8 questions to answer before starting
Is an important change to your workplace imminent? To create an office that promotes wellbeing and efficiency, it is important to design working environments that support the working methods and people of the organisation. The key to success is to address the needs of all types of personalities and generations. In our Next Office process, we conduct a thorough workplace analysis that evaluates how you currently work and that maps your various needs, including the types of environments you will need in the future. Below, we have compiled eight questions that are important to answer before starting your project.
One reason that investments in new offices often fail is that the concepts are confused and it is unclear just what the change will entail. The Next Office process is not about forcing your organisation into a specific mould. It is about finding the unique working environment that best suits your organisation. The following is a brief introduction to the five most common concepts regarding offices and working methods:
Activity-based offices are shaped around your organisation's working methods, with a number of activity spaces designed around your needs. Rather than having a fixed place in which several kinds of activities can take place, staff are encouraged to find the space that best meets the needs of the task at hand. The office is designed to support many types of activities, from tasks requiring intense concentration to collaboration and informal meetings.
Flexi-offices have no fixed desk spaces and generally there are fewer desks than employees. In place of single workplaces, discussion rooms, meeting rooms and meeting places for instance can be constructed. Flexi-offices are often confused with activity-based offices because there are many areas to choose from, but the positive effect is lacking since the office is not designed fundamentally to suit the way the organisation works.
Just as the name indicates, staff share a number of desks. The number of workplaces is solely determined by occupancy rates which means that some days, there may not be a desk available to every person working from the office. Nor does desksharing take any activities into consideration; the main focus is the number of desks.
Co-working is a collaborative, flexible method of working in which several organisations and people can share the same office space. It is an important set-up for freelancers, small-business owners and those who travel extensively in their work. It is a way for those who work on their own to have a social point of contact and a way of harnessing synergies that come from working together.
The principles of agile work entail work with a great focus on performance and results. It includes factors such as when you work, where you work, how you work and who actually does the work. The overall goal is more important than the process. For many companies, agile working has led to success in hastening development and implementation of new ideas in a number of disciplines.
For a new office to be successful, it is important to have a vision and clear goals. And it requires the engagement of the management team! This sends the message that employee well-being and the project are important. And success depends on management practising what it preaches. If employees are expected to share and move between different environments, management should work the same way.
Participation is the key to success. By involving your employees early on in the planning process, your work will go quicker, smoother and with better results! Explain why, how and which effect you wish to see with the change. Communicate clearly and transparently: quickly address concerns and uncertainty. By ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to make their opinions heard and to describe their work methods and needs, you are ensuring that they will be happy in their new office and that their work will become more efficient. Use workshops, seminars and surveys to find out what your employees are thinking and feeling. The secret is to set your sights to the future and paint a common vision, rather than focusing on how things have been.
Workplace design via Next Office is focussed on organisational needs and analysis data, which means there will always be enough desks and work settings. It is important that when staff are mobile they take things with them when they move to another setting or attend a meeting. It is also good to invest in a booking system that can handle meeting rooms and individual desks alike. It increases your organisation's efficiency and reduces the risk of misunderstandings.
Before you make the decision to change work methods, you need to take technology into consideration. Do you have the technical solutions you need to enable your employees to work in a paper-free environment and regardless of workspace? If not, are you prepared to make the investment? Remember, it is the employees' needs that should determine the technology – not the other way around!
A question that commonly crops up when considering working in an open or mobile office environment is how to handle confidentiality. An open office environment does not necessarily mean that all information has to be handled openly. Remember to include working environments in which you can close a door behind you for managing confidential tasks or private discussions. It is also important to have access to lockable storage.
Meetings and working together are important aspects of working in an office. For this reason, invest in many types of meeting spaces – from flexible solutions for short meetings to project spaces and meeting rooms. It is important to create spaces that support the different kinds of meetings you have in your organisation. It increases efficiency and creativity. Another way to make meetings more efficient is to increase the use of video meetings. With the right technology, it is easy to have face-to-face meetings without having to travel by car, train or plane, meaning more efficient use of time and money.
When you build an activity-based office, natural opportunities arise for moving between different activity-based settings during the workday. But all offices require ergonomic office furniture for those who sit and do concentrated work for long periods of time! Invest in sit-stand desks and ergonomic seats to cut down on injuries due to repeated strain. And consider varying between low, tall and soft seating in meeting rooms.
Movement is essential to our health and research shows that it is not enough to only exercise in our free time. We need exercise at work too. Movement is built in to activity-based offices as you constantly move between different workplaces. Ergonomic office furniture, such as sit-stand desks and ergonomic seats, also contribute. But why not go one step further? Make it possible to exercise and strengthen balance while working by building an office gym equipped with exercise balls, balance boards, fitness bands, treadmills and exercise bikes.
An important challenge in creating open workplaces is to create a sense of belonging and security for everyone. It can be a matter of creating spaces for social contact as well as individual workplaces that have a door that can be closed. It is important to provide workplaces for dealing with confidential matters so that everyone feels secure that their private information is not shared openly. Sound-insulated meeting rooms are also good for private meetings.
It is a great freedom to be able to choose where and how to work at an office. By respecting each other and our differences in the workplace, you can reap all the benefits' rewards and build up a positive company culture. The office can be divided up into zones for low, medium and high concentration. Then you can jointly decide on the kinds of conversations and activities that are appropriate for each zone. If everyone respects and follows procedures, you create a stress-free and creative environment in which everyone can be happy.
Organisations whose employees have strong self-leadership are especially well-equipped for offices of the future. A strong self-leadership not only means working independently toward one's goals and taking responsibility for one's tasks but also focusing energy on what one can influence and asking for help when the situation requires it. By developing the organisation's self-leadership, the physical office change will have an even greater effect. The working environment is positive and solution-oriented with colleagues that encourage and develop each other.
In the past, we were forced to go to a workplace because that's where the equipment and computers were housed. Today, we can work from anywhere and perhaps only go to the workplace because we feel obligated. The goal of Next Office is to make the office a motivator in itself. To create such inspiring environments that we prefer to be there. Where we meet positive, dedicated colleagues and have room for personal development. A simple, but obvious way of building successful organisations and companies.