Workplace strategy is at the heart of successful businesses. Smart companies use it to help employees be more productive and engaged while also cutting back on real estate and facility costs.
With the right strategy in place, the workplace is no longer just a place to go—it’s a living, breathing asset. Companies and FMs can maximize their workplace for both efficiency and cost savings.
Given the new pivot to hybrid and flexible work, part of a workplace strategy may also include redefining the ‘workplace’. Companies must explore new ways to support remote workers.
In this article, we cover why and how organizations can benefit from workplace strategy. We also review how to develop and implement a workplace strategy in any organization.
Learn how Syneos Health safely managed key locations throughout the pandemic
Workplace strategy is about bringing the physical environment and IT infrastructure of a workplace into better alignment with a company’s goals, culture, and ideal way of working.
Like Wikipedia succinctly puts it, workplace strategy is the “dynamic alignment of an organization’s work patterns with the work environment to enable peak performance and reduce costs.”
Facility managers (FMs) and other workplace strategists can and should use workplace strategy to improve space utilization and therefore cut costs related to corporate real estate.
Sometimes this will require a complete office redesign.
Other times, FMs will simply need to better reorganize how people are using their physical space used to better support the work environment type of their organization.
Workplace strategy will be unique to each company. Some will want to improve innovation, while others are looking to improve the bottom line. Some want a more efficient office, while others would like to gradually phase out the physical office completely.
Moreover, workplace strategy should be able to anticipate future needs, as well as manage day-to-day changes. Smart workplace strategy will always be forward-looking.
To implement this type of forward-looking workplace strategy, organizations will need to take an honest look at both their own needs along with the needs of their employees. They can then use their workplace strategy, coupled with the right technology, to get where everyone wants to go.
The purpose of a workplace strategy is to make a better and more cost-effective workplace for everyone.
An effective workplace strategy will also help employees be more productive and efficient. This in turn can help enhance employee experience and improve both retention and the ability to attract new workers—which, given the current ‘turnover tsunami,’ is more important than ever.
Ideally, this improved productivity and employee satisfaction will foster more innovation in the workplace.
It can also help support all generations in the workplace, helping manage a workforce that is increasingly diverse and dynamic.
In short, the purpose of workplace strategy is to better support work that is becoming increasingly cross-functional and more complex. As we’ll cover below, when planned and implemented properly, it can benefit both businesses and team members alike.
A workplace strategy is the overarching roadmap for how an organization would like to structure and improve the workplace experience. It’s more about the structures, ideas, and values that should guide any workplace initiatives, rather than the nitty-gritty of workplace design.
A plan, on the other hand, is all about the nitty-gritty! It’s the actual, actionable steps an organization will take to meet their goals, focused on deliverables and deadlines.
In other words, a workplace strategy focuses on the values of a company. A plan focuses on the actual steps it can take to support those values.
The main goal of workplace strategy is also its main benefit—aligning the physical workplace with a company’s business strategy, goals, and corporate culture. This alignment is where the magic of innovation and collaboration happens.
Companies will all have their own unique reasons for developing workplace strategy. They are often seeking improved efficiency, real estate savings, move management, supporting hybrid workers, improving culture, or all of the above.
The specific benefits of workplace strategy will vary from company to company, depending on their main business goals and implementation.
That said, companies that do embrace workplace strategy can expect to see the following six benefits:
Whether they don’t have enough space or aren’t using the space they have effectively, real estate is often the initial driving force behind workplace strategy.
When workplace strategy includes improved space utilization, organizations can expect to see an improvement in asset performance of up to 20-50%. This is because real estate costs are typically a company’s largest expenditure after their employees.
We know from surveys that most workers want some amount of flexible working. Workplace strategy can help make this a reality, offering a customizable approach to flexibility that leaders can adapt as necessary.
As we’ll cover in detail below, the right workplace strategy can better support hybrid and remote workers. And hybrid and remote workers are rapidly becoming the norm in many industries.
It’s common sense: putting workers’ needs front-and-center in the work environment leads to happier workers.
Specifically, the right workplace strategy can lead to an improved employee experience, helping in turn to reduce absenteeism and turnover.
At the end of the day, any potential cost savings from real estate could be outweighed if workplace strategy didn’t also create a more efficient and effective office.
Thankfully, when workplace strategy focuses on improving the work environment, it can lead to better teamwork, improved performance and productivity, and ultimately, more innovation.
Along with lower costs, when a company reduces their real estate, they can also reduce their carbon footprint.
Better supporting remote workers—and eliminating the daily commute— can also cut back on the environmental impact of unnecessary transportation.
In both scenarios, workplace strategy can contribute to a more sustainable workspace, making it an attractive decision for companies concerned with the triple bottom lines—people, planet, and profit.
To realize any benefits, implementing workplace strategy typically requires a robust Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS). That’s because an IWMS offers better workplace technology that can make all aspects of using the office easier, whether remotely or in person.
An IWMS can also help ensure that all teams have ready access to the same digital workplace and tools, no matter how they interact with the office.
Developing a workplace strategy can be especially challenging when the workforce is in various locations, either across multiple facilities, or due to hybrid and remote work.
There’s no doubt the office is rapidly changing, and the ways people work are becoming much more collaborative and flexible. This means the more rigid, hierarchical structures traditionally associated with the office are becoming a thing of the past in many industries.
Even before the pandemic, technology was allowing for greater numbers of organizations to dip their toes into hybrid work.
More companies are embracing a variety of hybrid work models to support a variety of flexible working arrangements.
But this variety can’t be a free-for-all; even if they rarely or never access the actual office space, hybrid workers need the same tools as in-office workers. They also need easy ways to collaborate with colleagues and customers. They also need clear expectations and guidelines for how to do their work.
That’s why organizations and FMs should look to the right workplace strategy to help manage their diverse hybrid workforce.
First, workplace strategy can help set expectations for both employees and employers.
Instead of that free-for-all, workers will know exactly when and where they should be throughout the day, along with how they should be interacting with the office.
Workplace strategy can then also bring in the right tools—like desk booking, room booking software, and request management—to make this interaction with the office easier.
When considering a workplace strategy that supports hybrid workers, organizations need to think about all the disparate places where work now takes place: in offices, at kitchen tables, on tablets, on phones, on Slack, in Zoom meetings. Any technology brought in to support workplace strategy in the hybrid workplace should therefore also be cloud-based, and easily accessible anywhere—ideally on a user-friendly mobile app.
Finally, in our ‘new normal,’ businesses will need to change how they think about their facilities.
The “office” can now be a virtual and even a cultural space as much as it is a physical one.
As we’ll explore below, this means it requires a workplace strategy coupled with robust, accessible software to help everyone do their best work, everywhere.
Developing workplace strategy was traditionally done by workplace consultants, but with the right software and planning, along with good collaboration in the workplace, it can now be managed by FMs.
In fact, one of the overarching roles and responsibilities of a facilities manager is to ensure every employee has the tools they need to thrive. This should be no matter what the dimensions of their workplace are.
In this regard, assuming they consult with both their HR and IT counterparts, as well as with employees, FMs are often uniquely suited to spearhead good workplace strategy.
To develop a workplace strategy, the focus should begin with the way employees work. It’s important that companies are seeking to better bring employee interests in line with the interests of the organization.
In other words, facility managers should start with the key stakeholders, and go from there.
Workplace strategy begins with one question: what is your goal?
Increasing revenue, reducing costs, increasing employee engagement, improving productivity or innovation, creating a streamlined office environment, pivoting to hybrid work, and restructuring after a big move are all common goals of workplace strategy.
It’s also common to have multiple, complementary goals.
Of course, the management team may have their own goals. But it’s critically important to communicate with workers to figure out their goals as well.
For example, do they want more flexibility? If so, organizations may want to consider implementing agile working or activity-based working.
Would they like more face-to-face time with the right colleagues? Then they might benefit from Office Neighborhoods.
Are they clamoring for more hybrid and remote work? Then they’ll likely need up-to-date, cloud-based technologies and tools to support collaboration, along with one or more of a variety of flexible seating options (such as hot desking and hoteling).
After defining your goals, it’s critical to understand what work needs to be done to get there.
To do this, FMs should examine the current state of the workplace. They must determine how easily it can shift to adapt to the changes they want to embrace.
This will include analyzing current space utilization and operational and real estate costs. Are you wasting space? Running out of it? Are there lease agreements coming up?
In our post-pandemic reality, it’s important to note that part of this assessment will mean ensuring any changes to the physical workspace come with accompanying safety measures. Even though workers may technically be able to work in smaller spaces, social distancing will still be required for the foreseeable future. In other words, sometimes space utilization can bump up against the realities of health regulations. And health and safety will always trump other considerations.
Moreover, given the ongoing flux of health and safety restrictions, FMs may also want to consider using a tool like Safeguard to make compliance easier. This type of tool can also help ease employee anxieties about using the office.
Any changes to workplace technology will also need assistance from IT staff. This ensures that critical issues like security in the building automation system are maintained.
Once FMs have goals in hand and are using space utilization metrics to see how space is currently being used, the actual work of implementing workplace strategy can begin.
Hopefully, FMs are already using space management software—maybe along with IoT sensors—that can provide useful insight into how much space is actually needed and where (and maybe when) employees do their best work.
Armed with this software and the right analytics, they can start to make better decisions for any office redesign.
Remember, integrated facilities management is always best managed with an IWMS; assuming an IWMS is already in place, FMs can use it to implement a new workplace strategy.
In particular, FMs should choose an IWMS that includes both scenario planning and stack planning, both of which can allow for proposed changes to be tested digitally before committing to any physical changes.
The right IWMS will also track real-time, day-to-day office use, so that FMs can continually improve workplace strategy.
Even when workers want more flexibility, change is usually difficult. Employees may need extra encouragement and support in the early stages of a new workplace strategy.
FMs should therefore work closely with HR to ensure that employees understand the reasons for any changes. HR can also help ensure employees have clear guidelines for any new changes in workplace structure.
Providing greater visibility to workers with a Visual Directory to see who else is using the office (along with when and where), can make them feel better about a flexible space. It can also help them better connect with the people and resources they need, when they need them.
And good wayfinding and digital signage is always a good idea in a physical office. Especially for employees who only use it infrequently.
Similarly, FMs should ensure that any new software is cloud-based. All software should integrate with any collaboration tools their team is already using, such as Slack and Microsoft Teams.
Get a personalized demo and create a
hybrid workplace that works for everyone
The future of work is in flux, as new and innovative workplace strategies are being tested and implemented like never before.
The best workplace strategy is one that helps employees thrive and organizations become more efficient. Given our current realities and technologies, we can expect these strategies to be increasingly flexible and hybrid-based.
Photos: Alexander Suhorucov, Smartworks Coworking, CoWomen, Sora Shimazaki