Many companies are going through a crisis of confidence about their workspace plans. All the change and upheaval over the last few years has made them question if they need an office at all, let alone what it should look like and where it should be.
If you’re not sure about your workspace strategy as we head into 2023, you’re not alone. Many companies have spent the last few years using quick fixes like short-term lease extensions. They've avoided properly planning and executing a long-term workspace strategy. In the next few years, though, a comprehensive workspace strategy will be essential. It’ll help you maximise the return on year real estate investment, as well as get the best performance out of your people.
At Zentura, we’ve been helping companies across the UK plan and execute workspace strategies since 2009. We’ve often found 4 major mistakes in companies’ workspace strategies. In this article, we’ll explain each one, and how you can avoid it at your company. But first, what exactly is a workspace strategy?
What is a Workspace Strategy?
A workspace strategy is a formal plan to maximise the impact your office(s) can have on your staff and company performance, both now and in the future. It helps you to reduce real estate costs, make your existing workspaces more effective, and make future real estate decisions more consistent. There are 5 key parts of a workspace strategy: Working Model, Space Design, Space Location, Technology, and Cost.
The first, working model, is about where and how your people work: in-office, remote, or hybrid. The best option for you will depend on how your people work alone and together. Space design involves creating a space that maximises personal and company-wide performance. This can be done by creating a space that matches the way your people work and communicate. Space location is your long-term strategy for selecting future offices. This involves 5 crucial considerations: location, condition, amenities, transport links, and lease terms.
Technology is important because workspace tech has moved a long way beyond laptops. With smart buildings and XR suites, harnessing the power of technology can make a big difference to the way your people work. Finally, cost is an absolutely crucial consideration. Workspace strategy deals with two of your company's biggest expenses: staff and real estate. Keeping the costs of both as low as possible while maximising their performance is crucial to the long-term success of your company.
Workspace Strategy Mistakes
While it is a crucial part of your company’s long term strategy, many companies have an incomplete workspace strategy. As a result, they’re not sure what role their office has to play, and how that will change in the future. Here are 4 of the most common mistakes we discover when helping companies plan their office fit out and refurbishment projects. We’ll also cover how you can avoid them at your company.
No Workspace Strategy at All!
Despite the importance of workspace strategy, many companies don’t really have a workspace strategy at all. Their current office design is based on the trends last time they did an office fit out. They have no long term plan to improve their workspaces to support their company growth plan.
The answer to this is obvious - develop a workspace strategy! To do this, it’s helpful to engage a workspace consultant. They will be able to analyse the way your staff currently work and communicate, as well as study your real estate costs and needs. They can then work with you to create a comprehensive plan covering all aspects of your workspace strategy.
When developing your workspace strategy, it’s important to keep focussed on what is right for your people and company over the long term. Your company and workforce are unique, so your workspace strategy needs to be too. By creating a unique workspace strategy tailored, you will have more certainty around your long-term plans.
A common mistake many companies make when planning their workspace strategy is that they base it on preference and emotions. Without data, you run the risk of creating a space design plan that doesn’t match the way your people need to work, both now and in the future. As a result, your people will be less productive, which holds overall company performance back.
The are several ways to make your workspace strategy more data-based. The first is by using space utilisation studies to analyse exactly how your people are using your office currently. You can then use staff surveys to understand how much time they spend working individually or in teams, and what kinds of spaces would help them be more productive. This will give you a lot of insight into the needs of your staff, and prevent your next office design being based on guesswork.
You can also use data to understand where the best location is for your next office move. By analysing data such as real estate costs and talent availability, you will be able to move to a location that best suits your company. Depending on your company size, it may not always be realistic to use data to inform every part of your workspace strategy. However, using as much data as possible will make your strategy a lot more successful.
Not Aligned with Company Strategy
A comprehensive and well-planned workspace strategy is worthless if it does not align with the overall company strategy. We often meet companies that have aggressive headcount growth plans, but their workspace plan doesn’t factor in this rate of growth. As a result, their offices become overcrowded. This creates a noisy and distracting environment, which reduces productivity.
To avoid this situation, review your workspace strategy every 3-6 months to ensure it is in line with your overall strategy. The key points to consider are working model, headcount growth, and new locations. If your company has a mid-term plan to expand into a new market, you will need to start planning now, so that you can open a new office successfully. It is also important to ensure you are aligned with leadership on your working model, as this will not only affect how much space you need, but how you use it.
Poor Staff Engagement
A workspace strategy is also worthless if it does not take the preferences and requirements of staff into account. Ultimately, your people are the ones producing the work. It’s crucial to provide them with workspaces that maximises their performance. If many of your staff are hybrid working, they need a space primarily designed for collaborative working, not focused working.
To ensure your staff are engaged with your workspace strategy, it’s important that you carry out regular surveys to monitor their feelings about their workspace. Conversations can also be helpful to get a better insight into how your workspace can support your staff. It’s also important to implement a change management plan for any significant changes. By consulting your staff, explaining to them the reason for the change, and supporting them with any teething issues they will be much more engaged with your workspace strategy. As a result, they will be more productive.
Improving Your Real Estate ROI with Workspace Strategy
An effective real estate strategy is essential to maximise your return on your investment in real estate and staff. However, many companies don’t create a comprehensive long term plan to guide their future real estate decisions. By avoiding these damaging mistakes, you can ensure that your offices are helping to maximise the performance of your people and your company as a whole.
For many people, workspace strategy consultancy remains a bit of a mystery. To learn exactly what it includes, and if it may be a worthwhile investment for your company, read our article, what is workspace consultancy?