Dan Boram is CEO at AURA, a leading design-build company focused on creating engaging workspaces where teams perform their best.
In the age of hybrid work, it is important to create a refined and flexible workplace that meets employees’ expectations and incentivizes regular attendance.
Staff perform best when their individual needs are met, which is why working from home is continually the first choice. I believe that for employers to compete, they must take an employee-centered approach to workplace strategy.
While many organizations are drawing a line in the sand and making mandated decisions about their workplace, this can backfire and cause an increase in costly turnover. The issue is that leaders make assumptions about the workplace rather than utilizing data. An intersectional approach based on data, in-depth evaluations and engagement of employees offers a more structured method of workplace planning.
How Does A Workplace Strategy Help With Real Estate Decisions?
A workplace strategy is a company’s approach to optimizing its physical environment, amenities and infrastructures for employees across all divisions and roles—ultimately assisting the business in accomplishing its goals. Companies can maximize space, improve efficiency and make more solid real estate decisions when it considers the existing workforce along with projected growth.
I find that many companies have a business plan and a people plan but often lack the connection between the two with an effective workplace strategy.
A workplace strategy with the correct data to back it up will give you more confidence when making real estate decisions. For example, companies can take on more space, sublease a small portion until needed or sign a shorter lease while they anticipate a new office build-out in five to seven years due to growth.
The question now is, how can companies accurately assess space occupancy and utilization to build out a workplace strategy? Here are three steps businesses can take to evaluate and manage space needs in the era of hybrid work.
1. Assess your space.
Companies can use baseline data on how their space is used in the short and long term to calculate workplace requirements more accurately. A thorough understanding of the functional aspects of what is and is not being utilized in the workplace can assist you in making more effective office planning decisions.
There are several ways you can accurately yet unobtrusively capture data to understand workplace utilization. For example, technology can be integrated directly into the workplace to capture real-time occupancy data. This includes wireless desk sensors that can provide critical and granular information regarding the occupancy and utilization of desks and workspaces within the organization.
What areas are consistently occupied? What spaces are left empty and could be refreshed, repurposed or removed entirely? These are the questions technology such as desk occupancy sensors help solve. Furthermore, the data collected by technology can facilitate improved decision making and reduce ambiguity when managing and accessing space needs in the age of hybrid work.
2. Staff assessment.
Examining business, team and individual needs can assist companies in developing a workplace strategy. A frequently overlooked or underdeveloped factor is the influence of employee work habits and preferences. Companies can categorize employees into distinct personas based on numerous indicators such as demographics, tenure and how regularly they are in the office. A comprehensive company-wide assessment can accomplish this.
The most common personas in the hybrid workplace are office as usual, hybrid and remote worker. Furthermore, office-as-usual and hybrid workers can be divided into other subgroups: dedicated space and hotel space users. Each persona has specific space requirements based on how much square footage is required for agile and devoted space per employee.
For example, office-centered employees need more square footage than hybrid employees and even more than remote employees. By understanding the personas that make up your current and future workforce, you can get more accurate data on the amount and types of space needed. Employee personas enable leaders to develop more personalized experiences that can make an impression and impact employees since designs become tailored to the staff’s unique characteristics.
Types of Personas
Office as usual (four or more days per week in the office):
• Dedicated space users need dedicated office space to conduct work.
• Hotel space users are more agile and can move between workstations daily.
Hybrid (one to four days per week in the office):
• Dedicated space users require dedicated space for several reasons to work their best.
• Hotel space users may not need a dedicated workstation due to the limited office days.
Remote (a few days or up to a month per year in the office):
• Dedicated space users are infrequent for remote workers.
• Hotel space users require a desk for only a small portion of the month.
3. Engage in one-to-one conversations.
The next step is engaging in conversations with employees to help understand and interpret the data better. The more leaders engage with employees in reimagining their own space, the more staff will want to work in it and feel a part of the workplace transformation experience.
Leaders should use the space occupancy audit and staff assessment data to lead one-on-one conversations with employees. Following up and having these conversations with staff will help decision makers make more informed decisions.
Engaging in one-on-one conversations or small groups is best so your staff feel comfortable expressing themselves and their opinions. It is imperative that when workplace decisions are made, you combine data with team insights to ensure that a data-driven employee-centered approach is taken.
Making workplace decisions has undoubtedly become more challenging in the age of hybrid work. Several factors, ranging from disparities in workplace occupancy to changing employee behaviors and work habits, leave many decision makers perplexed about how to plan for the future.
A workplace strategy can boost the security of making more effective decisions about the workplace. By securing real-time occupancy data, employing in-depth employee assessments and engaging in one-on-one conversations to interpret data, businesses can set themselves up for success.
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