Alternative workplace strategies can be defined as “the combination of non-traditional work practices, settings, and locations that supplement or replace traditional offices.” To get a fresh look at these practices, a new 10-year study, “The Once Alternative Workplace Strategies,” was conducted by Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA), Global Workplace Analytics, and Haworth Inc. Based on surveys of 130 organizations representing over 2.3 million employees globally, the research pinpoints five leading trends within today’s workplaces, and compares the findings to the initial research from over a decade ago. (Some may argue that these styles are no longer “alternative” and are becoming increasingly common; the study honored the original phrasing to ensure continuity.)
“There is tremendous value in longitudinal studies, as they truly capture long-term trends.” remarked Dr. Gabor Nagy, research program manager at Haworth. “We started this study back in 2008, in the middle of the recession when cost savings were perceived as the top benefit of these programs. Now, work/life balance has become the number one benefit. Only time will tell whether we will see a reversal of this trend when the next recession comes.”
The 2018 report revealed five major workplace trends:
- Only 7% of the respondents believe that implementing alternative workplace programs can negatively impact productivity. Managers often worry that alternative workplace programs will lower employee productivity. In most cases, the opposite is true.
- People impacts are now the primary measure of success. The potential for cost savings might kick-start the program, but along the way leaders begin to see how making work better for people can deliver far more than they thought.
- Internal mobility has more than doubled. With the rising use of technology and ‘smart working’, an increasing number of employees are roaming offices freely, making the most of flexible environments and resources. Internal mobility has more than doubled in the past 10 years, while external mobility has remained the same.
- Assigned seats die hard. The percentage of full-time office-based employees who are permanently assigned to one particular space (48 per cent) has remained virtually unchanged since 2008.
- Employee involvement is decreasing. As alternative workplace programs increase in size and maturity, the report shows employee involvement in the planning, implementation and evaluation has significantly decreased. This runs contrary to what the researchers have found works best – the more people involved in the process, the more likely they are to accept and own it.
“Unfortunately, the results of this global study demonstrate that a high percentage of companies still see this as a real estate initiative and not the opportunity to reinvent their businesses in deeper and more transformational ways,” commented Chris Hood, research lead and one of the directors at Advanced Workplace Associates. “Workplace innovation is a litmus test for management quality and leadership. This isn’t about real estate, it’s actually about people and business outcomes.”
“It’s great to see the trend toward more human-centric measures of success,” said Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics. “I believe this is an indication that organizations are taking a less-siloed and more holistic approach to workplace change. They are realizing that workplaces and work practices that work for people are good for the bottom line.”