Consulting » Maximising workplace investment

WITH OVER TWO YEARS of economic austerity behind us and a period of rebuilding yet to come, finance directors are looking at every aspect of the company in order to maintain fiscal stability and promote business growth.

Allocating funds towards workplace improvements may not be the obvious choice for prudent FDs looking to streamline and cut back. However, investing in an environment that better suits the needs of the business is good news for both company finances and business development. There are numerous ways in which the workplace can become a profitable asset.

Agile space
It is all about sweating the asset. Companies change as do infrastructures and many organisations are surprised at how their business can become more agile, following a workplace assessment that analyses how space is used.
No longer do many businesses require the same number of meeting rooms and such spaces can be clawed back due to new ways of working and technology.

Employees, clients and businesses are looking more and more for collaborative ways of working, by delivering spaces that do this in the workplace, real bottom line growth is delivered. Properly designed workspaces should be multi use with spaces for both individual and group working with areas for formal and informal meetings.

Small ‘pods’ are being installed at locations around the workplace. These one or two person spaces provide seating, Wifi and Skype linkups and are perfect for ad hoc meetings and individuals wanting to work in a private space.

Staff retention / morale
Ensuring your organisation is a great workplace for staff boosts morale and gives a competitive edge. Happy people are more energetic, focused and work more collaboratively. Real bottom line growth is delivered in an environment that is conducive to teamwork and positive interactions.

At a time when overheads are strictly controlled and pay rises sparse, staff retention through an engaging workplace design has become more important. Staff can be recruited at a lower cost base because they are in an environment they wish to work in. The charity Save the Children International has been highly successful in recruiting and retaining the best people since its move to new offices that have that wow factor, albeit done on a tight budget.

People have lunch at their desk due to time constraints but also because of lack of space or designated eating areas. This results in workers not taking any breaks with a rise in stress levels, feelings of discomfort and ultimately reduced output. Break-out areas ensure people have a change of scene and refresh the mind as well as the body. To have more breakout space, roof terraces can be converted into urban gardens with outdoor seating.

These areas provide employees with the chance to meet, eat, wind down and enjoy a break in the fresh air, just inches away from their office desks and they return refreshed and ready for work.

The daily commute can be stressful and a particularly bad journey to the office can impact on mood and cause lateness. Try offering employees the freedom to travel to work by bike by providing shower and changing facilities, if you have space, along with secure cycle parking.

An effective lighting scheme that makes the most of natural sunlight is desirable and can have a huge effect on people’s moods and wellbeing. When offices are lit too harshly, it can irritate, cause headaches and lead to a lack in creativity or concentration. Open plan areas fitted with adaptive systems that mimic daylight can be useful for buildings where natural light is not in abundance.

Cost savings
Cost lowering design strategies can be anything from implementing more efficient IT solutions, designing multi-use areas and to ensuring reduced wastage within carpeting and soft furnishings.

• Using one design and build company for the entire project rather than separate organisations will cut down on costs, usually this is by around 15% overall. Also parallel working means that time spent working on a project can be cut by up to 40%.
• Ensuring that building mechanical systems (or comfort heating and cooling systems) are maintained and designed to suit the workplace give real bottom line benefits, reduce absenteeism and increase productivity. More than 50% of employees are not happy with their working environment temperature.
• Energy saving solutions such as LED lighting, smart climate control and ventilation will help to reduce bills by as much as 20% in the long term while simultaneously boosting your organisations green credentials.
• Careful specification of mechanical and electrical elements will help expenditure qualify for a tax break under the Enhanced Capital Allowances scheme (ECAs).

Gaining the Edge
It is important to consider the needs of existing clients and the impression given to new business.

Visitors should immediately have a good comprehension of company focus and philosophy and see at a glance that this is happy and dynamic company. The entire ethos of the organisation should be seen at a glance. Smart, well designed offices will certainly give an edge over the competition.

Jitesh Patel is chief executive office of Peldon Rose Workplace Consultants

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