It’s not uncommon to find a disparity between what clients think they need, and what they actually need from their workspaces, but this disconnect can have costly consequences when it comes to an office redesign or relocation.
Quite often the gap between perception and reality stems from workplace myths. These myths start out as operational gripes or niggles and quickly turn from opinion into fact amongst the workforce. So, how can you tell fact from fiction and how can this information shape the future of your workspace?
The answer is to stop and take stock, questioning everything you think you know about the workspace and the people using it. This fact-finding process is referred to as workplace consultancy and provides a detailed analysis of how, when and where employees work and use space on a daily and hour-by-hour basis. By taking the time to unpick workplace myths and paint an accurate picture of workplace needs through observational studies, audits and staff interviews, it is possible to uncover the spatial and behavioural truths that will inform the size, type and design of the work environment.
Workplace consultancy lays myths bare. Claims that ‘I can never get a meeting room’ don’t necessarily mean more rooms are needed. It could be that the lack of a centralised room booking system means that cancelled rooms aren’t returned back to use, thereby taking resources out of circulation needlessly, or that some rooms are just more popular than others and people naturally want their favourite. The idea that ‘meeting room technology never works’ could be born out of the fact that people simply don’t know how to use it, rather than it being unfit-for-purpose. These everyday experiences colour employees’ perceptions and while they certainly feel true to those individuals, they give a false impression of what is required of the workplace.
Quite often, it’s not more space that clients need, but rather a fresh approach to how it is used. So, a client that thinks that an office move is necessary to accommodate more meeting rooms might discover that investment in digital room booking systems and a more vibrant design aesthetic would solve the problem efficiently and with minimal spend.
Bristol-based Bevan Brittan and Hitchin-based Admin Re are two organisations that have reaped real financial benefit from workplace consultancy in recent years. Bevan Brittan asked for interior design help to better use the space in its unusual C-shaped building. The workplace consultancy process confirmed that the law firm was occupying 8,000 sq ft more than it needed and that it was creating a feeling of disconnect and isolation in the areas that were less densely occupied. The commercial value in this exercise came from re-planning and re-designing the whole building so that the 8,000 sq ft of unused space was one useable space. Bevan Brittan went on to sublet this space, providing additional rental revenue and contributing to the costs of the subsequent office refurbishment.
Admin Re required an onsite café for its 800-strong team but had no space, or so it thought. By identifying an underutilised post room and cleaning store rooms, Admin Re avoided a costly extension and instead transformed 2,680 sq ft of forgotten space into a dual-purpose café and meeting area.
By using workplace consultancy to unearth commercial objectives and workplace truths, it is possible to help clients revisit their workplace strategy, reprioritise budgets and take the risk out of workplace change and investment. The process has real value in employee engagement terms too, providing a means to garner employee feedback and wants at the outset and securing the buy-in and acceptance needed to make a new workplace thrive.
We live in a data-focused age and insight is most certainly king, particularly when embarking on workplace change. Workplace consultancy provides the tools to give organisations a clear view of what workplace change will deliver and the value it represents, long before any design or fit-out project has started. Progressive organisations recognise that the workplace is a valuable tool for productivity and employee engagement and don’t leave sizeable workplace investment to chance. Instead, they commit to understanding their workplace reality and are confident that every property decision will support future business aspirations.