The world has changed. Disruptive technology and globalization has created an increasingly interconnectedness and a complex business environment. More than ever, business is a team sport that leverages technology to cross borders and time zones.
At the same time, resources are stretched from downsizing and the struggling economy. Business issues are more complex than they were just a few short years ago. Employees are expected to do more with less and employers are faced with pressure to maintain a fit balance sheet, attract and retain top talent, and foster a strong corporate culture.
In today’s business environment, innovation, collaboration and creativity are vital for success. In these rapidly changing times, organizations must embrace the complexity of competing in an interconnected world, and leverage the interdependent relationship of people, technology and space.
To determine if your workplace is ready for today’s interconnected world, ask yourself if you are prepared to do the following:
Optimize real estate
Real estate is the largest corporate expense after people, so there is a natural tendency to target office space when cutting costs. In offices everywhere, many individual workplaces are empty either due to a reduced head-count, increased worker mobility or near-constant collaboration. Instead of reducing footprint, we need to rethink how we use space to meet organizational goals.
- Organizations need to understand mobility and collaboration patterns, balancing between individual spaces and collaborative settings.
- Maximize every square foot of real estate by providing a range of settings that support a variety of work styles and the four modes of work: collaborate, focus, learn and socialize.
- Real estate can work harder and smarter if it can be used for multiple functions – why have any real estate, like a café, only used for a fraction of the day.
This range of settings means spaces will be smaller, shared, collaborative and dispersed.
Support collaboration locally with distributed teams
Capitalizing on collective intelligence is one of the greatest benefits of a global strategy. In fact, a recent Steelcase survey found that 80 percent of organizations feel they need to collaborate more. At the same time, 78 percent say they struggle to effectively connect their workplace and help employees collaborate both virtually and face-to-face.
The work space can help as it offers cues to employees letting them know that it is okay to get up out of their chair, work together, and share ideas. Collaborative work settings scattered throughout the office take a variety of forms, from secluded conference rooms, to open lounges or small huddle rooms for groups of four or less.
Innovation is born from collaboration, so why not offer an environment that fosters this type of work?
Use space to attract and engage workers
Imagine you’re a talented software engineer. You could find work in Silicon Valley, London, Amsterdam, anywhere really. Why choose a company in Small Town, USA? The answer is simple. The company has one of the most collaborative, welcoming, and energizing work environments that connects great employees from all around the world.
Employees know that they don’t need to be tethered to their desks to do great work. Some prefer working on the road and others enjoy working in a dedicated space they can call their own. More companies are recognizing this growing demand. A 2011 study from Steelcase and CoreNet found that 86 percent of companies now offer alternative work strategies such as home offices, hoteling, and mobile work. This number is up from 50 percent in 2009.
Technology can aid communication for distributed workers, but it will never replace face-to-face interaction. For those who do spend the majority of time in the office, it is important that they feel like they are working in an environment that is welcoming and suitable for the task at-hand. By providing an ideal work environment, companies can attract—and keep—top talent.
Reinforce corporate culture and help build brand throughout the workplace
Companies that strongly define their brand and corporate culture must carry it through consistently in offices around the world. Most companies that operate in multiple countries tend to start with an ethnocentric view that’s oriented around their home country and culture.With effort, they slowly evolve to a polycentric perspective that favors the host country’s view in determining local operations.
Eventually, global companies could and should adopt a world orientation. Throughout this evolution, the physical work environment can be critical in defining the brand, establishing a geographic tone and fostering a sense of community among employees.
Promote worker wellbeing – physical, cognitive and emotional
Employees are plagued by stress, ailments, illness and burnout from the post-recession fatigue that impede their productivity, engagement and sanity. The concept of worker wellbeing is not new, but the definition of wellbeing has to change and expand beyond the physical to include cognitive and emotional support.
A recent Steelcase survey found that employees rank trustworthiness and “cares about the well-being of others” as first and second, respectively, when it comes to important leadership attributes. A workplace that is holistically designed for worker well-being can boost an organization’s ability to innovate and thrive.
The bottom line is simple: Workplaces must be flexible and adaptable in order to survive and thrive in today’s interconnected and complex business environment.
Got more ideas on how your workplace play a better role at interconnectedness? Share them with us!
Photo by Sean MacEntee.