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The Workplace Matters

The Workplace Matters

by Donna Pritchard
Lincoln Office

If one’s physical surroundings shape behavior and attitudes, then the workplace can be leveraged to change employees’ experiences at work.

Work is no longer static. We come to work, but we don’t remain in the same workstation doing the same tasks each day. We collaborate and work within cross-functional teams—and in some cases, globally distributed teams. The workplace continues to go through constant change.

Employees were leaving the office to work in coffee shops, libraries and even parks, but now they are returning to their workplaces. They left for specific reasons—privacy or freedom from interruptions, for example—but realize they also left behind the resources they need to get their work done. These third spaces did not offer the peace and quiet they imagined.

A Variety of Spaces

But employees are returning to a different workplace—one that meets their need for a variety of spaces. Throughout the workday, an employee may need to find a private space where they can concentrate and focus on their work; they may need to brainstorm with their team to solve a problem; or they need a quick snack and social time with co-workers they don’t see very often.

We all work in different modes during the day: individual work, collaborative work, learning, and socializing and rejuvenation. These work modes usually vary from day to day, and even from hour to hour. A single work area cannot meet all the needs of employees.

A range of spaces helps fill the gaps: spaces that allow someone to think without distraction and interruption; spaces where teams can brainstorm and show their work; spaces that let employees discuss last night’s game; and spaces that provide learning opportunities.

Steelcase recognizes several factors that are creating the changes we see in the workplace. These include advancing technologies, the ability to work anywhere and anytime, the shift to knowledge/creative work, the desire to keep employees engaged, and the need to attract and retain employees. These key factors play a part in defining workspaces where employees want to work.

If an employee has control over how and where they work, they are usually more engaged in their work. Disengagement goes to the bottom line. Innovation and creativity suffer. Companies lose new ideas, new products and new markets.

The Changing Workplace

Let’s take a quick look at how these factors drive changes in the workplace. Technology continues to drive change not only at work, but also in our personal lives. We have never before used such an array of devices—our phones, tablets and laptops all move with us throughout the day. And we expect to access work information across all the devices we use. Of course, these small devices need to interact with monitors and other large devices that either share or project information. The interaction of devices allows us to access information anywhere.

The use of devices has enabled our ability to work from anywhere and at any time. We are always available via our devices; access to information and people can be 24/7. Just look around the next time you are at an airport… business is being conducted as you head to the gate to board your plane.

Companies are seeing the need for a creative workforce. What they really want are employees with problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Creative thinking is crucial to any company’s growth and survival. Those who can “think outside the box” are the innovators within. Developing these skills is not easy, but companies and employees who value continuous learning and learn to adapt to change have a good start. Creative thinking requires switching between individual work and group work. It can be inefficient at times, but the rewards are great.

Driving Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is something all companies want to believe they have. However, a survey conducted by Steelcase and Ipsos found that one in three employees is disengaged. On the positive side, one in three employees are fully engaged in their work.

Those who are fully engaged felt they have more control over various aspects of their workplace. They could choose where they wanted to work—at a desk, in an informal meeting space or at home. If one’s physical surroundings can shape behavior and attitudes, then the workplace can be leveraged to change employees’ experience at work. It’s not surprising that companies with high employee engagement have demonstrated improved business results.

The workplace is a tool to leverage with current and potential employees. By bringing people together and supporting them in collaborative and creative ways of working, the workplace can help achieve a stronger sense of community and corporate culture. A sense of community strengthens trust between co-workers and encourages collaboration.

This all comes together in a range of spaces that support the diverse needs of employees and the company—no one space can do it all. Employees need the ability to choose from a range of spaces based on the task to be completed. People and real estate are a company’s biggest assets. We need to make sure both are working together.

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