Perspectives

Is your workplace holding you back?

We all know the feeling. 

You’re working on something important; the big idea that will make all the difference to your presentation or report. Suddenly, you’re distracted by a co-worker, lose your train of thought and now you’ve got to start all over again. 

It’s frustrating, certainly – but it’s also costly. 

All over the globe, people lose huge amounts of time every week to poor working conditions and badly designed offices. The global cost to productivity and output is huge. 

The latest research from Mace Macro has shown that on average, employees in the UK lose two hours a week due to issues like this; costing our economy more than £4bn a year. Despite that, workplace experience isn’t always thought of as a strategic priority in our sector. 

Too often, conversations about better workplace design are reduced to cliché discussions of ‘what do millennials want from the office?’ In reality, millennials largely want the same thing that everyone else does – a workplace that allows them to work effectively and doesn’t throw up barriers to their productivity. 

What is changing is the way we all work. Across all sectors, flexible employment is growing and there are more self-employed workers than ever. Technology has also revolutionised the way we work several times already in the last thirty years, and the fourth industrial revolution is already driving the next huge shift. 

So what makes for a good workplace experience? How can we – the built environment sector – ensure that we’re designing, building and maintaining offices that work?  

The reality is that there isn’t a straightforward answer to that question. 

Different types of employees want different things from a workplace. Different technologies impact different companies in different way, and if you’re working globally it’s often very hard to find strategic approaches that work across all markets. 

Firstly, we need good data. 

Good data helps to unlock good decisions, and with a mixture of sensors and regular survey data we can now build up a very comprehensive image of what works and what doesn’t in an office environment. That won’t be the same for each office and each company – they will all work in different ways. 

Secondly, we need to fundamentally change how we think about procuring the workplace. 

Designing and managing great offices isn’t just about creating and maintaining a space that looks nice in photos anymore – it’s about understanding the different spaces people need to be productive. Delivering a genuine ‘activity-based workplace’ is the key to producing better ways of working. 

Do people have space to work together collaboratively? Can people find a quiet spot for a sensitive phone call when they need it? Does their technology ‘just work’, or do they need a support desk on site? 

Whether you are designing, building, procuring or maintaining commercial workplaces, it is vital that we recognise the important role they play in delivering productivity. 

By tailoring our approach and building out our datasets we can answer these questions and begin to address the workplace productivity gap, once and for all. 

This article was originally published in Building Magazine

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Ross Abbate Global Managing Director

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