By Samantha Fisher
From the October 2018 Issue
Overseeing numerous aspects from real estate and operations to technology management and sustainability initiatives, workplace strategy leaders and facility managers rely on a diverse set of skills to get the job done successfully. A crucial element of their value lies in the ability to not only understand the enterprise as connected ecosystems, but to analyze these connections accurately and anticipate potential challenges. This unique role requires expertise in strategy, organizational dynamics, change management, and even psychology. Now more than ever, facility management and the C-suite are increasingly aligned on how critical the workplace environment and employee experience are to company performance, as well as the ever-present challenge of recruiting and retaining top talent. Across every demographic, and in every industry, developing and maintaining dynamic work environments has a direct impact on an organization’s employees, the key to growth and success.
So how do facility managers get ahead of challenges and position their teams for success? Data.
Capital One recently conducted its second annual Work Environment Survey, polling 3,500 full-time professionals across the country about their thoughts on workplace design and environment as it relates to their productivity, innovation, and collaboration with colleagues. National data showed that full-time professionals think flexibility is a key factor for job satisfaction. In fact, 85% of office professionals surveyed believe flexible workplace design is important, and 83% said they have their best ideas when working in different locations throughout the day.
Flexibility in the context of the workplace can mean anything from providing the option of sit/stand workstations to creating spaces to accommodate all work styles and interactions, like heads-down solo work, group collaboration, and social gatherings. Flexibility applies to lifestyle choices as well. When asked which benefits professionals would most like to have at their company if it meant forgoing the rest, top four responses were: on-site healthy food/beverage options; relaxation/social areas; on-site health center/wellness programs; and quiet, reflective space (the same top four from 2017 survey results).
The bottom line? Flexibility is no longer an option—it’s a basic expectation of the talent you want to hire.
No strategy is permanent. Incorporating flexibility into workplace design can be challenging given all of the organizational facets facility managers navigate—from fiscal responsibility, to owner/tenant relationships, and the right supplier partners. And, facility managers have a responsibility to decide which workplace applications will work best for users and partners in a given timeline. To remain relevant to the workforce, strategy has to evolve with changing demands of teams, workstyles, and technology advancements.
Over the past few years, my Workplace Solutions team at Capital One has used a test-and-learn strategy to evolve our interpretation of well-being in the workplace. On a small scale, we tried several options to offer increased opportunity to reflect, meditate, pray, relax, or decompress within our workplace design strategy. With each of these trials, we learned something new from the buildout, usage, and user feedback. By putting different ideas into reality to collect real data, we were able to create our current strategy with the knowledge that it would best meet our users’ needs right now. We focused on broader well-being and provided distinct multi-use areas that are quiet, calm, peaceful, and available throughout our spaces for the various needs of our associates to help them feel more balanced and whole at work.
Feedback is invaluable data. Facility managers in many ways have to be the eyes, ears, and boots on the ground of an organization. Observation and monitoring is the first step in collecting valuable utilization data that in turn enables workplace professionals to evaluate how a space functions and, ultimately, how it will best serve associates. There are no substitutes for user feedback, be it analog or digital, and best practices like focus groups, pre- and post-occupancy studies, and surveys are all important. Combine that with IoT capabilities and other advances in smart building technology and you have a powerhouse opportunity for comparable and actionable data.
Thinking through how you frame feedback loops is almost more important than the actual data itself. In our experience, leveraging flexibility and optionality in this space often yields the best results, so consider a multitude of solutions for collecting feedback. A mix of question types (open-ended, as well as questions with response options in a yes/no, sliding scale, and/or numerical rating style) plus data from WiFi, building automation system platforms, and room management platforms will give you quantifiable data from your users that can be analyzed easily and cumulatively. Having an in-house analyst resource is imperative for facilities teams to incorporate feedback and evolve their strategy effectively.
Ultimately, facility managers must decide what combination of internal and external data they should use to inform their decisions. The science of data can be a foundation for a change, validation to stay consistent, or a reason to consider a new perspective—but it’s the art of balancing that data with the humanity of the users whom FMs know so well that leads to a strong yet flexible workplace strategy to ensure employees thrive.
Fisher is senior director, workplace solutions at Capital One. She is an accomplished real estate professional, leading Capital One’s workplace experience team and has over 15 years of experience guiding and managing programs including retail operation transitions, facility service integrations, service process re-engineering, and technology adoption at Fortune 500 companies. Fisher’s team is responsible for multiple facets of associate experience in the workplace, including associate services, sustainability, marketing and communications, and digital workplace. She is accountable for delivering an immersive and seamless experience to Capital One associates across the service and technology platforms.
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