3 keys to workplace productivity

by Julia Stuhltrager


3 considerations in determining workplace productivity needs

Read: 5 minute
When the cubicle became popular, in 1967, it did more than just change the workplace: It utterly changed the workspace. A private, personalized space was seen as the road to maximum productivity. Unfortunately, the cubicle turned out to be the bane of many an office worker's existence — not to mention a steady source of comedy. Eventually, down came the walls and in came the “open office” plan. What began as the signature arrangement for a hip young startup is now something that businesses of all kinds are adopting, in order to enjoy the communication and relationship benefits important for a cohesive office atmosphere. But what about privacy and seclusion? Don't workers need to be alone sometimes? The open floor plan doesn't satisfy every need — but, then again, nothing does. Your workforce is too diverse, and productivity depends on too many factors for a one-size-fits-all workspace. How does a company choose among the various options for arranging a workforce? What arrangement is best for employee productivity? Giving today's workers the spaces they need requires diligent attention to three factors:
1. The roles performed by various employees.
2. Technologies that help make a space fulfill its intended function.
3. Methods of optimizing the various spaces your company makes available.

wide shot of employees working in an office with  a lot of digital devices

Space according to role

If your employees' personal locations are part of an open floor plan, you should make sure that you provide one or more locations onsite that enable workers privacy and concentration when they need it. How much you invest in collaborative “workshop” spaces depends on how frequently you have teams tossing ideas around and solving problems together. If that's a frequent activity, perhaps you need multiple spaces enabling it. If it's rare, perhaps another room can double as a collaboration space. When it comes to boosting productivity, a modest investment is more than worth it — and an experienced partner in workplace services can help you do the difficult work of studying your workforce and strategizing ways to give them the spaces they need.

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Incorporate the right tools for the job

We talk about “workspaces,” but the space itself can only do so much. Productivity and collaboration depend not only on where you put the walls, but which tools you put within the walls. For example, most companies have a dedicated room for formal presentations and meetings. But your presentations will only be as productive as the audiovisual tools and other equipment you have in the room. Do your meeting rooms enable fast and easy video conferencing? Speaking face-to-face should be as easy as making a phone call — and with today's technology, it can be. Companies that rely on free or first-generation video services aren't exploring the full potential of bringing offsite parties into the meeting room.

With the latest video technology, not only can you launch meetings with the push of a button, but you can share your computer screen and relay data to other participants. Every communication channel important to a productive meeting is hosted by a single device, allowing employees to put less energy into “running” the meeting and more into actually getting work done.

What about your collaboration spaces? When we imagine a room for workshops and active meetings, most of us picture a big dry-erase board along one wall. But is this really a 21st-century solution? An interactive whiteboard combines the flexibility of a standard whiteboard with the connectivity and capabilities of digital devices. With precise touchscreen control, you can write and draw and alter content — and share it with people who aren't in the room but who connect to the presentation via computer, tablet or smartphone. Saving and sharing a file of your on-screen creations is quick and easy. Also, you can plug your computer, tablet or smartphone into the whiteboard and use it as an instant display screen — quicker and more visually precise than projection. The tools are out there. And as you think about where your workers will be getting their work done, you need to think about what they can use to do it better.

Your workforce is too diverse, and productivity depends on too many factors for a one-size-fits-all workspace.

Manage your different spaces

Finding out when spaces are available and reserving them for your meeting can be a very cumbersome process: checking room status in one place, making a reservation via a different communication channel, waiting for confirmation, etc. Easily updatable digital signage outside the door of each meeting room changes this entirely. Not only do digital signs make it clear when rooms are and aren't scheduled, they also serve as touchscreen consoles for entering reservation requests. With the right information readily available, employees may be much more likely to take advantage of the real estate available to them. And with the price of real estate these days, boosting — and optimizing — usage of workspace is very important. Once again, optimizing requires investment in a process: You have to study the traffic and utilization patterns of your various workspaces, and from there you can make choices about how to schedule and configure them. Technology can do some of this for you. You can actually install sensors that measure occupancy and give you recurring feedback to help you utilize given spaces. With the information you gather, you can continually iterate and adapt your workspace arrangement. If formal presentations prove to be necessary only occasionally, you can find other ways to make use of that space — perhaps a “drop in” casual space for workers who need to spread materials out on a large table. Your real estate isn't infinite, and only through scrutiny and careful monitoring can you discover all your options for getting maximum usage — and productivity — out of your spaces.

Businesses have tried isolating workers, and now they're trying grouping them together in open floor plans. But productivity is not a one-size-fits-all phenomenon. Your workers have different needs, and making workspace decisions that satisfy those needs requires digging into the details and tailoring a solution to your enterprise. If you devote the time and resources to that investment, you'll see it pays off in the end.


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