By: Kelly Womer, APR, ABC, Fellow PRSA

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Three Ideas to Rethink and Reconnect the Workplace

Working man and woman in the office

Employees are redefining the workplace and workspace. Technology and remote working options mean it’s easier for employees to be untethered from an office, and this flexibility is becoming more important to today’s workforce.

Consider these facts from a new study by workplace designer Knoll and research, publishing and events company UnWired:

  • Workers only spend 49 percent of their time at corporate headquarters. Where are the rest? 27 percent sit in satellite offices, 17 percent are at client sites, 16 percent work from home and 6 percent are in “third spaces” like coffee shops.
  • On a typical day, desks at the companies surveyed worldwide are only used 47 percent of the time. That’s a lot of unused real estate.
  • Meeting room utilization is about 50-60 percent yet people feel they cannot find a place to meet.

A column in the Chicago Tribune reinforces that this workplace change presents a growing dilemma for companies: How can organizations help foster innovation and social connections when co-workers may not be together as much? Here are three ideas culled from the study and other learnings:

  • Design a “hospitality workplace.” The modern workforce is more collaborative. Make the time count when your teams are together with adaptable spaces that cater to various workers who come and go: local employees, staff from other offices, clients, contract workers, freelancers and guests. The Knoll/UnWired research points out that more companies are moving from individual workstations to multi-purpose, team-based areas, while also providing “quiet” workspaces and booths for concentration or conference calls.
  • Bring the shared economy to the office. With only half of workers at a corporate office at any given time, more companies are offering shared desks to make the most of their space and break down silos. For example, at eBay, there’s a ratio of 12 desks to 20 people, along with other collaborative, interactive spaces to “create scenes for casual collisions between staff,” says the company’s head of workplace design. The study points out that disrupting traditional seating arrangements forces people from different disciplines to move around the office to meet, interact, and share ideas and knowledge.
  • Keep effective communication at the center of any workplace. No matter an employee’s location or any office transformation, there’s no substitute for clear, consistent communication that allows team members to understand where the company is going and why, what it means to their department, and how they can contribute. Regular formal and informal communication – whether through the latest technology or face-to-face – should be intentional and focus on building culture, collaboration and connections that matter.


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