Put simply, we discussed ways that organisations can enable staff, their superheroes to be as productive as possible. We also looked at barriers to staff realising their full potential or becoming workplace superheroes. I thought I'd share some insight into what I spoke about at the event.

Let’s start with the barriers. What factors obstruct workers from doing their job?
People and property are the two main cost centres for any organisation but we are witnessing a massive disconnect between the two. Is the physical workplace adversely impacting your staff’s performance?

Workplaces are designed primarily to house people but what drives the workforce? Factors such as communication, innovation, co-working and performance do but they are not as influential when it comes to designing a physical office space as they could and should be.

The property model with respect to offices is efficiency driven, one size fits all and somewhat binary. What do I mean by binary? If you picked up your office floor plan, would most of the space be allocated to desks (0) or meeting rooms (1). Somewhat like an arrangement of 0, 1, 0, 1 – this in textbook terms is a binary space plan. Does it sound like your office space?

Typically binary spaces are blamed for staff not being able to concentrate. On average staff are distracted 20 times a day and assuming it takes them 3-5 minutes to get their chain of thought back, that’s an hour per day, five hours per week , over two hundred hours a year – that’s a lot of unproductive time.

The desk is where staff are perceived to do all of their work but our studies for clients have shown that on average desks are being used <50% of the time, even in environments where it is the only place to get work done. Meeting rooms form the other significant element of a binary workplace but ask yourself, how often are they really used? On average, we find the answer is less than 30% of the time.

How can your superheroes work to their full potential in a space that isn't enabling them to do so? The simple answer is they can’t.

What do our superheroes need?

At Morgan Lovell, we see the workplace as the intersection of the physical, the virtual and the psychological. These are the enablers to connect people and property.

All factors need to be addressed. There’s no point designing a beautiful office where staff don’t or won’t fully embrace the space. Organisations need to address the psychological to determine how people work through research and let those findings influence design.

Technology

It is not breaking news that technology is evolving and evolving fast. Workplaces are struggling to keep pace and are in many cases playing catch up. Technology that enables staff to work productively is a vital ingredient in the superhero recipe.

Workers are now demanding the technology necessary to do their jobs whilst its impact on office design is twofold. Organisations need to identify and integrate the technology that enables their workforce to preform to their full superhero potential. It has also meant that workers have become far more autonomous with technology allowing them to work when and wherever they want, be that at their desk, in a relaxed open space or in a coffee shop.

This has in part contributed to the huge rise of the individual in the workplace. We are seeing less 9-5 mentality as individuals now have choice and autonomy to work wherever they want or feel most comfortable.

Looking to the future

Frank Duffy who is credited with leading the field of workplace consultancy and who I had the great pleasure of working with for many years used to say:

Offices and their interiors still speak more about the past than the future

He is correct in that the physical office space has changed very little over the past 30-40 years; take a look at the image below.

So the office space has remained much the same as it always has; individuals are becoming more autonomous and technology is rapidly evolving. What does all of this mean?

It has given rise to a growing awareness and realisation that the workplace needs to up its game. Work issues like wellbeing, health and stress are frequently covered in the mainstream media meaning that everybody from the most junior stakeholder to the senior management now expect workplaces that enable them to perform like a superhero.

So what I am predicting is...

In a short span of time, not just ingenious, but the most basic workplace model will be designed to enable Clark Kent be superman at work. No more changing into that boring grey suit, no more shedding your real self, but more of bringing the whole of yourself to work i.e. to be able to have a choice to access environments that support you best getting the job done in most effective manner.

And you can start today. All you need to do is to gather relevant data to identify who your real customers are, what their barriers and opportunities are and what they will need to be able to perform. And remember, we can help so if you want to arrange a conversation about enabling your workplace superheroes, drop me an email at elaine.mullarkey@morganlovell.com