We all know the perfect workplace combines well-organised furniture, design and the latest technology while promoting productivity, mobility, collaboration and efficiency.
But hang on – does this actually exist in the real-life workplace?
Wherever you work – whether it’s in a corporate office, law firm or an educational establishment – the chances are your workplace is simply not planned to achieve these results.
A survey showed that nearly 50% of American employees say their working environment was the most important contributor to job satisfaction. Yet office space planning is often ad hoc – and designing for the end user doesn’t really take their needs into consideration.
You could argue that design adapts to what people want – but it’s not always bespoke to the end user’s needs, because designers create according to their own experience and perceptioneven when standard processes have been thought through when creating the space. Sometimes organisations don’t always describe what’s right for the end user, too, leading to an incomplete brief.
So here are the 3 questions you need to ask when considering design vs. function.
1) Does office design always meet basic needs?
I’ve visited many companies, universities and law firms with fancy entrances and reception areas leading to high-end open workspaces. They’ve often made large investments in digital wayfaring and multi-media equipment – but is the organisation really responding to the needs of the end user?
Architect John Capazzi, President of RSC Architects says the job of an architect is to create a space that is both aesthetically pleasing and functionally efficient.
“There’s a hierarchy of needs from design to implementation that we consider while creating a design,” he says.
“Whether it be for a large government complex, new college building or multi-media center, every design must meet basic level needs for the end user.”
Once those needs are met, Capazzi says, we can shift the design focus to tackle higher-level wants.
“We always focus first on what will serve the end user best whether it be high-level ceilings or an open space and lobby,” he says.
So a workplace can be more than well-designed space – it can also enable increase flexibility for end-users, by providing an open plan office, for instance.
This is important for organisations offering “hot desking” – sharing office space and desks, allowing staff to book workspace rather than having a regular spot. It’s a more effective way to promote efficiency than the alternative, first come first served, which can leave people looking for somewhere to do their job.
Achieving the best user experience depends on combining technology (meeting room management software) with digital tools, and providing a mobile solution for an increasingly mobile generation of workers.
2) Do we put enough emphasis on designing the right space to encourage new ways of collaborating?
The right technology, combined with well-designed space, provides the best tools for modern collaboration. But I believe that although companies are spending a lot of cash on digital signage, AV equipment etc, this technology is not properly used because it’s difficult for staff to organise.
Connectivity is important if a workplace is to be productive – but it needs to be easy to navigate in today’s busy world. There are many new and easy collaborative tools available, such as writeable surfaces like tables or walls, not to mention tablets and smartphones.
For example, tablets are ideal for drawing concepts to quickly share with others. Dashboards and analytical tools make it easy to read data, and swiping a tablet or phone is more engaging than traditional desktop tools.
Organisations should review the investments they make in fully equipped meeting rooms – the evidence is that smaller rooms can be better for collaboration. Conference room scheduling software is easy to use and eliminates confusion – you can book everything including rooms, desks, catering and video conferencing in a single transaction.
As the growing number of informal collaboration spaces grows, easy access to a scheduling stage via a mobile device, kiosk or outlook is the best way to help the end-user find the right space.
3) What’s driving collaboration in the modern workplace?
Today, connecting different elements of technology is the key to delivering a connected workplace that supports collaboration and boosts productivity. So you should be looking to connect scheduling software with video, AV and digital signage – and you can also include occupancy sensors and beacons if desired. It’s worth making the effort.
A connected workplace is a positive place to work and can help encourage:
> Talent attraction: 64% of employees say they would take a lower-paid job if they could work at home. They can do this if equipped with digital tools for effective communication and resource bookings.
> Staff productivity: organisations where there are robust online social networks are 7% more productive.
> Staff retention: increased employee engagement provides a corresponding increase in employee retention by up to 87%.
Selective scheduling software encourages this engagement by allowing people to find and book a meeting space, add desks, catering, wayfinding and more. It can also integrate with video conferencing across numerous locations and timezones.
> Communication tools: workers prefer instant messaging and other modern communication tools over more traditional ones such as email, thanks to the fast pace of the digital workplace.
> Connectivity: Employees need tools that connect them across the organisation, so they can share knowledge with each other.
Once again, every organisation should incorporate room scheduling software into its digital workplace. It not only finds and books the appropriate workspace and equipment, but also provides comprehensive reporting so managers can quickly analyze usage patterns and make informed space decisions.
So are you really providing a workplace that’s designed to promote collaboration and connect your workforce digitally anywhere and anytime? Besides creating better productivity and efficiency you’ll be keeping your workers happy – while saving on the bottom line.