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Workplace Strategy – the Critical Step in the Return to Work

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Workplace Strategy is a terminology increasingly used in business circles as organisations grapple with post-covid ways of working and an understanding of the ‘new normal’ workplace. To get the most out of any strategy piece, it is hugely important to understand what workplace strategy is, and the factors that actually make it an effective business tool.

What is Workplace Strategy?

Workplace strategy can be defined as the series of steps undertaken to identify and understand an organisation’s workplace needs and consequently providing a clear, insightful and detailed guide on how these can be effectively addressed in a future workplace environment.

The scope and extent of the strategy piece can vary depending on both the organisation seeking strategy, and the team providing this service, however, this undertaking is typically viewed as a detailed ‘journey’ spanning a number of months, allowing a thorough deep-dive into all/key departments and facets of the business through multiple research and engagement tools.

Steps such as detailed workshops, leadership group sessions, thought-provoking staff surveys and workplace immersions all contribute to the effective gathering and understanding of key challenges, objectives and aspirations in relation to post-covid ‘work’, providing tangible evidence to support the composition of a strategic workplace framework.

An effective strategy also couples this company data with specialised interiors expertise, ensuring a detailed analysis of this information from a design perspective. This ensures clear, actionable recommendations and outcomes that can be trusted and followed, maximising efficiency, productivity and most importantly, providing the alignment amongst all levels within the business with the future workspace.

Ultimately, the work undertaken provides you the ‘blueprint’ to support your next steps in your workplace journey, making sure you’re your next office works for your organisation. It provides you with certainty and clarity on key questions such as suitable size of office, extent of hybrid integration, composition of meeting rooms/workstations/collaboration zones etc. and even a clear picture of the ultimate office location.

Workplace strategy is an essential undertaking by an organisation that is serious about getting the most out of their staff and their office space investment, and an investment that pays dividends in both the short and long term.

Why is it important today?

The recent pandemic thrust the traditional use and expectations of the office into the unknown, and for months, it was unclear what the future would hold for the workplace. Now, as we emerge into the post-pandemic era, getting clarity and direction as to what the office means is crucial to moving forward into the ‘new normal’ without being hamstrung by the paralysis of uncertainty.

Following a period of unprecedented change and disruption, many organisations are now seeking to re-establish or reposition themselves, and at the same time ensure the whole business is aligned with this. Hence, having a clear strategy in relation to the physical workplace is essential to ensure this change and development is gathered, consolidated and reflected in the future work environment.

Whether it be a change in staff expectations to hours in the office, a repositioning in the market, or even a surge in headcount due to significant growth, if the associated challenges and objectives are not clearly unpacked and addressed in a detailed strategic review, then your organisation will likely continue to be hampered by the inefficiencies of either trying to fit back into the mould of a pre-pandemic workplace, or trying to fit into a new space that still doesn’t understand or reflect the recent advancements within your organisation.

Organisations around the globe are also placing importance on workplace strategy now more than ever, because of its ability to draw out engagement from staff and consolidate alignment across the team. By undertaking this strategy, organisations demonstrate to their staff that they are being listened to and invested in.

This critical work acts as a drawcard to attract staff back to the workplace, particularly when it leads to a new work environment that has been designed specifically for them and their needs. In a period of increasing talent shortages, it is the organisations that invest in and support their staff that are able to retain and attract new talent, and ultimately ensure sustained success.

Who do you involve in your Workplace Strategy?

The most effective strategy piece involves two phases of involvement. The first and foremost is a leadership or steering committee entrusted with driving the process forward, having authority to speak on behalf of the organisation and ultimately implement the change/next steps.

Typically, this group comprises personnel at a management level within the organisation, including from the C-suite, department managers and other key stakeholders within the organisation. This leadership group size can be as large or small as you would like, however, to ensure agility and the steady progression of the process, it is often recommended to keep it to a smaller number of 3-4.

The second (and very important) phase of involvement is the wider staff engagement piece. The most effective strategies are produced when the whole team becomes involved in this piece through surveys and smaller, specific workshops. Not only does this ensure a comprehensive gathering of information and data, but also leads to enhanced buy-in from staff regarding future workplace change.

When should I conduct a Workplace Strategy?

The most effective workplace strategies are when an organisation is in a position to implement the change or strategy quickly, for example due to an office relocation or planned refurbishment. This ensures that the changes implemented are relevant and fit for purpose, and that the momentum right across the organisation is maintained.

If you are considering a relocation, such as due to a lease expiry, then the strategy phase logically falls as the first step in the process prior to actually looking at alternative options and starting alternative designs. This is because this strategy in fact provides you with the needed direction of what to look for in terms of office space and what to include in the design.

Most organisations start reviewing the property process 9-12 months prior to a lease expiry, and consequently, the workplace strategies are best undertaken 12-15 months prior to this actual relocation date. Nevertheless, flexibility in the duration of the strategy phase means this can be done closer to the relocation/lease expiry, particularly if there is some flexibility with the final lease date (i.e. can get a month to month agreement if needed).

Either way, if you make the effort to undertake this important work, you can be confident in achieving a more efficient, aligned and sustainable workspace that truly reflects your organisation’s needs, objectives and aspirations.

Ultimately it provides businesses with the clear and necessary direction to support an effective workplace project in the post-pandemic era. It provides clarity, certainty and confidence for leaders to be able to make the right decisions in relation to their workplace accommodation challenges, and ensure the full potential of their investment in both their staff and real estate is fully realised.

If you’re looking to engage with a highly experienced, understanding and innovative team to provide you with clarity and confidence for the next steps in your workplace considerations, our specialist strategy team here at Contour Interiors are ready to assist. Bringing you the very latest in strategy and design intelligence, our trusted and proven approach ensures you the ultimate journey to a thriving and successful workplace. You can contact our team for a Workplace Strategic Review now.

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