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In a world of ever-tighter margins, organisations are doing everything they can to make the most of their human capital. But are we in danger of forgetting exactly what the first part of that equation is there for? It’s important to understand the knowledge, habits, and personality of the people working for us, and not simply to view them as a number or an asset.
How much thought goes into the places in which people are expected to do their best work? Successful organisations will spend time thinking about how they create an environment to enable people to work most effectively. We see time and time again that successful companies are also places where people actually want to come to work.
Why isn’t this more widespread? We all know the difference between a house and a home, so why does this thinking too often stop at the office door?
Workplace effectiveness measurement tool the Leesman Index shows that only 60 per cent of employees believe that their workplace enables them to work productively, while 59 per cent agree that it contributes to a sense of community and only 58 per cent agree that it creates an enjoyable environment.
It’s no longer breaking news that people do better work when they are happy with their environment, so why do four in ten of the working population report dissatisfaction with their working environments? Given that these places exist to bring people together to create value for their organisations, it appears that they’re falling short.
Research has shown that natural light, noise levels, nutrition and a host of other factors can have a major impact on workplace performance. Just as important is the fact that people who look forward to work and are comfortable and confident in their workplace are more productive. Talent attraction and retention is easier in an organisation where morale is high.
More can and should be done to optimise space around the needs of the people in it. The best leaders and the most productive organisations understand this, but not all of them have yet learned how to make the most of their human capital. How they can facilitate and optimise people’s work. What impact and role will different functions and technologies play?
There are examples of organisations, particularly in the technology sector, where the workplace positively contributes to the essence of organisations. They will find it easier to attract and retain the right talent.
People are essentially customers of their organisation, and the organisation needs to understand what their employees need to carry out their work. This applies to culture, values, working practices, people development and more, but also to ensuring that people feel comfortable. Are organisations doing this?
There is a real opportunity to build Infrastructure around people in genuinely employee-centred designs – moving away from furniture fads and getting into the hard science of creating high-performance workplaces.
Too often, companies assume that their HR departments, and they alone, are responsible for maximising human capital. They rarely exploit the opportunity in successful collaboration between property, facilities, technology and human resources to create an environment conducive to getting the most from those who work in it: the workplace opportunity.
Space impacts culture and vice versa. Workplace teams need to work hand-in-hand with human resources to make the best of things. Add the effect of technology and you really can start to see the true potential of the modern office.
The opportunity is there. To realise it, organisations need to move beyond the outmoded idea that working environments are somehow passive – no more than a cost that cannot be avoided which should be managed in the most efficient (read: cheapest) way possible. It should no longer be an afterthought, something to be considered only when a lease is up. Instead it has to be understood for what it is, an active part of performance on both an individual and organisational level. A lever that has not yet been maximised by organisations.
Maybe we are all chasing a dream of some perfect workplace that will never truly exist. But if it is possible, and if we are to get there, then workplace and facilities managers, in collaboration with colleagues across the business, will be a key part of the journey.
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