Creating the epicentre: unlocking the untold benefits of next-generation office spaces
Many associate the notion of futuristic office spaces, filled with equipment like sleep pods and beer taps, with companies that have a young workforce or challenger brand identity. The association is often linked to tech giants like Google, which created quite a stir when it originally revealed its indoor slides. Whilst the inclusion of playground furniture in the office is not right for every business, the assumption that unconventional workspaces should be limited to unconventional companies simply isn’t true.
Workforce productivity continues to be a primary priority for all businesses, particularly as Europe hovers on the edge of recession. Yet, many continue to overlook the productivity boost that a well-designed, future-facing workspace can have, particularly when it comes to Total Factor Productivity (TFP). Dubbed the ‘Achilles’ Heel’ of the European productivity challenge, TFP takes into account the capital and technology which are used to boost efficiency and generate outputs in addition to simply measuring employees’ labour. With our research finding that 39% of people’s days are occupied with overcoming technology issues, it’s no wonder that Europe’s TFP signals a stark problem. By improving office spaces, businesses can radically improve TFP, as well as the creativity and wellbeing of their employees. Here’s how:
The office as a “destination”
The role of the office has generated much debate in the hybrid work era with many companies encountering challenges with mandated in office days. Zoom, for example, which was pivotal in aiding remote collaboration during the pandemic, has faced backlash for enforcing its employees’ return to the office.
However, if employees spend more time in the workplace behind screens than interacting with one another, it is unsurprising that they do not see the value in returning to in-person work.
Instead of pitting working in the office against home working, business leaders must recognise that the office is “the” destination for collaboration and creativity. Recently, we found that 64% of European workers would find their jobs more enjoyable if they had more time for creative tasks, with the office space an ideal haven/location for delivering/enabling this.
There are simple steps that companies can take to boost creativity, alongside more radical ones. Simply altering the layout of desks to create a more open, discussion-friendly environment and adding interactive whiteboards to meeting rooms can go a long way in helping employees to problem solve together. Increasing employee engagement in this way will also drive productivity and accelerate business growth.
The impact of next-generation technology
With innovative technology, companies can maximise the employee experience and level-up the benefits that the “destination” office brings. For instance, environmental factors, such as temperature and the percentages of the different gases that make up the air we breathe, can have a huge impact on concentration levels. In fact, the higher the levels of carbon dioxide in a particular space, the more difficult it is to focus. When combined with the all-too-familiar feeling of shivering in a draughty office, or not being able to concentrate due to a sweltering one, it is easy to see the productivity impact of an unsuitable office environment. However, technology exists to alleviate this – by installing environmental sensors, businesses can monitor factors including temperature and air composition and optimise these for their workforce.
Other examples include custom-printed wearables and interactive meeting room technology, which can transcribe notes, detect the level of engagement between meeting participants, and enhance team building by providing personalised recommendations for members of the team. These technologies exist to transform collaborative moments and foster innovative thinking.
Introducing the Chief Workspace Officer
All too often, the responsibility for managing the physical workplace is assigned to an individual who is also charged with a host of other duties. In some ways, this reflects the position of office design in business leaders’ priorities. In order to benefit from the kind of cutting-edge technology that can be embedded in the physical workspace, companies need dedicated teams who are available and qualified to monitor the equipment. Equally, they must be on hand to adapt the space if a particular layout is not working as intended and such teams need to have a deep-understanding of human-centric design. ‘Office management’ positions must be given the recognition and seniority they deserve.
Finally, the prospect of hiring additional headcount, alongside equipment costs, is undoubtedly daunting. However, the benefits of a well-designed office space, which can ultimately foster great employee workplace experience, are too significant to be missed and leaders should be encouraged to downsize their vast, empty offices in favour of smaller, more expertly-planned spaces that enable increased employee interaction. After all, it’s only when leaders acknowledge and understand the value of a well-designed workspace and see it as central to business performance, that employees will unleash their full potential.
HEAD OF PRODUCT, RDX RICOH EUROPE