Now Is the Time to Get the Workplace Right

by | 29 April 2015

The workplace is where everything happens. At its base, it’s where we trade our time and talent for our pay. But it’s so much more. It’s where we connect with colleagues, laugh with friends, celebrate weddings and births, create brand new things, console one another in grief and, for some, meet our future spouses. The workplace may not be the complete heart of our lives, but it is certainly the sinew and muscle that enable that heart.

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The definition of workplace needs to be broadened beyond floor plans and panel heights. Today’s workplace is an integrated set of locations, technology, programs and work practices that connect people and enable them to contribute their skills and experience productively.

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The workplace is the body language of our company. Its design and supporting programs send messages about who we are, what we stand for and what we value. While our connection to our company is largely financial, a good workplace can make that connection purposeful and emotional as well. And this is what employees want.

We have an obligation to make our workplaces work. From a business perspective, they need to be affordable, located properly and support the activities that help us meet company objectives. But we also have an obligation, driven by our humanity, to make our workplaces inspiring, connecting and healthy — empowering us to contribute from who we are.

The business and the people aspects of the workplace are two sides of the same desktop. People are the source of ideas, production, sales growth and customer connections. If the workplace works for people, it will work for business.

The opportunity is right in front of us:

  1. Leadership: As the Boomers cede power and authority to Gen X and Millennial leaders, new officing models will become the norm. The conversation we are having today will be very different in just five years when the majority of the workforce will be Millennials. Boomers, the generation that changed everything, have one more change to make: paving the way for the more authentic, more culturally aligned workplace.
  2. Priorities: We’re going to spend money on our workplaces and technology anyway. We might as well spend it on the right things — things that further brand, connect people, drive innovation and send messages about what we stand for to our customers, investors and potential hires.
  3. Footprint changes: Whenever we move, expand or refresh our space, we have an opportunity to make a significant, lasting impact on our company.
  4. Critical success skills: We must redirect the fear and trepidation often associated with workplace change into positive actions that make lives better. Challenging changes, like those presented by new workplace models, develop core skills critical for business today.

The prize is not how much we can save on the workplace but how we can make smart investments so the experience of our employees is the most engaging and productive possible.

Once we decide to invest in this noble effort, there are experts, methods and tools to make it happen. Everything listed above can be prioritized, managed and measured and still remain true to business realities.

The workplace is where much of life happens. If we can get it right, we can make our employees’ lives better. And that’s good for business.

Keith Perske leads Workplace Innovation practice for Colliers International in the Americas, where he works with clients to create workplaces and programs that make employees engaged and productive and their companies competitive.