What Does the Ideal Workspace Look Like?

by Elizabeth Dukes on April 29, 2014

What does the ideal workspace look like?  It’s no longer brick-and-mortar:  Exploring the workspace – the unlimited expanse of the digital world. 

The ideal workspace should be flexible, mobile and managed by the latest digital tools.

The ideal workspace should be balanced and designed to satisfy the needs of the company and the employee. The concept of satisfying the needs of the employee is a radical shift in thinking for many, but it is a pressing reality. This is not to say that the corporate world has completely ignored the workforce as it relates to the ideal workspace environmentideal workspace.   Most organizations have typically provided a safe, well-lit, relatively comfortable environment for working with access to coffee, a break room and a printer.  But the folks who were satisfied with this type of office environment are retiring at rapid rates.  As a result, a significant leadership gap is being created, resulting in a high demand for skilled workers. 

Attracting talent in today’s world is a different ball game. 

The skilled workers of today grew up in a digital age. They are used to and expect instant gratification. They access information and resources and socialize online.  Many of the educational programs they have grown up with promote team and collaborative work and many are conducted in wide-open spaces. They can effectively work anywhere from a sofa in their living room to a park bench, and, as a result, young workers expect a similar environment in their workplace. They don’t want to be stuck in a high-walled, closed-door cube or office space limited to accessing information or co-workers. They want the freedom to move and be productive from anywhere in the world.

A research report published by Bersin by Deloitte called Predictions for 2014 Building A Strong Talent Pipeline for The Global Economy Recovery, pointed out that, in addition to other critical talent management elements, organizations must look at the work environment itself.  They sited an example of a multi-billion-dollar pharmaceutical and healthcare provider’s centralized training department:

The classroom was old, had no power plugs, no coffee machine, and did not even have a built-in overhead projector. The tables and chairs looked as though they had been purchased in the 1970s. Even the lighting felt out of date.

They reflected that if they were a young college graduate and came to an onboarding session in this facility, they would wonder if they had made the right decision.

The other side of the coin is keeping the talent you already have

Gallup says only 20% of the workforce is happy.  As the economy gains ground, people will start looking to change jobs, leveraging easy to use tools like LinkedIn and Facebook to connect and identify opportunities.  Bersin by Deloitte also points out that given the long hours people spend at work, it is imperative to redesign the work environment to make it more enjoyable, collaborative, and fun. Google pioneered this strategy with the launch of yoga classes, basketball courts, and even a bowling alley at its Mountain View, California campus. Today, most high-technology companies serve free breakfast and lunch; have a ping-pong table; and, provide couches, rooms in which to nap, and brightly colored, open workspaces.

The Google environment is a stretch for many companies, but there is much that can be done in the traditional setting.  In the beginning we focused on the needs of the employee as paramount, but we close with balancing the nature of an organization’s work with the needs of the workforce. Both can be accomplished. We recently worked with an organization that, due to the nature of their work, didn’t have a high percentage of mobile workers, but they wanted to increase internal mobility and collaboration as well as “brand” their space to give off the look and feel of their unique culture. They brought down the cube walls and created quiet, collaboration spaces to serve the diverse needs of the workforce. Another company set forth a policy that eliminated dedicated offices and workstations for any employee who was out of the office 50% of the time or more.  The result was enhanced flexibility for the workforce, but also a direct impact to the bottom line.  They were able to reduce their headquarter footprint by 25%.  In each case, however, the space became more flexible and was enhanced by the latest mobile, digital technology.


Elizabeth Dukes

Elizabeth Dukes' pieces highlight the valuable role of the real estate and facility managers play in their organizations. Prior to iOFFICE, Elizabeth was in sales for large facility and office service outsourcing firm.

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