Traditionally, the role of Human Resources in most organizations has been mainly concerned with personnel management, hiring employees, training them, and dealing with compensation & benefits. Workplace experience and collaboration was never a big focus area. But this is changing. A growing number of HR professionals are now getting involved in decisions about the physical and digital work environment.

Key drivers of this evolution are:

  • The war for talent – companies are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit talented individuals with skills that are in high demand; hence an attractive workplace is becoming an important asset to attract, retain, and engage the right talent
  • The changing nature of work – the rise of the gig economy involves more project-based collaboration of loosely connected individuals; As a result, work happens in a dynamic ecosystem, beyond the boundaries of a legal entity
  • The shifting expectations of workers – the ability of digitally-enabled professionals to work from anywhere changes the function of the office; it becomes above all a place to meet, collaborate and socialize; people look for a comfortable and stimulating work environment with good amenities such as offered by the growing number of coworking spaces

Who is leading the change in the new era of workplace management?

The idea of the facilities manager as an emerging workplace leader has taken root in recent years. But we also see HR functions taking an interest as they become more focused on the workplace experience. In a recent study among 100 HR Directors, 80% said they anticipated HR will have greater ownership of the physical office in the future.

Both professions (FM & HR) can work in tandem, bringing their unique perspectives to the table and leveraging the latest technologies to create a work environment in which people can succeed and contribute.

Workplace productivity is low … and employers underestimate the role of the physical environment

The 2017 Gallup State of the Global Workplace survey makes it clear that organizations are not keeping up with new demands fast enough. Change is required because too many people are not able to work as they would like to. As a result, they do not feel truly productive. Leesman research also indicates that many employer organizations greatly underestimate the impact of the physical workplace on productivity.

The average person spends around 90,000 hours of their life at work but is held back by the physical environment. With this in mind, what can you do to create a better workplace experience for your employees? The key lies in understanding what people need to do their jobs, and how the workplace supports or hinders their activities. Today, innovative, IoT-related technologies enable to track and positively impact the drivers of the workplace experience.

workplace experience drivers

Workplace experience drivers

Let’s have a closer look at 4 key drivers of the employee experience in the workplace:

1. Comfort

Numerous studies have shown the link between physical comfort in the workplace and productivity. It’s not a motivator, but a hygiene factor. Like in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, where the basic needs (food, shelter, safety) must be met before attention is given to higher-level needs. This means that monitoring and addressing comfort issues in the workplace – like air quality, noise, and temperature – therefore can have an immediate and significant positive impact on productivity.

2. Convenience

Fixed-space offices with silo working are giving way to more fluid office layouts that encourage collaboration. To get the most out of it, workers need smart assistance through various touchpoints (web, smartphone, kiosk, push buttons, chatbot). This makes it easy to find team members, book free space, request services, or give instant feedback. Workers need to feel that the facility services can proactively anticipate needs or even predict them.

a range of touchpoints to improve the workplace experience

touchscreen interfaces to improve the workplace experience

3. Productivity

According to a recent survey, 4 in 10 office workers spend up to 60 minutes every week searching for colleagues, available desks or conference rooms that fit their needs or personal preferences.

By correlating room bookings with actual occupancy, we can detect ‘no-shows’, and make the room available to avoid this waste of space and time. Smart workplace technology can help by displaying real-time data from occupancy sensors on interactive floor maps. Workers then immediately see nearby free spaces on their smartphones (or a touchscreen kiosk placed in a high-traffic area).

4. Collaboration

Collaboration is the real reason why people come to the office nowadays. It’s also the key reason why HR is starting to care about workplace design. The monitoring of space usage and activities lays the foundation to create more effective space layouts,  improve future occupancy planning, and enable smart working.

The future workplace and HR

More companies are struggling with the challenges of talent scarcity. To attract and engage top talent, a flexible and empowering workplace experience becomes a major asset. One leading professional services firm, for example, sees the workplace as a way to extend the average retention by 20%.

In most companies, “workplace leader” is not a dedicated role. Workplace responsibilities are spread over different departments such as FM, real estate, and IT. But increasingly also HR leaders are turning their attention to workplace design and experience.

MCS Solutions is a technology and advisory firm active in workplace optimization. Please contact us if you would like to learn more.