In this guest blog, Miwah Van, Managing Director of consulting firm Unvorsum discusses the relationship between workspace design and technology in enabling organisational collaboration.
Advancements in technology are enabling us to work and live in a way that has never been possible before. A person is now able to turn their car into a taxi service with the likes of Uber, provide their professional skills to anyone, anywhere, at anytime on Freelancer, and if you ever fancied opening your own hotel - you now can with AirBnB. Technology is providing individuals with an ever expanding range of options in how they work and earn a living - never before has there been so much ability for an individual to have a global presence nor the option to leverage underutilised personal resources to generate additional income. Employees' increased optionality is having a direct impact on traditional employer’s ability to attract and retain the best people.
One method corporates are seeking to level the playing field is through offering employees enhanced levels of flexibility and autonomy. Providing a workplace that meets the individual demands of each employee is a key aspect of this equation.
Where can we observe how to balance individual needs with an overall culture?
Co-work as an industry has exploded worldwide over the last 5 years, demonstrating the growing demand from consumers wanting more from their place of work than the traditional office setting. Flexible working environments and leasing structures, aesthetically pleasing design, and the opportunity to interact with other like-minded individuals are all foundations of the product offering. Gone are the days where all employees needed was a desk and a cubicle they could call their own.
However, sharing of office spaces amongst companies and individuals is not a new thing. Barristers have been doing this for years, working with each other in Chambers and gaining the benefit of shared administration costs. Organisations such as Servcorp and Regus successfully pioneered the Serviced Office concept in the late 1970's and subsequently created business footprints that span the globe.
Co-work has taken the principles so well established in the Serviced Office industry and incorporated unique design elements that span nature, industrial and a touch of retro. Some even go as far as offering beer on tap and building climbing walls within the facility. In the past 12 months, I have had the opportunity to tour different facilities around the world; including locations in, the USA, Asia and Australia. It was a real treat to see the different spaces come to life and be able to compare and evaluate the similarities and differences that exist across different facilities and locations.
In conjunction with the Serviced Office sector I believe that Co-work holds many lessons for corporates in providing solutions that are both flexible and allow employees to choose where, when and how they best want to work.
But isn’t co-work just a hip fit-out and bean bags?
In my view it’s not the fit-out nor the bean bags that have made Co-work so successful. It’s often said the best businesses are those that meet a clear customer need and go above and beyond in servicing this need - Co-work is no different. A titanic shift is taking place how people are employed, over 50% of the workforce expected to be self-employed by 2035, vs. only 35% at present. This is driving a huge proliferation in the creation of small business around the world, “Business really is the new Black”.
Providers of flexible office space have stepped into the traditional market and offer a product that meets the requirements of small businesses - both start-ups and those that are growing. A place to work is a key input for any business and enabling flexibility at a cost effective price point is extremely valuable. However, these factors combined with a funky design is not enough. The design is targeted at attracting a specific type of user to a given facility and this is where the real magic is created.
For example, Bespoke in San Francisco targets start-up technology companies in the retail sector and is located in a shopping mall, the facility itself has pop up showcase suites for businesses to showcase their products. This is a natural extension of the model employed by Servcorp in the Serviced Office sector where professional service providers are targeted via providing upscale suites in premium locations.
When a space is purpose built for a specific customer group like-minded businesses will be attracted to the space enabling the generation of connections, growth opportunities and a real sense of community amongst those that occupy the space. The facilities that have performed particularly well have also created specialised technology platforms that exist solely to generate this sense of community.
So what does this mean for Corporates?
Corporates can take learnings from this customer driven, purpose designed approach in creating workspaces. Look at workspace design as a tool for your organisation to enable your staff to freely communicate and collaborate with each other. Spaces should be designed around the culture of each individual organisation and not simply determined by the latest trend. Involve staff in the design and fit-out of the workspace, it provides a great opportunity to give your staff a personal voice while strengthening your company's culture from within.
Interested to find out more?
[Video]: Hear more from Miwah and other industry thought leaders from Microsoft, Steelcase and DEXUS on your role in shaping the workplace of the future. Access the on-demand presentations and hear their perspectives on bringing people, technology, and processes together.
Ever wondered how workplace design can harness the best performing employees and drive productive interactions? In this guest blog post, Miwah Van, Managing Director of consulting firm Unvorsum, explores the evolving landscape of employee collaboration and how this is redefining the workplace.
Most of us have likely watched the movie The Internship where Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson become immersed in new technology when applying for roles with Google. From the initial online interview, to the Google campus where playgrounds with slides, free food and sleep pods are the norm; we find ourselves asking is this the future of the workplace? Should every corporate aspire to create a workplace similar to Google? Will this actually result in increased innovation, collaboration, community, and ultimately productivity?
The workplace is important as it represents the physical environment employees spend many hours of the day within. However, I find that workplace design is often confused with company culture; corporates believe that through redesigning their workplace, culture will automatically adjust to meet some desired result and improved performance will follow.
Having consulted for a large number of different organisations across different industries and geographical locations I’ve witnessed this trend in action as traditional office layouts are replaced with Activity Based Working (“ABW”). Companies see the various facts and figures that are presented to support this method of working and think they to will be able to reap the benefits simply by re-fitting the workplace with funky common areas and hot-desks.
People define the culture
A company’s success or failure depends on the people within the organisation. Attracting and retaining the best human capital should be at the top of any organisation’s agenda. Workspace design is a tool that can be harnessed to both attract these people and help drive the types of interactions these people need to succeed. However, everything starts from having the right people to achieve the company’s vision.
Its said “like attracts like” and in my opinion this is reflection of what ultimately drives culture within organisations. But instead of seeking to understand the drivers of the team members who comprise the organisation; HR teams write policies to dictate the organisation's culture. It often goes as far as holding multiple meetings with the Board of Directors, Senior Management and staff across the wider organisation; in pursuit of the answer to the question “Why do we exist?”
Culture is intangible – and the people who comprise an organisation ultimately define its culture. It is paramount that the leaders within an organisation are able to define what they are looking for in people and be positioned to both attract and retain those people (and take action where they don’t fit.) Writing policies is a fruitless task and this effort would be better directed to ensuring “the right people are in the right roles”.
Learnings can be taken with Netflix’s talent philosophy “The best thing you can do for employees—a perk better than foosball or free sushi—is hire only “A” players to work alongside them. Excellent colleagues trump everything else”. Having the right people within the organisation and promoting and harnessing that talent is the most important factor that will develop and define a productive culture.
Workplace and technology
After focusing on your people, workplace design becomes about creating the best environment for your teams to work together to create superior outcomes for your customers. As the saying goes, “ten minds are greater than one” but remember one size does not fit all; a company’s ultimate aim in designing their workspace is to create zones that enable and empower your employees to make them more productive.
The right technology must then be incorporated to enable connections between your employees, but the focus must be on creating truly seamless connections vs. simply installing the latest product available. The people who comprise your business are the ultimate drivers of success and the goal of workplace design and incorporation of technology must be to give them right environment and tools to create the best outcomes for your customers.
Workplace and technology act as enablers that will allow your people to take your company culture from good to excellent, but neither will ever replace a company’s most important resource – its people. Or putting it another way for those that are mathematically inclined:
Winning culture = Right people^(Workplace design + Technology)
Hear more from Miwah and Polycom subject matter experts, James Brennan and Mei Lin Low in our free webinar ‘From Workplace to Workspace’, on Wednesday, July 29. Our panel will navigate the key trends driving the need for organisations to be more flexible and the technology innovations that will support the transformation. Register today to secure your place. An on-demand version of the webinar will be available for all registrants.