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Why Good Intentions Aren't Enough


 Photo of happy workers
Image: Chaay_tee -
I came across this Deloitte article about workspaces. The piece offers a good summary of the issues that we highlight on WorkSpace Connect, and the biggest insight I took away was the importance of the message that your workspace design, and how you execute on that design, sends to your enterprise’s employees.
The authors point out that strategies like hoteling or hot desking may, in themselves, send a message that some people aren’t as important as others. But even a reasonable plan for allocating space can go awry if you don’t have the systems in place to deliver what that plan promises.
For example, if some employees have private offices and some don’t — and then on top of that, the people who don’t get private offices also have trouble getting access to private spaces like conference rooms — these unfortunate employees feel particularly disenfranchised. As the authors put it, these employees wind up “frustrated by their firm’s inability to manage resources to provide them with the office configuration they need to best perform their duties.”
That phrase really struck me: “Their firm’s inability to manage resources….” In other words, how well you execute on your workspace strategy is a direct reflection on the competence of your enterprise’s management, and failure here can drive a wedge between leadership and their teams. You say you want to provide everyone with a decent work environment and the ability to do their jobs. You say you’re not going to an open office layout just to save money on real estate. But when certain workers have a legitimate need for that most precious of all resources — privacy — you can’t provide it to them.
Workspace technology companies continue to add features that promise to aid resource planning for conference rooms and other dedicated meeting spaces. For example, Zoom, the cloud videoconferencing provider, offers a feature that lets video/AV managers track the number of users in each videoconference by counting faces in the room (while anonymizing those users to protect privacy). That data can feed into backend conference scheduling systems.
But of course you have to be able to use this kind of feature in an environment where you can act on the insights it provides. If you find that smaller groups are booking big conference rooms, leaving bigger groups stranded, you clearly need better systems for suggesting or even controlling room availability according to group size. And underlying it all, you must have the inventory of conference rooms to support the number and type of meetings that your workforce actually conducts.
These types of scenarios are a great example of how the disciplines of HR, facilities/real estate, and IT must work together to produce the workspaces of the future. You’ve got to have the space (facilities/real estate); be able to make it available fairly and effectively (IT) without overbuilding (facilities/real estate again); and you’ve got to message all of this activity in a way that helps employees understand why you’ve made the choices you made (HR). And of course, the plan has to be the right one for your workforce in the first place (HR).
Workspace decision-making is getting more complex, but the good news is that engaging with that complexity could actually help your enterprise serve its employees better. It’s about delivering on what you say you’re trying to do in creating your workplace of the future.