We’ve all seen the stories and wondered…why did no-one realise that Apple’s futuristic $5bn ‘spaceship’ might pose problems for the people working there?
With its own orchard and running paths, natural ventilation, hidden parking and on-site recycling, the amazing building has been designed for the ultimate in worker wellbeing. And yet…according to health records, quite a few people have hurt themselves by walking into its abundant glass walls.
It just goes to show that it’s incredibly difficult to take every human factor into consideration when designing beautiful and effective workspaces.
Most of us mere Earthlings can’t aspire to the space-age design quality of Apple Park, and the average FM is struggling along and managing buildings that may be old, or poorly designed, or not necessarily comfortable for one reason or another.
For instance, it’s been found over the past couple of decades that open plan workplaces are a boon to collaboration. We’ve moved away from formal meeting and conference rooms to break-out areas where colleagues can work together easily and productively; formal desks have given way to drop-in spots where agile workers can come to roost.
Retention and motivation
It can be tremendously empowering to your workforce, promoting wellbeing, and also good for the business. Research from the CIPD – the professional body for human resources and people development – shows it improves staff retention and motivation.
But as Apple shows, getting human workspace absolutely right is a tricky business.
Open plan workplaces, with their light, bright appeal and easy productive conversations, have come under fire from studies that showed workers dislike certain elements, ranging from noise levels to lack of visual and sound privacy and even lack of available space.
Luckily, workspace technology has advanced as rapidly as our changing workplace needs, and can provide a lot of answers to these very human dilemmas.
Meeting management software, for example, provides workers with an easy online way to book what they need, whether it’s a formal conference room or an informal area.
In a single transaction that works across multiple locations and time zones, the employee can also book essential resources including video conferencing, AV or even catering. And if the meeting changes, the system will automatically inform everyone involved.
Space today is an expensive commodity, and no-shows at meetings are a costly drain on resources. Workspace scheduling software solves the issue by detecting when a room is not being used as booked, and releasing it back into availability.
Not so hot desking
Hot desking has also received a whiff of bad publicity in recent years because in a badly-organised workplace it can be hard to find a desk – and no-one wants people wandering round the building looking for a place to work with a power socket.
Workspace booking software once again solves the problem by using advanced occupancy sensors that provide a real-time display of available, bookable desks and booths, and – like the meeting rooms – automatically makes them available when they are not being used.
Those complaints about noise or lack of privacy can also be addressed, because a workspace system can be set up so workers can book a quiet spot to work, or somewhere with a cool temperature.
This is important. Recent research measured the effects of a noisy working environment on a group of office workers, and found that a stress-related chemical rose in their bodies. Significantly, they were also less willing to tackle puzzles, and made fewer adjustments to their body position than a control group in a quiet situation – an unhealthy way to work.
Using your valuable workspace flexibly makes sense in many ways. Employees like it, and respond with greater productivity, while every square foot of space is well-utilised and comprehensive reporting can help facilities managers make informed decisions.
It can’t stop your employees walking into glass walls, of course…but the right technology can help create a knowledgeable, efficient and comfortable working environment where people can collaborate and work productively in peace.