The workplace is a complex integrated system, where everything is related to everything else. As organizations navigate changing economic times and increasingly competitive marketplace, there is an increasing emphasis being placed on the formulation and implementation of a clear and precise workplace strategy.
So, what is a workplace strategy?
In the simplest terms, a workplace strategy deals with the alignment of an organization’s work patterns and culture with its workplace environment. The goal is to maximize performance and operational efficiency.
Workplace strategies are typically formulated as a result of a corporate need, be it more space, less space and/or organizational change. Moreover, they are designed to accomplish one or more business objectives, including:
- A reduction of real estate costs
- An increase in productivity and business performance
- The merging of two or more organizations and/or cultures
- The relocation or consolidation of occupied spaces
Developing a successful workplace strategy requires consideration of the generational profile of the organization as well as alternative workplace options such as telecommuting and distributed work, and a range of other social, cultural, and anthropological issues. Such strategies are created by integrating three primary workplace characteristics: the people, the process and the place; I refer to these as the 3 P’s of workplace performance.
P1: The People
Workplace populations comprise an array of people – different ages and stages of life, and different cultural backgrounds, languages, and ethnicities.People also have different preferences for how to work, when to work and where to work.
To formulate a successful workplace strategy, you must begin with an examination of who the strategy is designed to support. No two organizations are identical, so every organization attempting to develop a workplace strategy must first ask itself: what are my people like?
P2: The Process
Since a key goal of workplace strategies is creating efficiency, it is particularly important for the organization to consider its business processes – how does information flow between its members and how can it be improved in order to maximize performance? Who needs to communicate with whom, how, and when?
In addition, it is imperative to understand how workers gather and process information. Workers engage in several different modes of work throughout the day: focused individual work, collaboration, learning (from colleagues and/or resource material), and social interaction. These are important components of a workplace strategy since the work environment must be designed to support, encourage, and cater to the particular needs of workers.
P3: The Place
Workplace strategies focus on using space more efficiently and effectively, but spatial considerations should not take precedence over those mentioned previously. The space should first and foremost serve the needs of the people and the organization.
Common tactics implemented as part of a workplace strategy include converting enclosed workspaces to open plan design, shared workspaces and the introduction of agile working environments, where occupants have access to a wide range of work settings and the opportunity to choose how and where they do their jobs.
By comparing the workplace to a natural ecosystem, we can derive a fourth characteristic that must be present in order to develop a high-performance workplace: adaptability.
Change is inevitable, so workplace designers should plan with that in mind. In addition to the physical space, however, a measure of adaptability should must be built into the workplace strategy, allowing it to evolve as the organization does.