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‘If we understand the way teams work and the environment they wish to work in, we might unlock latent potential’

The opportunities and challenges presented through technology, the rise of co-working space and employees demanding more flexible working arrangements fill up conference agendas, industry magazines and the odd national newspaper supplement.

While this is important and worthwhile, for most organisations this can seem unreachable or, dare I say, unimportant as they continue to see the workplace merely as an overhead – something to manage at the lowest cost possible.

The impact and link between workplace design and productivity has been talked about among professionals in the built environment for some time now, but how many organisations truly understand the impact the workplace has on their staff and their performance?

We only need to look at data within the Leesman Index, an independent benchmark of workplace effectiveness, to see how well workplaces are currently supporting employees. The results, which featured in the Stoddart Review Workplace Advantage report, published last December, shows that nearly one in two workers do not agree that their work environment enables them to work productively. Which challenges organisations to consider how much more productive their people could be if their workplace was enabling performance, not hindering it.

So what needs to change? Well, almost every professional tribe is clambering to make their voice heard in the boardroom, but this problem is not just about being at the table, it’s about the board questioning their current understanding of the impact their workplace is having on business performance.

The subject needs to be on the board’s agenda, that’s the first step. Many organisations will be fully focused on securing the best possible talent as well as retaining what they already have, but if that isn’t aligned to a coherent workplace strategy they risk not maximising that return; seems like a bit of an own goal, with the largest financial cost to the business operating at half power.

And it is important to remember that the term “workplace” is more than just the physical office, it’s about that holistic working experience. For many, however, it seems the workplace is still seen as the desks, chairs, decor or at best the physical representation of the corporate identity.

But it’s so much more than that and this again is linked to the professional tribes; only through facilities management, human resources and IT forming stronger alliances, and uniting to create a platform for supporting work, can we see the pieces of the puzzle coming together and enabling employees to excel.

Yet, the conclusions from the Stoddart Review and data within Leesman Index, speak for themselves, with nearly half of employees not delivering to their potential after they walk through the door as a result of their working environment. If we spend a little more time understanding the way our teams work and the environment they wish to work in, we might just unlock some of the latent potential hidden within the talent already on the payroll.

So it’s critical that organisations have a clear view on what role their workplace plays in their overall strategy. What are they looking to achieve? What talent do they need to do that? What workplace experience are they trying to create and how do they connect the different parts of the business to deliver it?

If you understand how the workplace supports employees and the way they work, link it to the overarching corporate strategy and align this across multiple areas of the business you stand to unlock the latent potential within your workforce. And with these building blocks in place you have a solid platform that will allow your organisation to adapt as you go forward, whatever the future of the workplace might bring.