Can privacy unlock effectiveness? 6 strategies to enrich the workplace experience

The average office worker operates in an environment fuelled by a decade of austerity space planning and designing for building efficiency in mind, not people effectiveness.

Very few people like to be on show 100% of the time but the quest for building efficiency has resulted in the majority of workplaces adopting open plan,  regardless of the type of work undertaken by individuals.  However, the one size fits all approach does very little for efficiency.

It’s true that hot on the heels of the ‘collaboration’ silver bullet marketing ploy to the business success we are poised for the Activity Based Working (ABW) reinvention

The AW concept capitalises on the fact that desk numbers and meeting rooms are universally underutilised; Therefore, if desk quantities are reduced to a realistic occupation ratio and the quantity and size of meeting rooms are aligned to a company’s needs, then space is indeed available to introduce alternative work setting that can support other activities, from email management to deeper cognitive work.

ABW is a viable solution to the current thinking behind the transformation in the workplace, but it’s worth pondering if we’ve unwittingly artificially manufactured this need through a naivety of ‘being penny wise but pound foolish’ when it came to office design over the past decade by focussing on the building, rather than the most important feature:  people in the building.

Since the economic crash, the focus has been more for less. Desk sizes have shrunk, space allocation per person is almost halved, technology and communication mediums are mobile, powerful and invasive at times. All of which has fostered the notion that to be productive we must adopt the hunter-gather approach to work, continually seeking out the best places to undertake any task that needs any degree of privacy.

Work is generally carried out in an environment devoid of workplace etiquette,  lack of understanding of how to use an ‘agile’ space and sometimes absence of managerial support when it comes to adopting a nomadic attitude to work.

The following 6 strategies can help unlock the privacy/ productivity conundrum and to improve employee effectiveness:

  • Reduce desks quantities, look at larger desk size options and introduce sit-stand desks
  • Understand how cellular offices are being used and only have a selected number of offices for those who do really need them.   Design the space with different “neighbourhoods” and create zones that feel secluded Introduce a mix of dedicated zones for cognitive focussed work and zones for collaboration
  • Establish a clear office etiquette that employees own and enforce.

Enrich the user experience of what it means to come to the office. That includes everything from providing excellent tech, comfortable furniture, efficient lighting, breakout spaces to have lunch with colleagues and curate the space with plants and artwork. Last but not least, providing great quality coffee is essential! To anyone who works in an office, the above will come as no surprise. It could be argued that the brave decision is not to follow the current ‘herd’ mentality of workplace design and for companies to spend more time investing in understanding their own specific business needs and design for these. Great workplace experience starts by understanding how a space works for its users.

By Lee Day, 360 Workplace Director 


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