HR’s workplace disconnect

by 01 May 2007

MOST WORKPLACES are not designed to provide an organisational advantage because of a disconnect between HR managers and those responsible for property within an organisation.

A recent report has found that there is often poor collaboration on office moves, property acquisition, briefing architects or new office designs, and as such, space-related complaints are among the most frustrating for HR managers, because they have little control over the work environment.

“The property industry typically talks in rent per square metre and cost per square metre. We need to start thinking about cost per person and look at the total picture of costs and outputs or else we will end up in poorer and poorer workplaces until a crisis point is reached,” said James Calder, workplace director for architecture firm Woods Bagot, which released the report.

“There are also many examples of being able to actually create lower cost workplaces that are significantly better, simply by management putting some effort into the design and strategy and working in partnership with building professionals – not just handing control of the project over to them.”

The report found that offices should not be acquired solely on a cost basis. Instead, the workplace should be seen as an investment in people and in attracting and retaining the best workers for the organisation.

“For too long many organisations have been overly focused on hard costs which is simply not appropriate given the current ‘war for talent’ and the sophistication of the modern knowledge worker,” Calder said.

“This is not about creating ‘adult crèches’ which pander to every whim and where everyone sits on pink beanbags. What I am talking about is a serious attempt to obtain organisational value from the workplace.”

The report suggested workplaces of the future must be assessed on a range of factors, such as employee access to natural light; flexibility of office layouts; views and visual connection to the external environment; and efficiency and regularity for space planning.

Other factors include the ability to create large team environments; fresh air volumes; and personal control over environment, such as light and temperature.

“A workplace that reinforces and represents the culture and values, as well as being an effective place to work makes absolute business sense,” Calder said.

Getting the most out of employees

It has long been said that colours and patterns can influence employee behaviours and creative thinking. The following advice complements the many theoretical frameworks developed to help organisations get the most out of their employees:

• Meeting areas should take advantage of stimulating surfaces to generate interaction and creativity. This could be facilitated by red complex patterns in the “ideas room”.

• Quiet rooms, conversely, that are used for individual tasks requiring concentration, should contain a decorative scheme capable of reducing stimulation or something as simple as white, plain walls.

• For those engaging in relatively simple or repetitive work, providing a stimulating environment may decrease feelings of boredom.

Source: Woods Bagot


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