By Meg Osman
In today’s highly competitive business climate, companies of all scales, sizes and maturity levels need to maximise the return on investment (ROI) they are pulling from their workplaces.
Clearly, workplace ROI means different things to different organisations. For fast growth companies with highly mobile staff, they may need a workplace that infuses adaptable, technology-rich environments so people can do their work whenever and however they need. For organisations that bring clients into their offices frequently, creating a space that communicates brand and leaves an impression is key.
Recent data regarding millennials and Generation Z reveals the workplace is one of their top five considerations when making employment decisions. It’s fair then to assume they’ll also use these criteria to evaluate business partners moving forward, too. Knowing this, organisations should understand that strategic investments in their workplace are investments in their future success.
With the workplace, each new year brings new trends companies need to consider and address. Below is a look at how technology, nature and discipline integration are helping organisations from all industries begin to better use their workplaces to empower staff and business growth.
1. Use technology as a tool, not a buzzword
We all know new generations entering the workforce have relied on cell phones, GPS and tools like WhatsApp to connect their entire lives. Knowing this isn’t just an opportunity for companies to make jokes about how times have changed or reminisce, it’s an opportunity they need to seize to strengthen their business.
DCI Artform, one of the largest retail shopper marketing agencies in the world, recently opened a new office in Chicago that relies on technology to create ease of access to clients and greater visibility for its company in the region.
The new workplace offers a digital CAVE (virtual reality) environment to showcase retail environments. The CAVE uses high-resolution laser and stereoscopic projection and 3D graphics to put DCI Artform’s clients in virtual spaces where they can experience and test retail designs before they invest capital.
Along with being a tool for business partners, DCI Artform’s CAVE also helps attract innovative employees drawn to the organisation’s forward-thinking view of retail science.
At the core of DCI Artform’s success is a deep understanding of the technology their clients and employees need. Rather than rely on guesswork or model their efforts after another organisation, they researched work patterns and strategically invested capital resources. More organisations need to take this level of insight into their technology infrastructure — the more they understand, the more benefits they’ll see through client engagement and employee retention over time.
2. Leverage nature and outdoor space
Numerous studies and extensive data highlight fresh air’s ability to increase energy levels, boost our immune systems and help us live healthier lives. Still most of our workplaces are designed to keep us inside during our workdays.
Organisations like Clorox are beginning to change this by introducing more outdoor spaces where employees can connect, log-in and complete work during the day. Not only do these spaces increase access to fresh air and daylight, they often create opportunities for more active postures and less sitting. Clorox’s new campus in California features courtyard-style design features with rows of white deck chairs where employees can comfortably sit for individual work, hold meetings or relax and enjoy lunch. Reliable WiFi networks ensure employees can remain productive and connected while catching a few rays during the day.
Another example comes from Southwest General Health Center where their new health facility offers open-air balconies and winter gardens on each floor so staff can step outside – even if just for a few moments at a time — during their non-stop, busy days treating patients.
Space constraints may keep smaller companies from introducing courtyards with deck chairs, but smaller steps like finding workplaces with an outdoor garden, roof terrace or nearby park can help employees stay healthy, engaged and productive over time.
3. Integrate disciplines, empower multi-disciplinary thinking
Organisations have been recognising the need to integrate disciplines to spur creative thinking and innovation over recent years, but it will soon become a necessity as educational institutions continue to graduate students expecting such collaboration to be infused in an organisation’s DNA.
The Malcolm X College in Chicago recently opened a new School of Health Sciences that brings medical and research disciplines together to educate students that will close the gap between the current market of qualified healthcare professionals and the projected 84,000 new healthcare jobs in the region over the next decade. The facility combines a virtual hospital complete with operating and emergency rooms with nursing, radiology, respiratory care and science labs. Other features include an exercise and sports sciences area and an ambulance and EMT simulation space.
Texas Christian University’s (TCU) Rees Jones Hall houses the TCU IdeaFactory, a unit of the College of Science and Engineering — where students can develop ideas, advance prototypes, conduct market analysis and test. The facility surrounds the IdeaFactory with diverse programs including its Institute of Child Development and the TCU Energy Institute, all organised around a central atrium to spur creative, intellectual “collisions” across multiple fields.
Companies that aren’t already responding to this shift by better integrating their workplaces are behind the curve and need to act fast. Not only will employees continue to seek out workplaces that promote connectivity and multi-disciplinary collaboration, but organisations can accelerate innovation and new ideas if they do it effectively.
Designing for collaboration doesn’t just mean reorganising desks so human resources is sitting next to operations, it means strategically orchestrating workspaces to promote synergies between teams, connect diverse skill sets and introducing collaboration spaces where this connectivity can further develop. Designing for multi-disciplinary thinking requires a plan, and every organisation needs one.
With more emerging and fast-growth companies recognising the workplace can help accelerate their success, its key they focus on how they invest in it as a resource. While trends can bend and shift over time, these three seem critical to advancing success with employees and clients into the future.