Space ManagementWork Place Utilization

Facility Managers are Too Busy Deploying the Workplace They Think Employees Want

It’s true, organizations America wide are spending an average of $3.6 million annually on providing a better workplace experience, yet employees aren’t happier or more productive after all that money is spent.

And, it’s because of one fundamental flaw in planning how to spend all that money – Facility Managers are not asking employees what would help them move through their workday!

Future Workplace launched a survey to ask professionals working in corporate office environments what they felt would improve their workplace environment. And, it wasn’t a new foosball table. Much more fundamental than that, employees identified clean air, natural light, comfortable temperatures and reasonable noise levels as the key things they felt would help them perform better.

Firstly, the way to deploying effective office space that employees want to use and feel productive in is to ask them questions. This fundamental step is too often overlooked. Once employees have had a chance to provide feedback on their needs, planners can review the deployment, processes and technology choices available to meet building user needs and improve overall wellbeing.

How Workplaces Are Failing Users

Future Workplace have categorized how respondents to their survey are affected into 3 categories:

  • Physical wellness
  • Environmental wellness
  • Emotional wellness

Roughly, one-third of employees report losing 60 minutes of every day from one of the above factors. Extrapolating from the survey’s results, an organization with a headcount of 10k employees can expect to lose more than $34 million annually in productivity caused by reduced employee wellbeing.

What are the critical problems respondents cited which affects their productivity so much? Respondents felt that air quality, light, temperature and noise have the biggest impact on their comfort and productivity.

Nearly 50% of employees said that air quality makes them drowsy through their workday. Almost 40% of employees feel they should be able to look out a window with outdoor views. Only 33% of employees feel that workplace temperatures are suited for them to do their best work. Finally, 37% of employees indicated noise levels are too high through the workplace.

Air quality, light, temperature and noise are fundamental, keystone environmental conditions that have long been known to impact an employee’s wellbeing. Yet, in the quest to make workplaces more, Space Planners are forgetting the basics.

Solution

First and foremost, when planning change, gather feedback from the people who will be affected by the change.

Incorporate this useful feedback from building users into planning space changes. There are any number of ways to capture feedback – from an internally designed survey built in Microsoft Forms, to interviews and focus groups to third party specialist wellness consultants. This oft-overlooked step is incredible valuable and will make a significant impact on how well space is rebalanced and on employee wellbeing.

Once feedback has been collected with appropriate change strategies being identified there are several methods Space Planners can adopt to successfully right size portfolios. Where employees are feeding back that air quality, light, temperature and noise levels affect their productivity there are deployment, process and technology options available to improve wellness in the workplace.

Deployment Suggestions Boosting Wellness

When considering how to overcome air quality and noise issues a Facility Manager can review space deployment. Are space standards causing people to feel claustrophobic? The average space per person is between 75-95 sqft. What are ratios in the spaces where users feel air quality suffers? Also, look at adjacencies and experiment with how teams are assigned floorspace to minimize noise and concentration disturbances.

The next suggestion affecting deployment is to create zones designated for certain tasks. This can include quiet work booths for focused work.

The last suggestion regarding space deployment is extreme, but move offices. If $34 million is being lost annually, moving to space that delivers a better quality workspace and boosts employee wellbeing may not seem as extreme after a cost business analysis.

Process Changes Increasing Workplace Satisfaction

Enable flexi hours and agile workplaces. Not only will the organization be able to reduce overall workstation count, but employees will have more choice on when they work and where – mitigating noise complaints and helping rebalance temperature and air quality.

Technology Increasing Office Based Wellbeing

Facility Managers can invest in technology to improve the workplace environment boosting employee wellbeing. There are many sensors in market capturing environmental conditions with backend BMS’ pivoting in real-time to adjust conditions in-line with programmed levels.

Passive sensor technology can be deployed through facilities and relied on to accurately report on conditions on a granular level – FM’s can understand air quality, lighting, temperature and noise levels by zones or floor level. Sensors not only boost employee wellbeing, they reduce a building’s operational and energy costs.

There are apps building users can access to control their own micro-environment. Think passenger side heating and cooling in cars. We’re not the same – woman report working better in hotter environments than men do, for example. Micro-environment apps enable users to control their workstation’s conditions without affecting their surrounding neighbours.

Summary

Sure, some of these solutions sound like they cost a lot. But, cost more than $3.6m wasted annually on productivity-inspiring workplaces that don’t inspire productivity? Or, on the cost of productivity decreasing workplaces wasting an hour of every day from 33% of workers?

It pays to pay and get the solution right.

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