Employee wellbeing is only half the battle

Blog: Mikko Mäkelä, VP, Innovation to Market, Martela

The workplace is traditionally thought of as the place where we work, but these days, employee wellbeing and comfort are becoming increasingly established as values when it comes to planning offices.

The employee experience is fundamentally important and is strongly linked to the customer experience, which is one of the most important competitive factors of our time. From the corporate management’s perspective, it is, however, also important to consider the workplace from another point of view, which will also offer measurable benefits for business.

Office space is the second largest expense item in many organisations, however, the decisions concerning office space are, strangely enough, frequently made with calculations that are based on gut feeling. As bizarre as it sounds in this era of digitalisation, the most common problem is lack of data.

With your hand on your heart, can you honestly tell me how efficiently your office space is being used?

To make you feel a little better I can tell you that there are many others who don’t have enough information on this either. Research company Leesman’s global report on workplaces called The Next 250K clearly states that organisations all over the world don’t know how to make proper use of the opportunities offered by workplaces.

According to Leesman, the impact of the workplace is gravely underestimated. This has serious consequences: only 57% of employees all over the world feel that their workplace enables them to work productively.

Data is your friend. Measure, learn and improve!

When management groups deal with workplace-related matters, a comprehensive way of thinking that is sufficiently extensive is essential. Lifecycle thinking makes it easier to broaden the attention from the decisions made at the planning stage to the continuous development of the workplace.

In order for the office space to support the targeted models of working and for us to gain the most benefits from the investments we need to be able to learn. Measurement and development enable us to optimise productivity and costs throughout the lifecycle of the workplace.

Data to support our learning can be collected in many ways. The utilisation rate of various types of spaces can be measured with sensors, either continuously or at certain intervals during recurring measurement periods. We can monitor the ways spaces are used using observation measurements and interviews and using indicators related to a peaceful working environment, productivity and wellbeing, for example.

  • Most of the surprises and areas for development are typically found in meeting rooms. For example, if rooms often contain only one person, it is unlikely that there will be enough space for telephone and web conferencing or individual work requiring concentration. If meeting rooms are often booked for internal meetings, more areas suitable for group work will be needed in the workplace.
  • In the workplace it is important to monitor the popularity of various workstations. If a certain area is not used much and another is constantly busy, changes made to balance the situation will significantly improve employee satisfaction and the smooth flow of daily life. Each unnecessary workstation is an extra cost, whereas looking for suitable premises wastes time that could be used for efficient work.
  • The functionality of activity-based offices is based on clear rules. Observing use of space provides feedback on how well the agreed procedures are followed. For example, if quiet areas are used for quick meetings or if people start monopolising workstations that are meant to be used by everyone, the situation can be rectified by going over the rules. Restoring things to the way they should be ensures that no time is wasted on arrangements that could be easily avoided.

Lifecycle approach overrides the buy and forget mentality

Even the best workplaces will not be optimal in years to come as needs and ways of working change. Planning solutions should increasingly be though of as dynamic management tools: the workplace can be used to guide the organisation towards the targeted direction of change.

Workplace planning should be considered in the same way as any type of change: excellent preparation and target-oriented management are important factors for success. In particular, it is important to remember that instead of a one-off project it is a process of continuous development. The buy and forget mode of operation will not enable you to benefit from what you have learnt.

Activity-based offices immediately reduce the amount of space needed compared with traditional office environments, typically by 10-40%. The measurement and optimisation of workplace use throughout the lifecycle will provide additional benefits in space, furniture and energy costs in addition to those in employee satisfaction, wellbeing and productivity.

Read on Kati Tammilehto's blog how PwC develops their workspaces.

Mikko Mäkelä

Blog writer: Mikko Mäkelä, VP, Innovation to Market, Martela Group