Warning against workplace fads

How often do you hear a company talk about its physical office as one of its corporate perks?

Today, working in flexible and collaborative office environments, and “being green” are mainstream business practices, yet some companies will stand on their soapboxes and positing these as the latest-and-greatest workplace strategies. Don’t fall for the buzzwords: these practices aren’t all new, and certainly don’t work for every corporate culture.

Clichés or buzzwords often reflect fads. What one workplace considers an innovative or modern tool today might not be in 2020; plus, it might not make sense for all employees. Take corporate game rooms, complete with billiards and pinball machines. Employees working in offices that thrive on collaboration, energy and creativity would find these beneficial to collaborate and brainstorm, but a law firm might not. Companies shouldn’t look to these as a selling point when redesigning workplaces.

What a company shouldn’t do is fall for the buzzwords we hear as “the solution” to designing the right workplace. The best strategy, JLL experts say, is to design a space based on the needs of the workforce. Here are some of the workplace buzzwords or phrases companies should see as options – not solutions – for designing a modern workspace.

Remote workplaces as a perk

The majority of companies these days need to be virtually capable and connected. While working from home part-time is a reality for employees with family responsibilities, being entirely remote can disengage employees and hinder collaboration. Companies recognize that employees want to be in the office, so having satellite connectivity, WebEx and virtual conference calling is the norm.

Collaborative space promotes productivity

80 percent of all work is collaborative, but that doesn’t mean “heads down” work has decreased. While employee engagement is critical to establish a company’s culture, and collaboration and connecting support engagement, companies shouldn’t fall for this. They should strike a balance for space to support both concentration and collaboration.

“To be most productive, today’s knowledge workers require a combination of work settings where they can brainstorm, collaborate and regroup, and other types of spaces where they can focus uninterrupted on individual work, whether it’s a quiet zone in the open or an enclosed focus booth,” advised Bernice Boucher, Workplace Strategy Lead in the Americas for JLL. “A 2012 McKinsey study found that knowledge workers spend 14 percent of the workweek communicating and collaborating internally. Employees need spaces to collaborate where they aren’t distracting peers who are concentrating on individual work, and they also need to establish protocols for acceptable behavior in these new work environments.” she added.

Being sustainable

A common misnomer for companies is using “environmental” and “sustainable” interchangeably. Most businesses have sustainability programs, but only as they apply to environmental practices, like recycling. In reality, for a company to encompass broad corporate sustainability, they have processes to enhance workplace culture, and the communities where employees work and live.

Forward-looking companies recognize the connection between quality of working environments and employee productivity, so they work to use real estate tools to embed sustainability and productivity into business operations and report it just as methodically as financial earnings. Companies that design workplaces more efficiently and with intelligent infrastructures aren’t just reducing energy spend, they’re creating a higher degree of workplace comfort, employee wellness and productivity.

“Large cities mean a better work-life balance for young employees.”

While true that many Millennials won’t work in the suburbs, it doesn’t mean they’re targeting big cities for careers. Smaller cities are making big investments in connecting offices to larger headquarter locations; connectivity, coupled by more affordable housing options and costs of living, attract millennials to careers in secondary markets, as a 2014 New Urban Ag study shows.

The companies Millennials have on their “most wanted workplaces” lists have looked to cities-less-traveled for growth opportunities. Apple is building a massive new headquarters in suburban Cupertino; Google’s metro-Detroit, Ann Arbor and Pittsburgh offices are bringing revenue to the Rust Belt; and Reddit and eBay opened big offices in Salt Lake City.

So what does it take to avoid these buzzwords and create the perfect workplace?

It’s simple, says Boucher:

1. Align: Tailor the workplace to business objectives and corporate culture, industry, location and employees.

2. Adapt: Create an environment that can change with workplace dynamics and meet the needs of employees, you’ll be ahead of the cliché trap and avoid being just another fad.

3. Adhere: Have a workplace, and its design and location, be consistent with a company’s brand.

4. Accommodate: Support collaboration, but also workers who need heads-down space. Three quarters of meetings have between two and four people, and therefore need to be flexible for the need of the tasks.