Thinking Outside the Cubicle

Do You Need a Workplace Strategy?

blog-cube2First of all, what is it? A workplace Strategy treats the workplace—the physical environment as a strategic asset, which of course it truly is. This assessment enables organizations to align how they plan, design and manage their workplaces with the business goals and objectives of the organization. A good workplace strategy will allow organizations to get the greatest return from their investment. A bad workplace strategy—usually the result of poor or non-existent planning—will cost organizations a reduction in this asset through excess costs, reduced productivity and innovation, employee churn and much more. A good workplace strategy leads to:

  • Reduced Real Estate and Facilities Costs
  • Improved work performance
  • Increased organizational agility and flexibility
  • Improved communication & collaboration
  • Increased creativity & innovation
  • creased employee satisfaction
  • Improved employee work-life balance
  • Improved brand, image identity and culture
  • Recruitment and retention of talent
  • Reduced environmental impact
  • Improved healthy work environment

Business and workplace changes will usually drive the need for a workplace strategy. However, without a financial benefit, (for example, reduced facilities costs), research shows organizations seldom consider developing or changing their workplace strategy. Fortunately, there is almost always a financial benefit to doing so.


The current economic downturn is prompting organizations to be as efficient and effective as possible. Real estate, facilities and personnel expenses are the largest of any organization, so a successful workplace strategy seeks to both improve worker performance and organizational effectiveness, while reducing real estate and facilities costs.

Examples of real estate, facilities and personnel change drivers:

  • Reduce office costs
  • Lease/ownership review of space needs
  • Increased need for flexibility and speed
  • Increased collaboration and innovation
  • Changes in the number of employees
  • Changes in ownership of corporate building(s)
  • Mergers or outsourcing
  • Building improvements
  • Leadership, organizational or brand changes
  • Strategic location move/presence
  • Regulatory change

Change initiatives offer an opportunity to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of workplaces to better meet the new realities.

Major initiative changes that warrant a review of workplace strategy:

New technologies
New work processes
Changes in work flow
New markets
New products
Organizational restructuring
Lease expiration
Acquisitions and mergers
Property ownership

Business Workplace Trends

A recent IBM survey polled 1,500 CEOs about the state of the future of business. The study reported that today’s world of work is substantially more volatile, uncertain, and complex. Seventy-nine percent of CEOs anticipate greater complexity in the future. Sixty percent indicate the best way to defy complexity is with creativity.

Work is increasingly multi-modal. Discussions of office work mix work behaviors, including independent and collaborative work modes.

Examples of redesigned office strategies include:

  • Multipurpose space – Using space for different activities over time reduces the need for dedicated, specific function spaces.
  • On-site/flexible/drop-in spaces – Unassigned workspaces available on a first come, first-served basis.
  • “Hotelling” – Treating workspaces like a hotel where workers reserve a space for the time needed and release it to be used by others when they are finished.
  • Zones and neighborhoods – Creating activity-based spaces that are clustered together, such as quiet spaces zoned together and buffered from spaces where activities create more noise.

Once an organization has decided to review its workplace strategy, step one is to address these questions, and most importantly, seek input from others:

  • How much space do we need?
    • Do we have too much or too little?
    • Is it in the best location?
  • What types of work spaces will best support our employees?
    • Do we have the right mix (both individual and collaborative spaces)?

Map your workplace strategy:


The optimum workplace strategy will vary greatly, dependent upon the needs of an organization and the work needs of its employees. Consideration of a workplace strategy will benefit organizations, large and small. The greatest benefit of workplace strategy lies in redesigning office workplaces to better support how work currently and actually gets done.

Despite changes in economics, technology and evolving modes of productive, creative work, workplaces are important strategic assets, from which organizations should well plan for a healthy return on investment.

Study and Research: Tim Springer, PhD, President and founder of Human Environmental Research Organization, Inc.