Tag Archives: collaboration

The Resilient Workplace

By Judith Heerwagen and Michael F. Bloom

In systems biology, resiliency is the capacity of a system and its inhabitants to bounce back from disruptive change, to cope with adversity without losing essential functionality and identity. The result is a more adaptive state with a greater capacity for effective re-organization. At the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), we have been implementing strategies to make the GSA’s vast number of workplaces more resilient and, thus, sustainable.

The GSA’s Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings is the GSA’s green building center of excellence. As the federal government’s high-performance building thought leader and catalyst, the office strategically facilitates the adoption of integrated sustainable practices, technologies, and behaviors to accelerate achievement of a zero environmental footprint. GSA oversees 37.02 million square feet of office space in 9,624 buildings owned or leased by the federal government; 12,536 federal employees work in these buildings. Thus, the lessons from GSA’s federal building stock can be applied to many workplaces, large and small, in many contexts.

The federal building “system” today is much like a biological system facing disruptive change. The need to achieve aggressive environmental, financial, and operational goals and to reduce the federal spatial footprint, while maintaining the health and productivity of the workforce, is creating strong pressures to change. Can the built environment—and specifically the workplace—respond to disturbances and stresses with resiliency? Can we intentionally develop the capacity to adapt and cope by drawing on lessons from the natural world?

It is possible, but it will take unprecedented integration across boundaries, drawing on the knowledge and skills from disciplines that do not normally work collaboratively. Designers, technologists, policy makers, building operators, organizational and behavioral scientists—all have parts of the knowledge required to build a new way of thinking about work and workplace.

Unlike other organisms, humans have the potential to anticipate, create, evaluate, and change based on feedback and evidence. A resilient workplace requires a shift in the way we think about, use, and value space and highlights the need to establish feedback loops in order to adapt to and replicate what works. It also requires a shift to a more science-based understanding of the nuances of human behavior.  Ultimately, the main source of resiliency is people. Thus, we need to shape the workplace and its support system to provide the experiences that promote the human capacity to be creative—both individual and organizational—in the face of challenges both external and internal.

We define the resilient workplace as a system of interlinking components, none of which alone will generate resiliency. But in combination, they create synergies and mutual reinforcements that will drive the co-evolution of behavior and place toward resiliency.

The components include:

• A new way of thinking: Consideration of the workplace as an integrated whole, attuned to the relationships among space, management, work behaviors, policy, furnishings, technology, operations and communication practices. Today, most of these capabilities are in boxes and organization charts, each with its own perspective, rules, and ways of thinking.  Removing the barriers created by boxed thinking may be the most difficult challenge to implementing the resilient workplace. But as people learn to work collaboratively, the desire to engage others in thinking and planning will occur readily if it is nurtured.

• An evolution away from individually owned space: If work is not where you are, but what you do, why continue to assign individuals permanent space that remains vacant 60 to 70 percent of the time? This is a prime example of a non-adaptive workplace:  people for more than a decade have been characterized by mobility at work—whether just moving from meeting to meeting, or more broadly in multiple cities. Exchanging static, individual assigned space for the appropriate blend of support spaces that fit how work is accomplished broadens access to space that supports agency mission and releases resources that are unnecessary or wasteful. Assigned workstations may soon be to workplaces, as the vestigial appendix is to the human anatomy—present and taking up space but without performing a useful function.

• An evolution toward dispersed functionality: To be truly effective, the physical workplace should be just one node in a multiplicity of spaces that support connection among people across time and space boundaries. Organizations in which dispersed work teams become routine and the norm will be more effective in carrying out their missions even when disruptive events occur. Having the right kit of tools and technologies to work effectively as a team from multiple sites is a critical component of dispersed functionality.

• An investment in social capital: the workplace exists to support the people who work there, an employer’s most valuable resource. To survive, the workplace should service a niche and provide value that isn’t fulfilled elsewhere.  We believe that real value is supporting the synergies that drive effective teams. Face-to-face interaction is important for enculturation, socialization, creative problem solving, negotiation, and setting strategic direction.  But maintaining relationships in between face-to-face meetings can be readily supported from multiple locations, as can quiet, focused work.

An evidence based process: one that uses performance results as a basis for design, operations, technologies, furniture, and equipment purchases, as well as policy making over the life cycle of the workplace. By evidence, we mean not just objective data on factors such as space utilization, but also the tacit knowledge that develops through experience to become “know how.”

Elements of the resilient workplace

Taken alone, the elements that support the resilient workplace are not especially novel. Their transformative power comes through their combination. Here, we outline the key elements of the resilient workplace.
Space: Invest in space as social capital with focus on the different ways people work, focusing on collaboration, co-creating, and learning. Plan space by attending to best practices in indoor environmental quality, ergonomics, comfort, worker performance, operating performance, and technology supports. Space is no longer owned by individuals or linked to status; it may be shared with other organizations.
Furnishings: Furnishings are varied, flexible, and interchangeable—like a stage set that can be reconfigured easily. Ergonomics and comfort are critical, with an emphasis on work surfaces, including collaborative white boards. Increase reliance on consolidated storage of files and documents and ready access to shared electronic files.
Technology: Wireless, cloud-based, pervasive mobile tools (laptops, smart phones, tablets, etc.) are embedded into work practices with comprehensive technical support. Deploy technology to aid understanding, relationship development, information visualization, role playing, scenario development, and other practices that enable people to see in new ways. Technology supports both face-to-face and dispersed collaboration.
Management Strategy: Manage to performance rather than presence; create opportunities for cross group rather than stove-piped work and reward it when it occurs.
Work Behavior: Empower people to work wherever they work best; work is not where you are but what you do. Emphasize collaboration to achieve results and develop practices that work.
Policy: Co-create policy with workforce; policy becomes an accessible, living document that changes with new evidence to reflect
best practices.
Sustainability: The touchstone for all aspects of work, office design, renovation, and operations is sustainability, including life-cycle financial sustainability.
Operations: Building tenants are actively engaged in the impact of their behavior on how facilities function. Policies and programs to actively support behavioral change are common practices. Web-based discussions share how individual behavior affects building performance and how building performance impacts tenant health and productivity.
Communication: Communication is multi-modal and ubiquitous through asynchronous meetings, social media, chat, Webinars, and collaborative creation in the cloud.

A resilient workplace will succeed only where these characteristics intersect, and will thrive only when people are empowered and supported to work in new ways. Many of these elements are currently in place in public and private sector offices and telework experiments. But rarely have the elements been integrated in a systems perspective across the workplace life cycle.

Judith Heerwagen is an environmental psychologist specializing in the human factors of sustainability. She is a sustainability program expert at the GSA’s Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings, where she focuses on integrating research into policy making and on the relationship between building social and physical systems. She is co-editor of the book Biophilic Design: The Theory, Science and Practice of Bringing Buildings to Life (Wiley, 2008).
Michael F. Bloom is a sustainability and green program advisor with the GSA’s Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings. He is a workplace strategist and project lead for GSA’s new Sustainable Facilities Tool,
www.sftool.gov.

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2011 IFMA Workplace Conference – Madrid

by Juan Luis de la Peña of 3G Office, Madrid (http://www.3g-office.com/inicio.html)

2011 IFMA Workplace Conference was held on 26-27th October kindly hosted by ENDESA in Madrid. All attendants (near 100 people) agree that it’s been an excellent conference with outstanding speakers and presentations as well as keynotes, moderators and round tables (plus a great catering!) where we all learned and shared real experiences, figures and trends regarding today’s ways of working and workplace solutions from several countries and business sectors.

Moderators:

Francisco Vázquez. President of 3G Office Group and Director of International Relations of IFMA Spain.

Leopoldo Alandete. Managing Director, LA & Asociados.

Xavier Llobera. General Manager, Microsoft Innovation Centre for Productivity Center.

All of them, Partners of the Workplace Innovation Group, played a great role in the conference, not only introducing the speakers but also questioning them and sharing their experiences and points of view regarding key matters in an open and frank way.

Conferences:

Introduction to Social Dynamics (by Francisco Vázquez)

Francisco made a clear introduction to how social dynamics are changing – dynamics that are mainly driven by technology, and new generations of people which are demanding new ways of working that suit their needs, and how companies are consequently adapting their workplaces to be flexible.

Agile Working in the UK (by Andrew Mawson, Managing Director, Advanced Workplace Associates Ltd)

Andrew introduced us to UK workplace trends, where there is some of the most expensive Real Estate in the world, and where most organizations are under pressure to reduce costs, but increase productivity. “Agile Working”, which is a dynamic way of working that frees people to work where and when it is appropriate for them and their organizations, pops up as solution. What is needed to support agile working are new layouts of office schemes with no owned spaces and overlapped areas with central or anchor points where groups gather around. He showed the today’s workplace situation by sector, from traditional (Legal, Retail) to mature (Telecoms, ITs). He pointed out that the change to agile working needs not only change management but “change maintenance” thereafter and that leadership from the directors of the business is the essential element.

Measuring the Value of Virtual Working (by Philippe Jimenez, Managing Director, Regus)

Philippe talked about a Regus research study based in big companies regarding measurement the benefits of the agility@work, a mix of real estate, commute, sustainability, technology, people and culture. The survey was done from three points of view: Virtual, AdVantages and Value, and showed results such as 63 % people still go to the office at least 4 days a week, 59% people takes more than 41 minutes to reach the office and the same to return home but only 12% want to work from home, and that 55% of the workplaces are not used. He also introduced the BYOC (Buy your own computer) model and the trend towards BYOW (Buy your own workplace).

Microsoft Milan (by Fernando Carneros, Real Estate & Facility Manager Microsoft Spain)

Fernando presented how Microsoft has evolved from “Bill’s Office” to a mobile workplace, by means of continuous research and, of course, technology. Before, team and individual settings were segregated and undifferentiated (highly hierarchical), today, a variety of team and individual settings mixed in clusters, with technology driving a multidimensional approach. He also introduced us to Microsoft Milan Innovation Campus (see YouTube) where new ways of work are continuously implemented.

Best Practices in the Financial Sector in London (by William Poole-Wilson, Director Pringle Brandon LLP)

William introduced his company and experience in the financial sector. He pointed out several general questions: Is London going to survive? What will be the landscape now? What does this mean for refurbishing? Numbers don’t stack up? Where is the money? Where is the space? And others more specifics: How can current available space be utilized for trading floors now and in the future? He went through several great examples of financial offices to answer the questions (case studies: Barclays, Macquarie) and showed the results of a survey conducted in trading floors users (for example they need faster communications and prefer clusters configuration of the space).

Importance of Measuring Workplace Spaces (by Carmen Ramos, Managing Director, Fama Systems)

Carmen, fromSpain, focused on the importance that new technology has in managing workplace spaces and the value of Computer Aided Facility Management (CAFM) software as a tool of measuring spaces and knowing exactly what there is in a building and so making easier to book and change spaces as well as move people when needed.

Measuring the activities in the workplace (by Germain Verbeemen, CEO, Wicely)

Germain, fromBelgium, started showing the evolution from “old” offices, passing by shared offices, to Activity Based Offices. He questioned how to conceive and manage Activity Based Offices. The answer is to measure occupancy and activities in an detailed manner with the right methodology and technology get trustworthy results that can be translated in “Activity Blocks” spaces that fulfill the needs of the people which are tuning in a “Generic Office Concept”. He concluded that an office must support effectiveness, flexibility, efficiency and attractiveness.

Measuring Productivity and Performance (by Tim Oldman, Founder and Managing Director, Leesman)

Tim gave a detailed presentation of what they name the Leesman Index by which they measure workplace effectiveness, the capability of workplace to support the productive activities of those it accommodates. He showed very interesting results from a study based on 5274 respondents, 22 surveys, 19 clients, 51 properties, c. 85,000 sq m and with a 70% response rate. He finally recommended that every company should ask themselves the following questions: what makes a workplace productive? What makes it unproductive? Where is it failing the occupiers? What interventions are required? How can it be bettered?

The office Code Project (by Catherine Gall, Director WorkSpace Futures Research, Steelcase)

Catherine presented a Steelcase Workspace Futures Study to know what the relationship between national culture and workplace design is. The study was based in 5 dimensions of culture: Power distance, Individualism, Masculinity, Uncertainty avoidance and Long-term orientation. She showed how the result of the study gives different “Office Codes” for each country.

Understanding Cultural Issues (by Marie Puybaraud, Director of Global Workplace Innovation, Johnson Controls)

From the point of view of the “Multi-generations @ Work” Marie introduced which are the workplace characteristics by generation (Veterans, Baby boomers, Generation X, Generation Y) and showed the very interesting, and sometimes surprising, results of a survey to answer the question of how important the workplace is in attracting, recruiting and retaining multi generations of workers with 8,800 respondents in total. The conclusion was that people and space should work in synergy and that the space design must be for flexibility, collaboration, performance and social interaction.

Social Dynamics Affecting the Workplace (by Kate North, Vice President, e-work)

Kate based her presentation in what she calls the “Big Bold Shift”: a move towards mobility with unassigned work space plus activity-based work environments, focusing in how important is to overcome the resistance to change and, particularly, how to help to the change and preparing the workforce for the new workplaces, processes, behaviors and tools. She talked about the trends in learning and change management and the role of e-learning has on them as well as the differences between generations.

Vodafone Holland (by Tjeu Verheijen, Project manager “the changing workplace”, Vodafone Netherlands)

Tjeu showed the pilot project done by Vodafone in the Netherlands that led to the optimization of the workplace used together to the fulfillment of the ways of work the employees (i.e. people) demand today: flexibility, mobility, freedom of choice and work and private life balance.

Nokia Berlin (by José Luis Sanchez, Workplace solutions manager EMEA & India, Nokia, and Niklaus Arn, Managing Director, RBS)

A very interesting case and best practice was presented by both, José Luis and Niklaus. They showed us how business growth made the company also grow in locations and, very important, change its workplace strategy. In that new way of working “the team is becoming the critical unit” where “new work cultures are merging life and work, requiring Nokia to provide locations and spaces that support those blurred boundaries”. They show us the lay-outs of the Berlin office, the reason behind them as well the improvements achieved, both for people and business.

Coming next

During next year we’ll work to find new best practices and speakers to have the 5th IFMA Workplace Conference even better than this one (a difficult goal!). Some organizations have already changed the way of working, many others are already thinking of doing so and all of them are interested in, so 3g office will be, by different means, continuously promoting the benefits of the flexible working and helping them to implemented it since 3g office is a consultancy firm specialized in this matter.

Juan Luis de la Peña, Head of Facility Management Consulting at 3G Office

jldelapena@3g-office.com 

Social media facilities management for internal corporate collaboration – if IT lets you!

Workplace / Facilities Managers have a key role to play in bringing collaborative environments to life with collaborative social media tools

Is it just me, or do many people in large corporate and government organisations have more tools to communicate and collaborate OUTSIDE of their organisation that they do WITHIN it? Seems to me that some IT departments may be holding back ‘information’ rather than providing the tools to increase its ease of use…?

There are so many ways to communicate now, its a real problem when people have them all on their i-POD, but only email or phone at their desk! As an example, I only get a few messages a week via Facebook, rather than several hundred via my 3 email accounts – so my IFA used Facebook this weekend, as the one route he knew was most likely to reach me on a Saturday morning. Good thinking. I also get many useful web-links every week from people that I follow on Twitter. But LinkedIn is by far the most useful collaboration tool for me. Can 80m+ people be wrong? Its easy to find people, in organisations that you want to talk to, about subjects of mutual business interest.

So, why don’t organisations let their people use LinkedIn? and Twitter? and other useful social media tools? Security risk?

Now, here’s an idea – why not initiate your own INTERNAL version of LinkedIn or Facebook? It would help to encourage more communication across the organisation, between people who otherwise may pass like ‘ships in the night’ through the corridors and past the watercoolers of corporate environments….without knowing that they have something useful to talk about.

Just look at all the ‘Groups’ on LinkedIn – something for every area of interest in the business world, and much more besides I’m sure. How powerful would it be to have this facility INSIDE the organisation..? Groups for every idea and project under the corporate umbrella; with the ability for people to contribute who may have great ideas but would otherwise not be heard.

Who should deliver it? well, why not corporate workplace/facilities? We work hard to create spaces and facilities to support and encourage communication and collaboration. We create spaces for people to mingle, and hopefully talk – restaurants, queues, break-out areas, etc. But what is missing is always the human connection – you might create opportunities for people to ‘bump into’ each other, but mostly they will not know each other, so they will not necessarily speak.

A corporate version of LinkedIn adds the human connection of course – a photo, so that you recognise someone, and a bit of information about their career history, achievements, current role…even faily and outside interests.

Now, how many more “watercooler moments” would be created – and who knows how many useful business opportunities initiated as a result – if companies had their own corporate ‘in-house’ version of LinkedIn? And what better way for corporate workplace/facilities management and ICT departments to work together to respectively create collaborative environments, both in the physical and the information worlds….?

Who will be first? If you already do this, please let me know…love to hear about it (occupiers@ntlworld.com); regards, Paul Carder http://uk.linkedin.com/in/paulcarder