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The Power of the Staff Survey

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The Power of the Staff Survey

The Power of the Staff Survey

By: Richard Fanelli 

When an organization is planning a major relocation or renovation that will result in changes to existing space standards and work patterns, it is important to get staff buy-in and support. That starts with the staff feeling that they are being heard by management. Preparing, implementing and analyzing a staff survey is an effective tool towards that end. A staff survey will also be a reality check against assumptions that might be made by management on what the new space standards and work patterns should be. After the results of the survey are analyzed, it is really up to management to consider the majority responses and adjust their approach or ignore the responses and deal with the consequences. Either way, just by going through the survey process, the staff will feel that they have had a part in the process.

The major categories of a workplace strategy survey will include the following:

  • Work Patterns: To determine tolerances to distance and modes of transportation from home to work and opinions on telework as an option
  • Typical Tasks: Analysis of percentage of time spentin “heads down” work in the office, phone calls both in and out of the office, collaborative work in the office in both small and large meetings, and meetings outside the office
  • Communication: Preferences on communications modes with others, both inside and outside the office
  • Storage: Types and quantities of personal storage required at all times
  • Environment: Preferences on air temperature, aesthetics, tolerance level for visual and audible distractions, preferences for light levels, level of control for temperature and light levels
  • Critical Adjacencies: Adjacencies to other staff, support areas and other departments or work groups
  • Departmental Support Areas: Improvements needed for departmental support areas
  • Shared Support Areas: Wish list of new or improved shared support areas
  • Keep vs New: General aspects of their current space that should be retained and what changes are needed for the new space

Once the survey has been written and vetted by your workplace committee, you can input it into an online survey tool. Always give a deadline for completing the survey (one to two weeks is usually adequate). You might want to consider giving an incentive for completing the survey (such as being copied on the results).

Analysis of the survey results is critical to the survey being seen as a useful tool that will lead to, or validate the proposed workplace changes. It should be done by an unbiased third party or a workplace sub-committee with the results submitted to management for review and comment. Ultimately it is the decision of management as to how the results of the survey will affect decisions that will lead to workplace change.

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Workplace Strategies - 2016

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Workplace Strategies - 2016

This is the first of twelve articles on workplace strategy issues that are shaping the way we design offices today.  This information comes from my 38 years of experience in commercial design, as well as the meetings, international conferences and classes I have taught and attended with thousands of top facility managers over the past 20 years.

Alignment of Work Space Design to Desired Corporate Culture:

The re-design of an organization’s facility is an ideal time to re-think its desired corporate culture and the desired results of corporate re-invention. A beautifully designed facility will not achieve the desired results unless it is combined with the proper cultural foundation to support it. The results that most organizations desire today is a world class, quality organization with a high percentage of engaged staff where innovation occurs through effective collaboration. Creating a culture where everyone is excited about their company’s mission and their individual role in helping to achieve real results through meaningful work. The organization must promote a sense of security in the workspace where staff is empowered to try new innovative approaches and to allow for failure if a new approach or initiative doesn’t work. Management should also be supportive to enable the desired change through the proper policies and incentives. As an example, some organizations encourage staff to take blocks of time to walk away from their electronic leashes so they can pursue creative thinking time, or time for exercise throughout the day.

Gathering the Right Information

Design can support the needs of management and staff by conducting a top-down and bottom-up programming approach.  The first step is to perform a series of visioning exercises to identify the desired end-results of a major relocation or renovation. The second step is to take a “people focused” approach to understanding the true nature of every end-user’s functions within the organization and what design considerations would make them most productive.  Sometimes the results of these two steps are contradictory, which needs to be addressed with management.  Ignoring existing standards and taking a zero-based, out of the box approach to programming is essential to collecting meaningful information. Critical adjacencies, amount of time dedicated to heads-down work versus collaborative work, work time spent outside of the office, work flow, paper flow, technology support, visual and acoustical privacy issues, collaboration needs, ergonomics, lighting and environmental controls are just a few of the issues that must be addressed that will shape the needs of a company’s workspace.

The Most Nimble Wins!

Flexibility in space, furniture and construction standards are vital for any organization to be competitive in our complex and ever changing world

Modularity and simplicity in space standards, furniture standards and construction standards are some of the considerations that should be explored for any organization in a dynamic industry. There is a dilemma between providing a wide variety of workspaces, especially with organizations that utilize a telework/free address (unassigned)/hoteling model, versus keeping space standards simple and limited.  There is always a happy medium that can do both, if properly designed.

Telework as an Option

A telework option, or alternative work arrangement, which incorporates free address space at the office, is not for everyone.  Most companies considering such a fundamental change of non-assigned workspace will hire a telework consultant who will survey the staff to determine who is a good candidate for telework. It also requires a higher level of staff management and metrics to track and measure staff productivity. There are many case studies that illustrate significant square footage savings from implementing a telework program. The “My Work Corporate Workplace” initiative implemented by Bank of America is one such success story that resulted in a $6,000 per year/per associate savings in real estate while achieving a 97% increase in job satisfaction. Other added benefits were providing more flexibility to their young parent employees, which resulted in a sense of work-life balance. The telework program allowed the Bank to expand its geographic reach for talent and also helped to support their COOP (Continuity of Operations Plan).  They reinforced their corporate culture through developing an internal, on-line corporate community group, which resulted in connecting employees that share common interests.

Conclusion

There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution when it comes to one approach that blends the desired workplace culture, facilities design and management results. Each organization is coming from a unique place and desiring different results.  It takes a creative, cohesive and dedicated team of both management and consultants to work together to explore the various options and create the desired results.

 

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