Last week I participated in IFMA’s Facility Fusion 2015 Canada conference in Vancouver. I enjoyed seeing many old friends and making new ones. But more importantly I enjoyed having my brain cells stimulated by so many interesting stories of new workplace designs and workforce programs.
If there was one underlying idea that linked many of those stories together for me, it was the power of choice. Almost every story we heard about workplace innovation mentioned increased variety within the workplace, and/or between alternative workplaces. And more variety clearly means more choice for the people using those workplaces.
We learned from Chris Hood of CB Richard Ellis that CBRE’s new global corporate headquarters office in Los Angeles has sixteen different “neighborhoods” or work areas, including (among others) small enclosed offices and conference rooms, open bench areas, lots of conference rooms and open meeting places, employee lounges, and plenty of individual workstations.
No one who is based at that facility has a full-time assigned workspace, so every day individuals make choices about where to sit (and who to sit near). But it’s not just a once-a-day choice; everyone moves around during the day, depending on what kind of activity they are involved in. For a two-person conversation they might choose an enclosed “telephone booth” space, or they might choose to sit on soft chairs in the employee lounge, or at a table in the cafeteria area.
And CBRE is just one example; we heard very similar stories about organizations as diverse as Western Union, the British Columbia Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation, Ontario Canada’s Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC), Nvidia’s Silicon Valley campus, and the UK Government’s Cabinet Office.
I was struck by how many of these examples emphasized the choices that workers have in where, when, and how to get their work done. In most instances those choices included the opportunity to work from home or a third place one or more days a week, as well as being able to choose where to “settle in” for various work activities within the corporate facility.
Before I comment on why I believe choice is so central to the future of work I want to add one more example.
Chris Hood’s story of CBRE’s corporate facility was actually the second part of his presentation. His major focus was on co-working operations – those “third places” that have sprung up all over the planet in the last several years. Co-working facilities are typically shared workplaces that are filled with small businesses, entrepreneurs, and startups. Because the facility is shared the costs are much lower than what any of those people would have to pay to rent a space on their own.
More important, of course, are the opportunities that co-working facilities offer for “collaborative collisions” – chance meetings among different people who often create synergy out of their differing experiences and skills.
But Chris’s message was really about choice: those people are making a choice to pay for access not just to the workspace but to the communities that characterize most co-working operations.
And that is the message that you “corporate” folks should be hearing; there is something going on in these voluntary communities that you can learn from. People find so much value in the combination of exciting workspace design and community that they pay to be there, even when they could save a lot of money by working out of their homes.
And, as I have already suggested, it is really about choice. When anyone makes a choice of where to work, or who to work with, from among several alternatives, they “own” that choice and feel committed to make sure that choice produces positive outcomes. When they make that choice they own it.
Do you ever wonder why work-from-home programs are so popular, or why work-from-home workers are generally 20% – 25% more productive than their office-bound colleagues, or why mobile workers are more highly engaged with their work and more positive about their employers?
The answer is really very simple: they are being treated like adults who are fully capable of making responsible choices about where and how to do their best work. And that mindset applies to in-office workers who are free to move about during the day and – once again – make good choices about where they need to be for any particular task at any particular time.
Flexible work and employee choice in and out of the office isn’t just a nice idea; it produces a highly engaged and productive workforce. It really is that simple.
Contact me for a free consultation about how you can create workplace conversations that include meaningful choice.