What is the link between business strategy and workplace design?

Find out how employees are seeking sustainable and energy-efficient workplaces and how technology is enabling increased choice in work location.

Savvy companies recognise that workspaces contribute to any progressive business strategy. An office environment influences productivity, attraction and engagement of staff, and reflects the culture and brand decisions that ultimately impact a company’s bottom line.

In addition, employees’ expectations are changing. “Many companies are facing challenges when it comes to talent attraction as more individuals are opting for the flexibility of freelancing to make a living,” according to Ben Hamley, Future of Work Lead at JLL Asia Pacific.

“Flexibility is key. Employees are seeking workplaces that are more sustainable and energy-efficient, and technology is enabling increased choice in work location, space type and function — all of which all contribute to the employee experience.”

Balancing your business and employee needs — where to start? Think about who uses the space, and, new or different work behaviours you would like to see. Where are your staff working physically — in the office, at home, or on the road? And does your office environment drive engagement, empowerment and fulfilment? JLL’s Workplace – Powered by Human Experience research indicates these are the key attributes most valued by employees around the world, and are intrinsically linked to the productivity of staff and the culture of a workplace.

The impact of a physical space

Research tells us that employees who are engaged are more productive.

“Consider what works best for your staff — perhaps a cafe on site, outdoor gardens for phone calls, or coworking spaces that facilitate collaboration?” says Hamley.

“The culture of a workplace is difficult to measure, but if your staff reports that they feel energized and inspired by a workspace, and your customer satisfaction tracking is positive, that’s a strong start. Absenteeism and staff turnover may also provide some perspective. Get the combination right and you’ll see engaged and present workers which ultimately impacts productivity and the bottom line.”

“As designers, we must consider how light, space, acoustics, colour and style can deliver unique and positive workplace for our clients so that the designs are brought to life,” says Yioti Smith, Head of Design & Build, Hong Kong at JLL.

The blurred lines in design for offices incorporate aspects of home, or places we eat and drink, as well as hotels and airport lounges to help create bonds between people, companies and brands.

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The new working

The new use of the workplace to attract and engage. The technology sector has been the trailblazer in creative workplaces, which have had to attract the creative minds required to stay ahead in their respective markets.

“Sectors such as banking and retail are behaving more like the tech sector companies as they compete for the technologically-minded talent they need to take their products and services online,” says Hamley.

New products to drive workplace design and configuration. The drive to adopt new products will continue to influence workplace design and configuration. Halogen screens, wireless streaming, shared tables with in-built displays, and remote charging are just some of the integrated technologies currently featuring in many workplaces.

Hamley adds, “We are also seeing companies incorporate face-recognition or mobile-device entry, heating and cooling that adjust automatically, and lighting that moves with circadian rhythms.”

Flexible space and wellness continue to be a priority. Flexible space remains a constant theme with the adoption of activity-based-working, a workplace strategy that provides people with a choice of settings for a variety of workplace activities. Acknowledging people work in different ways is essential for productivity and a feeling of empowerment.

“We are focusing on providing multi-purpose spaces that can easily transform from meeting and formal requirements to facilitate a range of wellness activities and events, and raise the wellness factor at workplaces,” says Catherine Kim, Senior Design Director, Design & Build, Hong Kong at JLL.

Apps and community facilitators are essential to ensure the success of any health, fitness and wellness programmes are successful, as they not only activate the space but also drive adoption.

Human experience is a key influence on design. We see design having more of an influence than ever before as the human experience and technical drive require restraint and balance to appeal.

The office ambience has taken on a more homely feeling with natural light, furniture choices and settings, colours, textures and tones playing an important role in balancing the look and feel with productivity within the demands of a corporate space.

The steps to take now

For business owners, there’s a lot to consider. Here are some suggested steps:

Start with your employees. Find out what they need in the workplace to be supported in their daily work and empower them by getting their input on workplace decisions. Provide the best workplace solution that meets your business needs and engenders engagement, empowerment and fulfilment.

Consider sustainable design from the outset. Think green walls, reclaimed building materials, water features and plants. Energy-tracking tools that help you measure energy use and output are good for the environment and will be key to helping your organisation meet their energy and sustainability targets.

Engage a team of workplace professionals. Let them help you achieve your intended outcomes and balance all aspects including workplace planning, budget, design, and change management.

Keep mobility and flexibility at the front of mind. Spaces should serve multiple purposes — think company meeting by day, a function or relaxed staff drinks by night.

Be adaptable. Accept that whatever your solution, you’ll likely update it every 2-5 years. Advancements in technology, employee experience, competition for top talent and market developments will force this.

Be bold, be courageous. The truth is, nobody likes change. The initial stage of inertia can be difficult to overcome, but it will all be worth it when you see progress. And don’t forget: while the outcome is important, remember to enjoy the process too.

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