Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Strategic Workplace Design Survey Results - Part 2 of 2

Earlier in February I wrote about initial results of the Strategic Workplace Survey I conducted to test out the Surveymonkey interface and gather insight about key business issues shaping the high performance workplace in 2011 and beyond.  I also sought out insight on how respondents workplace environments could be improved through better more informed design and operational strategies.

Increased worker mobility and collaboration link the five to seven issues survey respondents identified can improve their workspace.  Most surprisingly stand-up work stations were tops with improving workspace acoustics and easier access to meeting rooms tying for second.  Having space for guest seating at workstations, more meeting spaces with greater diversity of sizes reinforced the need for collaborative options to help workers perform more effectively.  Improving task seating at workstations and more filing and storage options were also important.

This is especially relevant with the downward trend of workspace per worker.  While digital filing continues to   grow in usage, having space to store needed support materials and long term filing remained important to respondents.  When selecting workstations or designing built-in work areas, consider installing overhead bins with lockable doors or open shelving helps achieve a double level of storage.  There seems to be an informal trend to use this kind of storage also for stacking documents.  Another option to consider is to select some level of storage below the desk work surface such as a fixed or movable pedestal file along with small drawers and open shelving.

Respondents weren't enthused about less walls and more open work areas, didn't find access to fresh air as important and didn't find adding video conferencing cameras at the work-area enticing.  This might reflect the demographics of those who took the survey. A majority were between the ages of 36 to 55 reflecting perhaps a tendency to yet use web cameras as part of their daily routine.  I suspect if asked in a couple of years, workers will be using video conferencing more often.

I also asked about the importance of a more sustain-ably designed or green workplace.  Over half said it matters but it's not critically important, while about 30 percent said it was.  So if you lump together the highest responses about 80 percent responded favorably at least with a large minority saying it was extremely critical to do so. While it's not an overwhelming mandate this sentiment certainly supports making serious efforts here.  Building owners, landlords, property managers and facilities staff please take note.  Especially with the wake up call recently in the Middle East we're reminded of how vulnerable we are to shifts in world events and dependency on carbon centric fossil fuels.  Moving forward with greater adoption of green design is I believe is fundamental to ensuring operational predictability for smart businesses going forward.  I'll write about that in future posts.

The next question revolved around inter-office communication between nearby co-workers.  I asked this because I'm not sure all of this technology is helping us to do our best, especially in team focused work.  Fortunately, most responded they get up and walk over to talk to co-workers when they need to interact. However, not far behind people called or emailed their co-workers instead.  Nobody tweeted or Facebooked but there was IM'ing happening.

Recently I ran into a human resources manager at a large rapidly growing tech company who said this issue was a huge challenge.  Large noisy open work areas and a younger workforce had led to more electronic communication rather than face to face discussions.  Younger workers weren't able to interact well with older ones, choosing instead to IM or email instead.  Using the phone was even frowned upon by some who wanted to just IM those near them with peer pressure to just IM only even if you were feet away from one another.  This heads down screen focused mentality can't be healthy!

For HR managers, Managers and Team Leaders this is an opportunity to study what are best practices in team work and collaboration utilizing these tools when and where they make sense.   If you measure work team performance and productivity using various communication and collaboration tools it will better your organization and workplace community.  If you aren't, you're leaving dollars on the table in lost productivity and sowing the seeds of worker disengagement and ennui.

A similar area of opportunity is how to be together in meetings and whether laptops, ipads, smartphones, blackberries are allowed in or checked at the door.  Identifying clear yet evolving best practices here would make collaboration and meetings more effective.  How many of you had been in meetings where a number of folks are heads down checking emails, im'ing not paying attention?  It's an all too prevalent phenomena and speaks to a fragmented disjointed work life experience easy to adjust. It just takes communication and working together to figure out how to be effective using these technologies in the workplace.

So developing clearer and more consistent operational practices leading to more effective collaboration, worker well-being and overall workplace performance is an important learning area for 2011 and beyond.  When asked in the survey workers desired more mobility and choices of where and how to work.  Whether its to work in dedicated team or project spaces or move where the work goes consider these options when planning your next office upgrades or when looking at new office space.

Workers are also looking for options to telecommute, to work from home or other so called third places like coffee shops, libraries or fee for service office rentals nearer to home.  Prevalence of wireless networking, Ipads, smartphones and the like allow all kinds of work behaviors and 24/7 access to email.

Over the course of these two posts and running the survey its clear there's much to learn together on how to design workplaces and work environments more effectively to set the stage for high performing workplaces and organizations.  By carefully balancing best practices in workplace and green design along with organizational interaction and work strategies we can be our best at work in 2011.  I hope this two part post was helpful to you.  Please let me know if you have any comments any of the issues brought up in your work whether you're on the design side or the client side.  The readers of dc want to know!

1 comment:

Zack Luby said...

I think that our building infrastructure needs to change to reflect the changes that are happening in the workplace. Creating a space that invites collaboration and teamwork and removes barriers between people should be at the top of the list of any CEO's office/workspace design needs.

The cubicle/big office/big conference room approach is best suited for organizations that are factories - i.e. management is making all the decisions, communicating them downward, and entry-level, replaceable, employees are given clear and distinct lists of items to perform during the day (such as answer the phone and read a script). Those organizations are dying (or moving operations out of the US) because that structure isn't agile, nimble, or able to respond to changes in the environment/society/community/market.

Will be interesting to see how business owners react to this. I am hoping it's with the foresight to see the change that's happening.