Jonathan Hindle, group MD, KI EMEA expanded on the opinion that HR departments have failed to take advantage of non traditional ways of getting the best out of staff. HR often focuses on raising employee engagement through means they have a direct influence over – training, management structures, salaries, benefit packages. However, the physical environment itself can have a dramatic impact on the average employee’s day. Proximity of breakout and dining facilities, rooms to have confidential meetings or make sensitive phone calls, appropriate storage for personal or job-related materials, adjacency to amenities – these are just a few examples of elements of the physical environment that can help improve the worker experience.
But these are seen as the domain of the facilities manager – whether in terms of workplace design, furniture procurement, or expenditure. HR invariably hold a wealth of knowledge that could help Facilities Management make better decisions regarding the working environment, and could do even more to gather and interpret data from employees. In addition to direct feedback through regular surveys, HR could also use psychology and psychometric tests such as the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (which they may already use for other purposes), to better understand the diverse needs of their teams in terms of their workspace. It goes without saying that one size doesn’t fit all, that one person’s ideal work environment might be another’s worst nightmare. A better understanding of who needs what, from a psychometric and practical perspective, can help HR and facilities management to work together to get the mix right. This type of internal communication is essential to enrich the organisation as a whole, rather than data being held in silos. In addition to gathering data through surveys, simple motion sensors can be fitted to monitor the actual, rather than perceived usefulness of space and furniture – helping to measure the overall effectiveness of an evolving workplace strategy.
We have seen this approach work brilliantly at some of our clients. Societe Generale approached their recent transition to a new way of working in a very democratic way, appointing ‘champions’ and gathering feedback from their staff. Through this process, they discovered the need for more collaborative areas, quiet zones and small meeting rooms – all of which have been overwhelmingly well received across the organisation. This helped them define their space planning and furniture procurement strategy – in their case, our integrated workstation and storage solutions were pivotal to creating the ideal environment they needed in this transition to 100 per cent hotdesking. They also discovered an unexpected love for our sit-stand desks. Subsequent projects have therefore seen a huge increase in the provision of these types of workstation. The first of its kind for Societe Generale, this ‘Work Smarter’ pilot scheme was conducted with a view to be rolled out globally. Their excellent, timely, thorough and democratic approach to internal communications seems to have played a vital role in the success of both planning, and implementation of the revolutionary new workplace strategy and its enthusiastic adoption.
How about the actual items that make up an office? The furniture for instance. Century Office are a leading UK office and contract furniture supplier, with over 35 years’ experience in the industry. They provide workplace solutions and offer a tailored approach for architects, interior designers and facility managers for small offices to large corporations as well as educational facilities.
Sarah Bays, director at Century office gave her thoughts. “It is not unusual for a customer to call with a requirement for office desks, chairs, etc for 10-20 staff and to need delivery in less than a week! For the office furniture supplier that may not be a problem – stock items can generally be delivered within a few days.
“For the customer, however, leaving the office furniture decisions until last can be not only costly, but potentially catastrophic.
“When we plan to move house, or build an extension, the style of the building and the number of rooms is the first priority. Once that is decided, and often not until the works are practically complete, we start to think about the furnishings that we would like; what will fit and suit the style of each room etc. With office design, however, it is imperative that the internal space works for your business and this should be established at the building design/selection stage.
“Calculating the number of desks that will fit into an area is not sufficient evidence that the building is suitable; there are numerous other factors that your advisers can work through to assist the client in making the right decision.
“At this stage we always encourage our clients to include employees as part of their decision making process. And consider how their teams work, what configurations of desks they require, as well as the types, sizes and quantities of workspace and storage staff need – some may need much more or less than others.”