The strength of the workplace is in providing a supportive environment within which to bring people together, enable them to connect, and reinforce a sense of belonging. Designers, office planners and facilities managers need to focus on ways to build collaboration and social inclusion, while allowing the corporate culture to flourish.
Organizations that can transform their office spaces to meet these needs will have a greater chance of motivating employees to return, and in the long run strengthen culture and overall results.
Getting it right will pay dividends (literally). As Brooke Weddle (Hancock, B. et. al., 2021), observes:
“What we see in the data is convincing: companies with healthy cultures have three times greater total return to shareholders. We have also looked at causation and have seen a positive relationship, were health drives performance. And vice versa: 70 percent of transformations fail, largely because of human and cultural challenges. It’s a sobering figure.”
To avoid failure, it’s important to understand how existing space is being used. sensors are usually easy to set-up and install and can run outside the IT infrastructure. The goal with using sensor technology is to collect accurate real-time data about the utilisation of your office resources, all of which is invaluable for FM, HR and IT. Data analytic tools can extract the vital lessons from this data stream, pinpointing what aspects of the office design work and which do not.
In addition to improved workplace design, this information can be used to develop apps helping employees make more effective use of the office and its facilities. This might include connecting with a specific individual or team, booking a meeting room, or finding a quiet place to make calls or work.
Technology is not a magic wand. Modern technology is limited in its ability to develop social capital and provide opportunities for the quick and informal meetings that strengthen corporate culture (Brophy 2021).
But the right systems can allow employees to choose when to make the best use of the physical office to benefit from connections, collaboration or to share creativity.
As radical change sweeps through the workplace, organisations must determine the best way forward for their business and their people. One thing is certain – those that take the time and trouble to gain an in-depth understanding of how their people use a workspace, how they benefit from hybrid working and their feelings and sense of wellbeing are the most likely to design a workplace that is both satisfying and successful.
As a key enabler, data can be part of that process.
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