Workplace strategy is the art and science of developing physical and technological environments, together with effective work practices, that help your business succeed.

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What workplace strategy means (and what it doesn’t)

Workplace strategy is an emerging and somewhat ambiguous concept. Designers, consultants, real estate agents, facility managers and other members of the corporate real estate industry often have different takes on what it means, which can create confusion. To ensure that you and I are on the same page, I’d like to clarify what it means to me.

But first, let me highlight a few things that workplace strategy doesn’t equate to, in my view:

  • It is not the science of saving space – and subsequently real estate costs – through maximising space utilisation.
  • It looks far beyond the question of whether to provide open-plan or private offices to different users.
  • It is not about simply deciding whether users should have their own allocated workstations or instead adopt activity-based working and share desks.
  • It is most certainly not the process of replicating design solutions that have been made popular by Google or other high-profile organisations.
  • It is not just a culmination of in-trend workspace solutions such as sit-stand desks or floor-to-ceiling whiteboard walls.
  • And it is not an ‘amenities and benefits’ toolbox limited to the provision of exciting breakout areas, wellbeing spaces, gaming rooms and sleeping pods.

As the phrase suggests, workplace strategy needs to be strategic, supporting overall business performance rather than just a couple of chosen performance indicators.

In my view, workplace strategy is the art and science of developing physical and technological environments, together with effective work practices, that help your business succeed – whatever your definition of success might be.

I believe that a well-thought-out workplace strategy has the following qualities, to mention only a few:

  • HOLISTIC

It takes into consideration current and future industry trends, your business model and resources, your culture and brand, and the ways you aim to evolve over time.

  • RELEVANT

It addresses all aspects of performance relevant to your business, which likely include, for example: knowledge exchange, collaboration, innovation, productivity, engagement and wellbeing, and a positive employee and client experience.

  • ALL-ENCOMPASSING

It considers the experience of all members in your organisation, including newcomers and executives, office-based and remote workers, full-time and part-time members.

  • TAILORED

It responds to the unique attributes of individuals and teams, including working, learning and communication styles, collaboration strategies, systems and processes, and work relationships.

  • HUMAN-CENTRIC

It is based on an understanding of human physiology, psychology and behaviour, and is geared to promoting optimal physical and mental wellbeing as well as intellectual functioning.

  • COMPREHENSIVE

It maximises the impact of every single element of the physical environment such as walls, floors and ceilings, furniture and fittings, interior decor, work tools, information technology equipment, building services, and also the area around the workplace.

  • FUTURE-PROOF

It not only incorporates strategies for a successful workplace transformation in the immediate future, but also allows for the seamless adoption of new ways of working over the years ahead, and thus sets up the business for both short- and long-term success.

A solid workplace strategy incorporates tools and solutions for creating an environment where everyone is able to bring out the best in themselves and others, and achieve the best possible outcome in any situation. This environment also helps maximise the collective intelligence of your teams, and makes it easier for people to use every minute of their time wisely.

However, this can only be achieved if the strategy itself is developed with intelligence.

In a workplace change project many opposing forces and interests can be at play – here are some common examples:

An intelligent strategy embraces uncertainty and ambiguity, and sees this kind of tension as fuel for innovation. Instead of sacrificing certain objectives in favour of others, it aims to satisfy all valid interests, sometimes in new and exciting ways.

Even small details of a workplace strategy can make a great difference to the performance and experience of your people.

Missing or misguided advice could harm your business. For example, collaboration sessions could easily conclude with underwhelming results due to a badly positioned or insufficiently equipped room. Potentially game-changing ideas could remain unshared in an environment where members struggle to relax and build trust. And your people could potentially be stuck on a simple problem for hours – or days – in a space that is not fully suited to their work style.

Alternatively, guided by a smart and thorough strategy, you could create a workplace which acts as a catalyst for positive change and helps your business reach new heights.