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Environment and Workplace Effectiveness

30 June 2016 | Updated 01 January 1970

Creating the right type of environment is key to increasing workplace effectiveness says Trevor Miles.

What’s the link between workplace effectiveness and FM?

It’s about how effectively a workplace enables people to do their job. FM is one of the main drivers for this because it can influence a workplace’s design and is then responsible for its ongoing operation and maintenance.


What are the benefits of improving workplace effectiveness?

The cost of attracting, retaining and training new employees can be significant so any way the workplace can help this is very valuable. This particularly applies to knowledge workers and those involved in creative industries.

An environment that enables people to generate new ideas is worth its weight in gold. Ultimately, you’re trying to increase the productivity of individuals. It’s about creating an environment with areas ranging from quiet places for people to concentrate to busy places where they can engage with a like-minded community. Organisations increasingly rely on informal networking so a workplace that helps to create and sustain this type of community will create value.

Well-designed workplaces can also minimise occupational stress through noise reduction, the placing of plants, having interesting views, providing options on where people work and helping them balance their family responsibilities.


What are the challenges of trying to increase workplace effectiveness?

Senior management usually understand the need for workplace change, as do staff but often it’s the middle layer of an organisation that find change difficult; for example, if they can’t see their teams when remote working is implemented. Overcoming this resistance may need training, a program of communication and some new activities, such as scheduled 1-2-1 time with staff.

Buy-in can also be improved by piloting changes as experimenting and learning from different workplace solutions can be very valuable. This allows facilities managers to see how things work and gives IT, HR and staff an opportunity to understand and evaluate new ideas. Being involved with and influencing change usually makes people advocates for it. Money and resources are obvious challenges, but shouldn’t stop workplace change happening. Sometimes it’s about thinking where resources can be focused to give the greatest impact, e.g. communal areas.

There can also be management inertia when faced with a complex set of inter-related problems on workplace change. It can be tough to make a decision with so many options available but prioritising required outcomes and experimenting with different solutions should help find one that fits a business need and gains staff support, while being within a budget.


How should effectiveness targets inform strategic property decisions?

Traditionally, organisations measured simple things like rental costs. They then realised that there were associated costs and so wanted the total workplace cost, broken down into the cost per unit of net internal area or per desk, for example.

This focus has widened even further and businesses now look at staff turnover, the ability to recruit based on their premises, why people join or leave an organisation, etc. The Leesman Index, for example, tries to provide a more holistic view on workplace effectiveness using a range of factors. This new emphasis asks how well a workplace supports a business, which can help inform property decisions. It also gives facilities managers feedback about the workplace areas scoring highly and where there maybe scope for change.


What are the trends and future developments in this area?

As well as allowing people to choose their work setting, we’re seeing an increase in co-working spaces, which are popular with start-ups, smaller companies and some larger ones. Data and analytics is also improving how a workplace operates. For example, sensors can show changes in a building’s occupation throughout the day and variations on different days. This allows improved space usage, such as temporarily closing a floor at times when use is low (e.g. on Fridays when people often work from home).

Other examples of the use of data to help create smarter workplaces include:

  • Identifying whether meeting rooms are available or occupied,
  • Monitoring the external environment, e.g. pollen and other allergens.
  • Measuring the length of the queue at the staff cafe so people can decide when to visit.

One of the big trends supporting this is the Internet of Things, which is the ability to gather information from many different sources remotely. These can ‘talk’ to each other and in some cases, automatically make adjustments to improve the work environment. A good example is lighting control systems where sensors can judge the level of natural light and automatically adjust the brightness of artificial light to an appropriate level - all without any human intervention.


What’s the main piece of advice to improve effectiveness through FM?

The key is understanding the core business goals (e.g. collaboration, customer service, staff retention etc) that you’re trying to support with a workspace, and then evaluating that workspace against how well it is performing in doing those things. You can then extend from any positive findings and/or plug any gaps.

Picture: Trevor Miles, Smarter Buildings, Real Estate & Facilities Consulting Lead at IBM

Article with thanks to RICS. The next article in the Think Strategic and other useful FM resources is available from the RICS website.

Article written by Trevor Miles | Published 30 June 2016


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