Elizabeth Dukes 2017-09-14 12:07:06
There’s a quiet revolt going on. You see it happening in offices all over the world. Innovative CEOs are ducking into a Starbucks to collaborate on a few ideas with their CMOs. They’re working from home one morning a week just to clear their heads and prepare for a big pitch. Or they’re sticking their finger in one ear while pacing the hallway, trying to have a quiet conversation on their cell phones. These are the twisting work lives of CEOs everywhere who succumb to the idea of the open floor plan office, but who crave the luxury and privacy of a simple door. It’s part of a bigger trend happening in organizations, from startups to Fortune 100 companies, known as Activity-Based Working (ABW). ABW is the recognition that throughout the day, people’s tasks change, and they need a variety of spaces to meet their needs. The one-size-fits-all office space doesn’t work for anyone — whether it’s an isolated corner office or the middle of the bullpen. Workers of every stature need workspaces that reflect the work and the culture of the company. The ABW trend requires astute business leaders — corporate real estate executives, digital workplace strategists and facilities managers — to prepare their workplaces according to a multitude of work needs. Employees need the technology platforms, mobile tools and physical workspaces that reflect their changing job requirements and flexible work styles. GENERATIONAL DIVIDE The reality is, the open floor plan office can work masterfully for the C-Suite — and their employees. Just ask Michael Bloomberg, Tony Hsieh and Mark Zuckerberg, all of whom have adopted it in their headquarters. The key is combining the open floor plan with thoughtful areas that empower everyone to do their best work. This is particularly the case across generational workers, who exhibit different preferences for how they work. Millennial workers, who will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025, want to feel connected to a bigger purpose. Being seated in earshot of the CEO and other relevant colleagues allows younger workers to understand the company’s larger mission and how to apply the company’s cultural and management lessons to their own work. Younger CEOs also thrive on the buzz and hum of working in a hive environment where they can activate clusters of workers just by leaning over to start a dialogue or brainstorm a new idea on the fly. Millennials regularly cite the desire for informal mentorship and regular, not scheduled, performance reviews. In many offices, this has become the norm. Rather than a private office with a closed door, CEOs may prefer a large desk in an open office where junior employees and senior executives can hash out ideas together and pull up a chair without impeding the workflow. CEOs can also eavesdrop on technical conversations and share a quick insight or address an issue before an employee’s phone call with a client ends with, “I’ll ask my boss and get back to you.” More important, the openness gives CEOs the opportunity to say, “You did a fantastic job handling that complex client issue. I’m really proud of the work you’re doing, and I’d like to offer a few more points to kick it up a notch for your next call.” THE SOLUTION Balance is the key concept in this model. Collaborative workspaces should be balanced with flexible closed-door spaces to accommodate privacy, creative thinking, raucous celebration or meditative time alone. Having a well-balanced space preserves CEO sanity while encouraging the teamwork that makes innovative offices thrive. With these types of spaces, CEOs can offer their workforce customized solutions, so everyone works in a way that makes sense. Although the solution sounds simple, many facility managers find that implementing these changes comes with a lot of stress when figuring out how to balance a plethora of different personality types. Despite this challenge, there are a few “must haves” that make the transition into collaborative or ABW workplaces, easier. These collaborative spaces must include: • Free-to-use spaces for thinking, brainstorming or sketching out ideas on whiteboards • Partitions or visual barriers to break up huge spaces and avoid an “aircraft hangar” feel • A mix of spaces, including communal areas with tables and sofas to encourage collaboration, as well as smaller, private zones where individuals can go when they need more solitude to accomplish their work A successful transition to an open, collaborative office space means giving employees and the FM team the tools to understand what space is available, how it is used, the frequency of different uses of space and who occupies it. To do this, it helps to use a comprehensive space management software that will track every asset, every person, every query and every square inch of space in your old and new office setup, so you can quickly shift from one space to another. A software solution is the simplest way to centralize data related to how a space is used, as well as information related to a move. It monitors the adoption of new processes, reorganizes your assets and employees, and automates key responsibilities to free up time for more pressing tasks that require a human touch. Best of all, each component of an integrated FM software solution works together to give FM leaders a real-time, bird’s-eye view over the entire operation to create better plans with accurate, employee-driven data. We all know that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are effective and well-planned collaborative workspaces. When making the transition (key word: transition), open and honest communication is necessary to make the process go as smoothly as possible. The road to implementation often includes: • Identification of in-house leaders to help disseminate information • A series of “town hall” meetings to explain changes and address concerns • Models or drawings that depict the look and feel of the new workspace • Any necessary training on new technologies that will be deployed in the change. During this planning and implementation phase, leaders can also begin to implement guidelines and expectations for open-office etiquette, meeting room use and respecting quiet spaces. RESULTS Picture this: At the end of the process, your workforce effortlessly finds and books the perfect space for their most critical tasks. When they need to invite visitors, they reserve space, check-in guests and guide them to their destination using interactive way-finding. You’ve made the move from a completely open floor plan to an efficient Activity-Based Workplace, which is a huge step in regaining control over how your office works. With your new workplace, everyone from the new hire to the CEO finally feels like the company culture is accurately reflected in their workspace, which leads to high employee engagement. It’s also great for recruitment, and the FM team has access to constantly updated data derived from the newly implemented employee experience solutions. Better data leads to better planning for an ever-changing workplace. At the end of this day, the CEO rests assured knowing he or she has the freedom and ability to work in the most productive way possible. Whether that means sitting in the bullpen for a few hours before reserving a private room for afternoon calls or brainstorming on a whiteboard in a designated area. With collaborative workspaces, there is no limit to the flexibility or available options. REFERENCES 1) www.steelcase.com/research/articles/privacy-crisis/ 2) www.nytimes.com/2013/03/23/nyregion/bloombergs-bullpen-candidates-debate-its-future.html 3) www.wired.com/2014/01/zappos-tony-hsieh-las-vegas/ 4) www.businessinsider.com/mark-zuckerberg-virtual-tour-frank-gehrydesigned-building-2015-9 ELIZABETH DUKES is an entrepreneur, author and speaker. She is the co-founder and CMO of iOFFICE, the people-centric integrated workplace management solution for the digital workplace. Elizabeth champions iOFFICE’s mission to utilize technology to empower the workforce and the workplace to reach their full potential. Connect with Elizabeth @iOfficeCorp. A DAY IN THE LIFE OF THE CEO Let’s think about all the activities a CEO does in a single day. As soon as they arrive at the office, they’re in go mode: 9AM They’ll need a private conference room to rally the troops for their daily huddle. Then they’ll need to hop on the phone for a private call — in a quiet phone booth — to handle an incoming client request. 10:30AM Meeting with the global sales team for a video conference about the new product roll out. 11:30AM Meeting with the CMO and the rest of the marketing team in a collaboration space to discuss branding strategies for the upcoming tradeshow. 1:00PM Let’s not forget about lunch, where they’ll need a private area to catch up with the visiting IT team from India, with catering, service support and access to live feeds of the network in action. 3:00-4:00PM Let’s be honest, access to a gym would be fantastic way to recharge before the 20-hour red-eye flight to the Beijing office. The list goes on. Many business leaders want to feel they are a part of the team while they lead it. That’s why it’s critical to create spaces that allow employees to do their jobs as productively as possible in the spaces provided. Improper workspace allocation is part of the reason why two-thirds of employees feel disengaged at work — they’re simply not in the right spaces to do their work and contribute effectively. Worse, according to research from furniture manufacturer Steelcase, many employees feel that the democratized open floor plan is implemented as an effort to cut costs and remove private offices and privacy altogether. While inaccurate, the message the employee may be receiving is “my company doesn’t care about me.” Whatever the perception may be, one thing we know for sure is the office space is the most tangible example of how leadership values the workforce.
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