How important is the physical space in improving the productivity of your people? REBUTTAL REMARKS
1. Opening Arguments
3. Closing Statements
Thank you to all those who are participating in our first ever workplace debate.
Both presenters have heard your views and have now made their rebuttals. There is still time to have your say in the debate. Join the debate vote, comment or tweet us using #workplacedebate. Full introduction can be found here.
Owner, Advanced Workplace Associates
I’ve enjoyed reading all your comments so thank you all for contributing so far.
My definition of the workplace is the ‘A social, physical and information environment in which work tasks are performed’. In my perfect world we would all be in the business of creating fault free ‘environments’ designed to support great work, social cohesion to re-enforce good working practices, and subtly reflect the personality and culture of an organisation. It costs no more to design and deliver a great workplace experience than a bad one, so why don’t we all do it?
The workplace is a daily and persistent manifestation of the organisations relationship with its employees. Perceptions of it are created every second of every day by employees and help make their minds up about the organisation. They perceive the ‘workplace’ as one experience, not the endeavours of a range of ‘disparate’ functions (each optimising against their own drivers, budgets and imperatives). Intriguingly there is not one person in any organisation, that I have come across, that is solely responsible for their holistic workplace creation and management. Not one person looking after the conditions that will make people give 120% or 80%. Not one person responsible for creating the conditions under which an organisations most powerful resource, its people, are able to shine and deliver their values.
Poor workplaces, where things don’t work, don’t get fixed and where blandness and conformity are the watchwords, send strong messages to individuals about the degree to which their organisation cares about them and their performance. ‘Why should I give my all if they can’t even give me the tools for the job?’ they will say. Often a workplace will provide employees with the truth about how their organisation feels about them, well beyond leadership rhetoric. Bad leadership is often synonymous with a bad workplace experience.
So I’m sticking to my guns. In a world where increasingly knowledge based organisations rely on the ingenuity and energy of their people, the workplace can be a massive weapon in both giving them a fault free and effective day AND inspiring them to deliver their best work and be ‘knowledge’ generous with colleagues. These are the fundamental ingredients of knowledge worker productivity.
Leaders come and go; workplaces remain a constant reminder of what the organisation cares about.
CEO of iOpener Institute
Let’s return to my assertion that physical space is the icing on the cake in the workplace. The fact is that I want to have my cake and eat the icing too. Icing adds prettiness and value to a cake, and helps differentiate it from others. However, without the cake the icing is simply empty calories. And who wants to work somewhere with no substance?
We all know organizations where the office design and set-up is amazing but the culture is toxic. Just today I was talking with a friend who was talking about her experience of working at the carefully designed, impressive head office of a prestigious global scientific organization. And then comparing that to her time spent working in a quite grotty office. She loved the second job and couldn’t wait to leave the first. Why? Because the cultural environment wasn’t a good one. So she voted with her feet and took her talent elsewhere. My friend’s experience echoes Jude’s comment who posted that she ‘prefers to work in an outdated building and have great colleagues/managers’.
Daniel posted that ‘culture is very important in the workplace and it’s hard to achieve the desired culture without a physical space that supports it’. I agree that alignment is beneficial; it helps build trust and belief in what the organization is aiming for and undoubtedly, if achieved, will help get things done. However, it comes down to this: if people aren’t getting the things from their organization that deliver Happiness at Work they won’t want to have ‘innovative discussions’: well-designed office or not. Things that deliver Happiness at Work include being able to raise issues, believing you are doing something worthwhile and perceiving the culture to be fair. To illustrate, those who find their culture most unfair report that they are disengaged for 32% of their working day. People who find their culture fairest are disengaged for 6% of the day. That’s a quite staggering difference.
I totally agree with Andrew that knowledge workers may be ‘wasting their brain power and time overcoming things that shouldn’t be in their way in the first place’. So where that’s the case, let’s improve levels of trust, increase levels of recognition and appreciation, listen carefully and behave respectfully. And we can reflect this amazing culture in our careful office design. Then we can gather round for tea and cake to celebrate!
Physical workspace is important
Other factors are important