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.

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