workspace that best suits their needs and encourages their productivity.

Activity-based working is a popular choice for startups for a few reasons. Startups embrace workplace fluidity and employee autonomy – both of which are enabled by this way of working. Plus, startups are driven by innovation. And in an ABW environment, employees can choose the kind of space that inspires them and fuels their creativity. This increases productivity and employee engagement.

Fluidity, autonomy, innovation are three things that every company should adopt, regardless of how long it’s been in business. And one of the most effective ways to accomplish this is with activity-based working.

Adopt Office Hoteling

Office hoteling is similar to activity-based working in that employees don’t have dedicated desks. But whereas ABW environments are geared towards on-site employees, office hoteling is designed to accommodate a more mobile workforce.

With office hoteling, employees reserve workspaces before they arrive at the office. Every workstation is up for grabs, no matter what position an employee has at the company. Office hoteling works for startups because they are often limited on space. Plus, startups tend to have a younger workforce who prefers to have the ability to work remotely. But office hoteling is a good strategy for established companies, as well.

Corporate real estate accounts for a substantial percentage of an organization’s operating costs. And very rarely (if ever) are all workspaces occupied. With this workplace strategy, businesses can reduce the amount of space they lease and the volume of assets and equipment they have to maintain, leading to cost savings.

Use SaaS-Based Workplace Technology

In general, startups are limited on space and their needs are constantly changing. Their workforce tends to be mobile, and their resources and budgets are usually stretched thin.

These are just a few reasons why startups use SaaS-based workplace technology. Unlike hosted or on-premise software, SaaS solutions require no additional equipment or IT personnel. All data is automatically backed up and accessible remotely. Software upgrades are tested by the vendor and deployed at no extra cost to the business. And any new features or modules the business needs are implemented by the vendor’s development team.

Startups can learn a lot from established companies. But the latter can gain valuable insight from observing the former, too. To increase your chances of success when implementing any major changes like the ones above, you’ll need a powerful, user-friendly SaaS integrated workplace management software (IWMS). That software also needs to be accessible to your employees, giving them the flexibility to find people and places, reserve space, make service requests or receive visitors or packages wherever they happen to be working. iOFFICE Hummingbird is the first ever employee-centric workplace management solution to offer this. If your organization already has an IWMS or CAFM platform in place, this technology can easily integrate with it.

If you’re interested in improving your workplace strategy and upgrading the employee experience, take a look at iOFFICE Hummingbird.


James McDonald

James McDonald is a sports enthusiast, brother in Christ and once swam in a tank with the infamous TV sharks.

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