Peggy Moore 2017-09-14 12:50:24
For many businesses, maintaining a fully operational workplace is the second highest expense, following employee costs. With so much invested, proper utilization of the space has always been critical. Space utilization has historically been focused on ensuring employees have operational workspaces and maintaining favorable working conditions. Facility managers have long been tasked with the planning, execution and maintenance of the workplace. Now, perhaps more than ever before, businesses are faced with a wealth of new external and internal drivers that force facility managers to provide a workplace that supports business objectives while providing employees with an environment where they want to work and that will allow them to be at their most productive. It has become a balance of financial and human capital objectives. As design and workplace planning become more important, finding new tools and transition services to help tackle a facility manager’s growing responsibilities is becoming more and more necessary. With so many drivers at play, the flexibility of these services is paramount. Before we can look at what is needed in these tools and services, we must first understand the influencers at play. GENERATION Z ENTERS THE WORKFORCE While companies continue to balance the needs of generations from Baby Boomers to Millennials, a new generation is starting to enter the workplace — Generation Z. Largely understood as the first generation to have regular internet access from a young age, Generation Z has grown up with technology and expect greater access at all times. They expect to plug and play from wherever they are, moving about the business both inside and outside its four walls. Early access to technology has given this generation great technical skills, which are very attractive to employers. Combined with a current labor and skill shortage, all kinds of employers — from technology companies to more traditional work environments, such as law and accounting firms — are interested in recruiting Generation Z professionals. Attracting them presents a new challenge, as they tend to work differently. Employers see workplace design, setup and workflow as an essential tool to attract and retain this generation. CHANGE IS THE NEW NORMAL As this workforce shift occurs, employees today are more likely to migrate from company to company than ever before. They use skill and labor shortages to their advantage. Employers must now look at all aspects of their businesses to help recruit top talent. The work environment plays an integral role in that process. Across the board, Generation Z employees are more particular about the space in which they work. They look for environments that fit how they prefer to do their job and how they want to do their job, often based around their technology-driven lifestyle. Employers are starting to see a real benefit to matching work environments with how employees prefer to work, as they discover workplace design impacts employees’ productivity as well as the bottom line. With a range of generations in the workforce and an even larger range of work environment preferences, change is the new normal. Workspaces that used to be fixed, where few changes were needed over the course of several years, are evolving at a much faster pace. Facility managers are being challenged to think about how people work and how they accommodate all the changes departments are making, while being mindful of the bottom line. EXTERNAL DRIVERS IN THE WORKPLACE Generational preferences aren’t the only considerations facility managers must consider in designing modern workspaces. Workplace research has identified other trends driving change. Open vs. Closed Spaces One of the biggest trends in office environments has been the move to open spaces, but many are finding a balance of open and closed best accommodates the ever-fluctuating work preferences of different departments and employees. Finding the right balance is almost an art form and is hard to get right the first time. Transition service providers report seeing more demand for multi-purpose furnishings in a blend of open and closed work environments with the flexibility of rental services to make changes when needed. A space currently used as a conference room may need to be repurposed to house several employees when they form a collaborative team. Or, an open area may need to be divided to allow for heads-down work. Employee Well-being Employers are designing workplaces for the well-being of their employees, both mentally and physically. Studies show that designing for well-being encourages employee mobility and engagement, relieves stress and increases productivity. Standing desks are one key manifestation of this trend. Employees are looking for sit-to-stand options and the availability of privacy panels as needed throughout their work day. Company Culture Companies are also realizing the work environment is not only about creating a cool and productive workspace, but design is also a reflection of the brand and its company culture. Companies are thinking about how to make the office aesthetically appealing by incorporating brand colors and graphics. They are also bringing in the amenities that people want, from espresso machines and refreshment areas, to think tanks and lounge spaces. There is an increasing trend to bring in what was traditionally known as residential furniture into the workplace, such as sofas and comfortable chairs. Multi-Purpose Furniture In a time when flexibility is key, multi-purpose furniture can be a blessing. A bench is no longer just a bench. With storage inside and proper placement to help divide space, a bench can serve three functions — storage, seating and space division — while taking up minimum precious floor space. By extension, a desk is no longer just a desk. With a wardrobe built into one side, a sit-to-stand option, the addition of mobile casters, and extra seating available to accommodate a meeting with two to three people, a desk can serve a variety of functions while requiring a smaller office floorplan. Powered Up Finally, more power options and connectivity built into furniture can be of tremendous assistance when maximizing space. Power strips incorporated into gathering tables create a collaborative environment for informal meetings that continue past a laptop’s battery life. Cozy nooks with powered chairs provide an alternative and practical closed working environment. With the ability to apply power to any work surface, people are no longer restricted to where the outlets are, allowing for greater movement and use of space. Power can be added to any place in the office. USING ALL THE ASSETS IN A MODERN FACILITY MANAGER’S TOOLBOX With design taking on a greater importance for facility managers — from recognizing the external workforce factors at play to interpreting them and incorporating trends into facility design to keep up with demand — facility managers have an increased need for help in this area. New tools are available to help facility managers and stakeholders visualize how a space will function. Interior design technology, such as 3D design tools, allow facility managers to view and access dimensions, floor space and work flow. Soon, virtual reality will provide a whole new perspective, giving an almost real-life view of what’s possible. New research techniques are becoming available to help facility managers capture data to help determine space utilization, and from there, how to best provision the workplace. Transition services help facility managers keep up with the latest trends while maintaining flexibility using the latest workplace planning technologies. What’s needed today is not what’s going to be needed three years from now, maybe not even six months from now. Furniture on demand is one component of these transition services that lends itself to flexibility. Facility managers can work with furniture rental companies to design a particular test area and see if employees will gravitate to the space. They can also measure the adoption rate of sit-to-stand desks and even add connectivity to any piece of furniture. As modern businesses continue to evolve at an ever-increasing speed, these tools and services can help facility managers put a fresh spin on work environments. Whether the facility hosts one large business with numerous departments, a wide variety of small businesses, or even one or two small businesses, facility managers will continue to be nimble and identify the right design and furnishing solutions to meet their customers’ workplace needs. PEGGY MOORE has been in the workplace furnishings industry for 26 years in sales and operations, regionally and nationally. She has held the positions of Sales Manager, District General Manager, National Account Executive, Director of Government Sales and Vice President, Workplace. Helping businesses and government manage change in the workplace has been the foundation of her career. Peggy works at the Chantilly, VA Headquarters of CORT Business Services, a Berkshire Hathaway company.
Published by International Facility Management Association . View All Articles.
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