How to tell if your physical workplace is supporting your business strategy and goals

Over the last five years many executives and senior management teams have come to recognise that the physical workplace can play a critical role in a business’s success strategy. The workplace isn’t, and shouldn’t be, a static fixed environment; instead it can be used as a business tool that contributes to staff being more productive, more engaged and leading to greater overall success of individuals and teams.

How does your current workplace perform? Does it help or hinder the success of the business? Here are 5 key points that business leaders MUST consider when assessing the performance of their existing workplace;

1. Culture What is the true culture of the business? Are teams dominated by key managers? Are there silos and cliques? Or is there a collegiate atmosphere where team members support and encourage each other. How many generations (and their unique workstyles) are working side by side, and how successfully? Whichever the case may be, the physical workplace can significantly resolve issues in this area, or further underpin an already positive culture.

2. Enablement How well does the physical environment enable people to undertake their role? This can be as simple as having enough storage, lowering workstation partition heights to provide sight lines between teams and ensuring there is a place in the office where everyone can have lunch or take breaks together. It is also about providing an appropriate menu of spaces that meets the day to day operational needs of both individuals and teams allowing everyone to perform effectively and efficiently.

3. Wellbeing As building stocks age ‘sick building syndrome’ (where occupants experience acute health and comfort issues due to poor indoor air quality and other flaws in building systems) become more prevalent. Ergonomics and efficient planning throughout the workplace also play a part in this equation. Recognition of this is driving landlords to upgrade buildings to minimum sustainability standards, and it is now legislated that all new commercial buildings are designed and constructed to specific energy consumption and environmental standards.

4. Technology If you consider the rapid advances in technology in just the last 12 months, and what a huge impact this has had on our day to day business and personal lives, it is safe to say that most businesses would have trouble keeping up with this rapid rate of change. Technology drives how, where and when we work and most workplaces fall a long way short of seamlessly integrating people, space and technology.

5. Adaptability There are 3 guarantees in life – death, taxes and change. Since the global financial crises started in October 2008 most sectors have found themselves in a hyper-competitive market. Whether this has led to consolidation or growth there has been an impact on the amount of physical space an organisation occupies, and many organisations now find themselves in an environment that does not truly address the current needs of the business.

The key to a successful workplace design is adaptability. The business milieu is constantly evolving, technological advances are increasingly rapid and when you add human behaviour into the mix it can be almost impossible to predict an organisation’s workplace needs. The first step towards a workplace that supports your business strategy and goals is to assess the performance of your existing space, so that informed, intelligent decisions can be made well into the future.

Angela Ferguson is Managing Director of futurespace – an Australian architectural and interior design practice working across Australia, Asia and NZ. Angela is an award winning businesswoman, a qualified interior designer, a published writer and blogger. futurespace is one of Australia’s leading practices specialising in the design of transformative workplace, education, childcare and building refurbishment environments. Recent clients include REA Group, Google, Microsoft, Jones Lang LaSalle, Wotif Group, American Express, JP Morgan and McCann advertising.

Ways women can balance work and family… or better still gain work life flow

With the increasing number of mothers in the workforce, more women are now facing the challenge of juggling family life with a full-time or part-time job. Striking a balance between these two important tasks is essential. Most working mums have feelings of guilt because they cannot provide their kids with their undivided attention nor do they think they are perceived as giving 100% at work.

Just because it is a challenge, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it can’t be done. There are several ways for women to gain a better flow with their career and family life.

Let go of the guilt

The first step towards striking a balance between work and family is to let go of your guilt. According to Serena Norr of Parent.com, instead of dwelling on how you’re not spending enough time with your child, you need to think about how your family is benefitting from you being a working mother. Some mothers need their careers for their own satisfaction, sanity and stimulation while others want what the extra income can provide for their families. By accepting and embracing your situation, you can focus on becoming better and more efficient at your role and still be a good parent.

Stay organised

Whether you are at home or at the office, make it a point to keep everything organised and prioritise. You’ll be surprised at the amount of time and effort you can save by doing simple things, like planning your day the evening before or your week in advance. Invest in technology to assist you in streamlining what you do.

Prepare things in advance

To make mornings easier to deal with, take the time to prepare things the night before. While you’d rather get to bed because you’re exhausted after a full work day, taking a few minutes to prepare your children’s school clothes, set up the coffeepot, and pack lunches can definitely help make your mornings less chaotic. Or if you want, you can get up early before your family wakes up in the morning so you can have extra time for yourself.

Consider using a daily planner

Lisa Druxman of Entrepreneur.com advises keeping both personal and work appointments on the same calendar so you don’t overbook or double up. For this reason, having a daily or weekly planner will certainly help. A daily planner helps you keep track of important events both at home and at work, like your bills’ due dates, your children’s recital or your presentation at work.

Set your priorities

Exhaustion and lack of time are some of the things that prevent women from striking a balance between work and family. To ensure that you have the time and energy to fulfil your roles, don’t spread yourself too thinly. Set your priorities. “You don’t have to be the Mum that bakes the school cakes from scratch or hand-makes the costume for the school play. Choose your priorities – your children will care more that you’re there!” Lisa said.

Learn to say No, nicely

Trying to keep everyone happy drains your own happiness and makes you tired and exhausted. It’s ok to say no without justifying why.  Be true to yourself and begin to put yourself ahead of your colleagues and organisation and equal to your family.

You don’t have to do it all by yourself

Outsource! There are many services now that can do your washing, ironing, house cleaning, shopping (or buy online). Get a nanny; they become your children’s friend and your ‘life saver’. Talk to your partner to share the domestics – it isn’t just a role for women!

Working flexibly

Not all employers are the same and some might be even willing to accommodate the needs of their employees only if they have the courage to ask. As such, try talking to your boss so you can work out a more flexible work schedule. You can even ask if you can work remotely from home, which is quite advantageous for working mothers as it allows them to fulfil their obligations at the office and be with their family at the same time. However, make sure you do your research beforehand so you can show your boss how your proposed work schedule won’t affect productivity; in actual fact it improves productivity.

Fear and the resistance to change – climate reality and women’s rights

It is remarkable how little progress has been made in reducing human-produced emissions, given that the science behind the ‘greenhouse’ effect has been known for more than 100 years. In fact ironically, the first economically significant oil discovery was made in Texas, just two years before Svante Arrhenius, a Swedish scientist proposed the relationship between atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and temperature in 1896. This was called the ‘natural greenhouse effect’, it’s the reason we can inhabit this planet. Arrhenius suggested at the time that a doubling of the CO2 concentration would lead to a 5°C temperature rise. Cutting edge science in the 19th century! In fact there has been very little change in the underlying science over the series of IPCC reports, the data has intensified and the models have become more sophisticated, if anything it is now emerging that the original predictions may have been low ball, we are already experiencing effects that were predicted to happen in a few decades. So why the slowness to respond?

A striking parallel appears to be the heinous violence towards women in some parts of the world, often by their families, the fathers and brothers who are supposed to protect them. Their crime? The desire to marry a life partner of their own choice! This is despite women having demonstrated the ability to take decisions, have productive careers and contribute to the economy in those countries, indeed even politically lead those very same nations. Why are some groups so slow to respond to their daughters’ need for change, and the evidence that there is no harm and much benefit from emancipation?

A common factor appears to be fear of change, in the first case a fear of increasing costs, stranded assets and a loss of control, in the latter it is also fear of losing status, assets and control. In both cases power is vested in certain sectors of society that will resist change because of a perceived or real loss of power.

We really need to flip the frame – move the world from fear of the required change to wanting and appreciating the benefits. The biosphere on Earth is beautiful, interconnected and unique, it’s the only one we know of, so it’s worth valuing and there are glimmers of hope where this is happening in unlikely places, Costa Rica has made progress reversing the effects of deforestation over the last two decades, growing its ecotourism potential. There are also a few heart-warming stories of girls in Bangladesh avoiding child marriage by getting a job in the global garment industry. In dry economic terms environmental and human capital is being valued and added to the policy mix.

Like the nuclear arms reduction treaties of yesteryear, it is clear that we need concerted global action to avert or manage catastrophic climate change. The only way to end the brinksmanship and current game of chicken is to arrive at meaningful targets and mechanisms at the UN Climate Summit in Paris in November 2015. In order to do this, the G20 Summit scheduled later this year in Australia, while focussed on economic growth and resilience, must include impact of climate change on the agenda.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/oct/25/costa-rica-biodiversity

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-06-17/ogorman-abbott-must-put-climate-change-on-g20-agenda/5528854

Dr. Meera Verma, is our Guest Blogger and the Principal of Headland Vision, a strategic and project consulting firm for medium sized technology-development companies in the biotech, pharma and cleantech areas.