Two professionals meeting in conference room

Employees today do their best work when they’re surrounded by an office built for and able to accommodate their dynamic needs. Still, a Gensler study reveals that 48 million workers don’t have access to that kind of adaptable work environment, even though employees who do work in empowering workspaces improved their mental abilities and productivity by at least 25 percent.

Statistics like this point to a tangible opportunity for businesses, especially when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. Research shows that in lieu of big salaries, Millennials want to self-actualize through their jobs by working at companies with conscience, those that are not only culturally and environmentally aware, but also devoted to employees’ physical health and mental well-being. These young people especially value collaboration and flexibility, bringing to the table a collective-versus-individual mindset that shifts away from the mentalities of Generation X or the Baby Boomers.

Moreover, they recognize that no single employee works the same way. In fact, you can have two people with the same title doing the same job, and each will approach it differently. Therein lies the problem you must solve: how to eliminate process friction points by thoughtfully and systematically implementing an Active Workspace™ with flexible options.

How to Cultivate Flexibility in the Active Workspace

Giving your employees a productivity-focused workspace that facilitates activity and adaptability — and thus gives you that essential competitive edge — isn’t as difficult as it may seem. The key to this pillar is putting the right tools in the right hands for the right purpose, because the office’s design should promote productivity and creativity, not hinder it.

1. Foster employee buy-in by foregrounding evolution. Even your employees most wary of change will be less hesitant if they understand that change is, by its nature, dynamic. This is particularly important in an Active Workspace, where flexibility is both an aspect of your workspace’s functionality and its culture. Moreover, if you take the time to explain how a particular change benefits your people and to reinforce that no change can’t be undone, you can create a flexible environment that works with your employees instead of just for them.

Before you start rearranging furniture or dismantling your current workspace, figure out what your workers need and want in order to make their jobs more productive and healthy. While you shouldn’t promise to institute all concepts (you don’t want to overcommit), you should guarantee that everyone’s contributions will be heard and considered, because the Active Workspace is an evolving structure.

2. Map out a flexible workspace plan. After understanding your business’s particular workspace needs, determine which ideas you’ll implement in the short- and long-term. Keep in mind that functional changes can be more quickly implemented than cultural ones.

For instance, you can start by introducing dynamic furnishings that prioritize flexibility and allow your workers to adapt the workspace to their workflows — such as sit-stand workstations, moveable walls and lighting, or a multipurpose conference room that can be created or disassembled in less than an hour to configure and respond to employee requirements. Once you have these functional objects in place, you can then introduce more large-scale cultural changes like offering volunteer time off or remote work as benefits. As the adage goes, you should eat an elephant one bite at a time, so take small steps toward big progress.

3. Keep testing to avoid analysis paralysis. Chances are good that when you pursued your company’s last big project you had an outcome in mind that wasn’t successfully realized by the route you thought it would be. In order to create an Active Workspace that’s flexible, you have to take this same iterative approach. What the definition of flexibility is for your workers today may change tomorrow as job roles change and as the workforce changes.

One pottery teacher’s experiment proves this point beautifully: He told half the class to give him a perfect pot by the end of the semester; the other half had the same directive but was also required to create a pot a day. Come the end of the semester, the latter group had produced better pots, simply because they were constantly improving on the previous day’s model.

You’re closer than you think to having an Active Workspace that supports employee health, improves cognitive abilities, streamlines processes, and, perhaps most importantly to your stakeholders, bolsters creativity and innovation through flexibility. Keep an eye out for our next two posts on creating simplicity and a collaborative/balanced culture in the Active Workspace as we round out our series.