As workplaces evolve and adapt to hybrid workstyles, the demands placed on the office and its overarching purpose will change. Corporate Real Estate (CRE) teams will need to similarly re-evaluate their measures of success, and collaborate closely with HR and Facilities departments to ensure the workplace continues to support and provide for employees.
Key utilisation metrics
A key concern for all stakeholders involved in building management, workplace strategy and space planning is return on investment in regards to real estate spend. Understanding how spaces are utilised throughout the week and by who is a vital part of gauging the success of real estate strategies.
Peaks & troughs: Teams can remove the guesswork from lease negotiations by monitoring their occupancy highs and lows, knowing with certainty what space requirements are needed in each location, ensuring that wasted space is minimised for maximum cost efficiency.
Asset provision: Employees within hybrid environments engage far more critically with workspaces than under traditional models, as they venture into the office for specific reasons. Monitoring the usage of the assets available enables teams to ensure their portfolio is optimised to the needs of employees as under-utilised areas can be identified and replaced with those which are in high demand.
Departmental allocation: Different teams and roles require various levels of access to the workplace, and in environments where there is a <1:1 allocation of desks to employees ensuring that the right teams have the space they require to work efficiently is vital. Make the most of the space available by leveraging departmental occupancy rates to ensure space is allocated appropriately.
Employee satisfaction, retention & productivity
Organisations across the globe - such as Google, AirBnB and Microsoft - have decided it’s time to call it a day on the traditional 1:1 office model, recognising that employees deserve agency in their own working lives, and a full-time presence within the office is, for many, entirely unnecessary in regards to their contributions and performance.
These changes are being made and implemented to keep the working lives of employees aligned with the organisations’ ethics and cultural codes, which over the course of the pandemic have largely expanded to include a focus on wellbeing. For example, in recognition of the impact of meeting fatigue on motivation and happiness, Intel have introduced ‘meeting-free Fridays’.
Similarly, some organisations are affecting change to respect the desires of their employees, as is the case at Fujitsu. Pre-pandemic there was a culture of long hours and face-to-face meetings, but now as 85% of employees state a preference for a hybrid model, strategies have shifted and they are creating an ‘ecosystem’ of various spaces designed to cater to multiple needs.
Developing a framework for success
In these instances, changes are being made following what Louis Lhoest of Veldhoen & Co refers to as Guiding Principles. These are statements of intent outlining the purpose of change, internal definitions of success which serve to act as points of reference for all stakeholders when undergoing transformation. Making changes in this way minimises the risk of change for change’s sake, and is a fundamental step in any successful project.
In relation to CRE teams, this means staying in-tune with employee sentiment as workplaces evolve. Assumptions cannot be made by leadership regarding the success of changes intended to benefit employees without direct input from employees themselves.
Therefore, teams must work closely to gauge employee satisfaction. HR Leaders Emma Dutton and Sue Warman highlight the importance and necessity of inter-departmental collaboration in hybrid and agile environments, arguing that in complex frameworks, information must be shared and worked on in tandem as no one department retains a monopoly on the workplace.
Creating a workplace of choice
Workplace policy and the office itself should be designed to facilitate and support employee wellbeing and create an environment in which employees want to be. Combining data gathered through pulse surveys and similar methods of sentiment analysis with employee turnover data held by HR teams is a strong method to measure the popularity of changes amongst employees.
Measure of success
However, it is important to remember that hybrid environments also exist to enable employees to work in the way that best suits them and their tasks at hand and, as such, productivity and business performance are also measures of success for CRE professionals.
This means striking the balance between making changes which are intended to be beneficial to employees, and changes which are beneficial to the company balance sheet. This sounds challenging, as teams could find themselves in a moral quandary should performance drop - do changes which improve employee engagement and satisfaction get the axe to boost profit? And how do teams justify those decisions? Is it worth the risk?
Reassuringly, this challenge may well not exist, as there may be a far stronger positive correlation between the two than first appears. In 2015 Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments, cut his pay by 90% as part of a move to drastically improve the wellbeing of his employees, by raising minimum company wage to $70k.
In subsequent years productivity rose 30-40% annually, profits and revenue jumped similarly and the company’s employee retention rate is firmly 90%+.
Maybe Marcus Aurelius had it wrong, and would have been more accurate in saying: ‘That which is not good for the bee, cannot be good for the hive’.
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