Nov 15, 2022
By Kate Camerlin

Top 5 Insights from Industry Leaders About Building a Positive Workplace Experience

The workplace is changing; people have more choices than ever as to how and where they work, which means facilities, real estate, space planning, and executive teams must come together to determine their workspaces’ future.

The decisions they make will vary based on industry, company culture, and business needs—but one key thing that leaders must keep in mind as they navigate these changes is how to create great employee experiences both in and out of the traditional office space.

Fostering a good working environment is extremely important; 70% of employees polled in one survey by Eagle Hill Consulting group said their feelings about their day-to-day work experience affected their productivity, and 69% said it affected their ability to do meaningful work.

But how do you create great experiences? Especially now when the workplace can be hybrid and spans so many potential locations.

One recent webinar by IFMA tackled these questions. The panel, hosted by Lara Paemen, Managing Director of IFMA EMEA, consisted of industry experts, including Paolo Urizar, Director of Information Technology Services at William Blair; Kate Lister, President of Global Workplace Analytics; Simon Blenkiron, Global Account Technology Advisor at JLL; and Oliver Ridgwell, VP, EMEA Region at Nuvolo.

Read on to learn 5 key takeaways from these industry leaders, and listen to the full conversation.

1.) The Measures of Success Have Changed

How we measure success when defining a positive workplace experience has changed over the last several years. Instead of only emphasizing things like work order completion rates, square foot per person, or equipment failure rates, teams must look at holistic measures—such as employee satisfaction.

“The measurement has definitely changed…. We’re really talking about workplace experience, customer experience. Measuring experience is very different than measuring the SLA…. Measurement has shifted to measuring different metrics around the success of how people feel the services are being delivered to them….”Paolo Urizar, Director of Information Technology Services at William Blair

Because employees have so many more choices about where they work, facilities teams must look at how working at the office compares to working remotely. Not only do teams need to ask employees what works for them, but leadership also needs to consider what kinds of work people will be doing. For example, will they be performing individual work? Or collaborating with one another? Those factors also inform the success metrics an organization uses.

“It starts with asking what is it that you’re trying to achieve within the workspace or workplace strategy. Right now, a lot of attention is on attracting and retaining talent. So, did your change, did the space, did whatever the practice is, change that?….  We want to measure the real estate, too, but not in the old ways. Not in square foot per person. It just didn’t mean anything. What do we want the space to do? And did it perform?”Kate Lister, Global Workplace Analytics

Although it is still vital to keep track of traditional metrics, it’s important to step back and consider what you’re looking for in your workspaces—and then use that as a guide to determine the metrics you need to emphasize.

2.) The Pandemic Amplified Our Use of Workplace Technology

The pandemic increased our use of certain applications, especially regarding workplace technology. For example, although things like reservation systems had been popular before, they became essential for organizations looking to have people return to the office. And space planning technology has become increasingly vital as organizations look to redesign their offices.

This technology also supports the new ways people work. For example, people have different reasons for coming into the office (e.g., some want to collaborate with colleagues, or some might not have the space at home to do their individual work). Understanding why people are using the office gives you a better understanding of how to use the technology to support those different employees and create effective spaces for them. Employees working primarily on individual projects will need hardware tech like monitors and keyboards. Employees in the office for team events or meetings will need whiteboards, brainstorming spaces, and software applications that help them connect with remote colleagues.

Technology isn’t just about facilitating work, however. These applications also help capture real-time data about how your spaces are being used, so you can make long-term decisions about your workplace.

Ultimately, technology plays several roles: Once you’ve decided on the goals for your workspaces, technology helps you create the experiences employees need to be engaged and productive. It then also helps you collect data so you can see how your buildings are being used, better enabling you to set your employees up for success in the future.

3.) Collaboration Will Be a Key Reason Employees Come to the Office—With Several Big Caveats

As leaders rethink office spaces, one trend is emerging: In general, the office is becoming more of a place to do collaborative work with teammates, rather than a place to do individual work. It is where employees meet to solve problems and be innovative, and so executives need to think about how best to set up their spaces to facilitate that kind of work.

However, even if the office’s primary function might be collaboration, employees still need spaces to do focused, individual work to accommodate those who might be in between meetings, or who might have different working styles and preferences. Because of this, facilities and space teams will continue to need to support many types of working spaces, not just collaborative zones.

“There is no singular approach to the type of workspace that is going to be created. There are private workspaces, collaborative workspaces, and communal workspaces, and then there are business production workspaces. And all of them have different contexts and need to live within the same office….”Paolo Urizar, Director of Information Technology Services at William Blair

Ultimately, although the main reason for bringing employees to the office might be to collaborate with colleagues, it’s important to set up a variety of workspaces that support different roles, functions, and personality types to make sure your teams are as productive as possible while there.

4.) Getting the Basics Right Is More Important Than Ever

Before implementing more complex office overhauls, it’s vital to make sure your organization has the basics down: namely, a comfortable, safe, and clean environment where employees feel relaxed.

“You’ve got to get that base right, and the biggest complaints about workspace are heating and cooling, lighting, noise, clean bathrooms, and good coffee. Let’s just start there…. I think we can do a lot to just fix the fundamentals before we move on to more complicated stuff.”Kate Lister, Global Workplace Analytics

Having the essentials covered is important to ensuring a good workplace experience: If office spaces have bad lighting or if the equipment doesn’t work, employees will need to spend more time opening help tickets and waiting for issues to be resolved and less time getting work done. Because of this, workplaces must be safe and functional before you can undergo bigger changes.

“Ultimately, they need to deliver upon the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Namely, there needs to be warmth… so the physiological needs. They need to be safe environments…. We need to feel a sense of belonging and esteem, which will come through from the collaboration. Then the self-actualization, which is the ultimate goal—which is asking how can we facilitate people to be truly creative and productive whilst also getting the balance right.”Simon Blenkiron, Global Account Technology Advisor at JLL

5.) The Role of Leadership Is Changing

While navigating these complex changes, the role of leadership has also shifted. Executives need to lead with empathy and consider their employees’ many working styles and requirements. They also need to measure success by looking at results and outcomes, rather than just looking at occupancy rates and where people spend their time working.

“Set the goals, give employees the resources they need to meet those goals, and then get out of the way. The leader becomes more of a coach than actually a leader….”—Kate Lister, Global Workplace Analytics

When executives focus on outcomes and lead with an empathetic approach (considering different working preferences across the organization), they foster a much more positive workplace experience.

A Connected Workplace Experience

Ultimately, there are many types of working styles and requirements—and creating good workplace experiences means striking a balance between staying within budget while also accommodating different space types to achieve strategic goals and objectives.

The workplace of the future will have different measures of success and rely heavily on technology to drive productivity and data collection. Technology solutions that connect facilities, space, HR, and IT will be instrumental in helping executive teams make strategic decisions about how to redesign their workplaces.

Ultimately, this is a time of change, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. It’s important to stay empathetic and continuously look at how employees are using the office in order to create productive, comfortable, and engaging workplaces.

For full insights from the expert panel, watch the webinar: Delivering the X Factor: Why Workplace Experience and Tech Matters.