Thinking of the Workspace in Terms of the Workforce

by Elizabeth Dukes on July 15, 2014

Realignment of business strategies, budget consciousness and advancements in telecommunications, computer software and hardware design are just a few of the challenges facilities are faced with today. This, coupled with a more mobile and diverse workforce than ever before, is forcing facilities to re-examine their workspaces and make adjustments accordingly. More and more organizations are seeking out re-design opportunities that encompass these growing needs. And as more Millennials enter the workforce, the necessity for change only stands to increase.

As companies prepare to explore their re-design options, there is one over-riding factor that must be considered; their workforce. While many still employ the Baby Boomers, who are used to the traditional FMs must think of the workforce when redesigning workspace four-walled setting, the younger generation of talent entering the workforce is accustomed to open spaces and the flexibility that mobile devices offer. It is critical that facilities focus their re-design efforts on accommodating their ENTIRE multi-generational workforce, while keeping in mind who their workforce will be as they look towards the future.

According to a recent consultation between a Regus executive and a Fortune 500 client “the client’s property portfolio should be designed similar to that of an iTunes playlist. Businesses should have a comprehensive ‘playlist’ of workplace options to choose from, including fixed locations, touchdown space, collaboration space and virtual spots.”

A More Collaborative Workforce

There has been a global shift in the focus on work the environment over the last decade, with a centralized focus on teamwork. Organizations have found that working collaboratively leads to more innovative ideas, higher productivity and an overall happier workforce. As this shift continues, facilities are moving from the traditional office space towards a more free-thinking, open atmosphere. For example, companies are utilizing 1,000 desks for 2,000 workers through use of flexible scheduling and space management and the advantages are two-fold. They save on spatial costs and the employees find themselves interacting creatively with more team members, which leads to greater productivity. This shift is in response to the dynamic working styles of the current workforce; one where the need for mobility and individuality is increasing, while still maintaining the ability for face-to-face interaction and collaboration, which is critical to a company’s survival and growth.

Arm Them With The Proper Tools

A primary focus for the facilities management team is ensuring their customers are equipped with all the tools necessary to do their job at peak performance. This challenge has become more and more complicated as time goes on. FMs must answer to the executives regarding spending, often asked to accomplish more than they ever were before, with a tighter budget. Therefore, it is critical that FMs complete their projects with the utmost efficiency. Careful preparation is a must.

Get To Know Your Customers As Individuals

Much like the employees they are working for, collaborative efforts between the FM, HR and IT are instrumental in getting the job done efficiently. HR can assist the FM in getting to know the workforce and what drives them. More than ever, workplaces have a wide array of ages and experience levels, all working in close proximity or directly collaborating. Flexibility of space and creative needs is critical. These are the people who will be working in the heart of this workspace day in and day out therefore, the environment must be centered around their needs. The proper tools must be at their disposal and everyone must have access to a space they are most comfortable in. “Adopt an evidence-based approach to briefing and design, so a proper understanding of how people work and their use of and need for different spaces is considered,” says AWA MD Andrew Mawson. Whether the project consists of a re-design of the organization’s spatial assets or implementation of management software, those who use it most must have the greatest influence.

According to Jill Zunshine, SLCR, Vice President, HP Global Real Estate, organizations should focus on the individual, rather than placing emphasis on generational differences. They have identified five various work styles within the workplace, all of which are equally important to the growth of the organization. “Understanding that, our focus is providing a work environment for our employees that ensures their success, and encourages them to thrive,” Zunshine says.

The five work styles identified are:

  • Agile-those that need mobility and change for inspiration.
  • Communicator-employees who thrive in a collaborative work environment, where teamwork is encouraged.
  • Concentrator-the individual who needs a quiet space to work and focus on the details.
  • Innovator-those involved in the creative development and improvement of company products/projects.
  • Traveler-the mobile employee who moves about both within and outside the facility.

Companies are urged to recognize their employees as individuals, all working together towards the same common goal. By adopting this approach, individual freedoms are accomplished and the focus shifts back to the organization as a whole. Teammates needs are organically met and, in turn, productivity rises.

As the facilities manager examines their organization, there are multiple factors they must consider. The evolution of the company and its short and long term goals is an obvious consideration. Alignment of the workspace and workforce, however, is the most critical component to the company’s survival and growth. If you manage a facility that is not supportive of each member of your organization, you have not provided them the tools in which to thrive. And an uninspired colleague can bring down the morale of the entire workforce. Listen to and communicate with your customers and set them up for success. When your colleagues are successful, so too is your facility and, in turn, the facilities manager.


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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