Creating ‘catalyst workplaces’ has been the objective of many a consultant in the last few years. But what is it and what do we have to do to create a truly catalytical environment.
A catalyst is a scientific term that I remember learning about in my GCSE’s. It’s a term that I would never have expected to think about ever again and I definitely would have never associated it with the workplace.
What is a catalyst?
A catalyst is a substance that is added to a chemical reaction to speed up or improve the end result. In other words, it acts as an accelerator. The opposite to a catalyst would obviously be a decelerator and that would be something that has a detrimental effect on the chemical reaction.
How is this translated into the workplace and the way we design and construct our environments?
It’s not an easy task creating a working environment let alone creating one that catalyses and empowers the work your employees are doing. There are a number of essential actions and steps that we must take in order to create such an environment.
It starts with what the space is looking like currently. What is happening in the space? Where are people working? What space is most popular? What are the typical roles staff are playing? What could change? In asking these questions you can get a clear picture of how space is used for that specific company.
These questions are difficult however, how can we get the accurate and relevant data to support our findings? It’s as we find the mix of collecting real time data, presenting it in a comprehensive but legible way and then having the expertise to interpret and make data proved decisions. That’s when we can truly design and create a powerful agile working environment that is truly aligned with the people!
(photography by Vincent Hartman)
No two companies are the same!
Every company works in a different way so naturally the answers to the questions above vary. This means that every company finishes up with their own unique environment. The mistake of the past has been to just blindly follow the design idea that some other organisation implemented and there could be countless factors that would act as blatant decelerators to the way your people work. The whole aim is to create a workplace that fits your specific and collective company culture.
For example, a Sales/Consultancy based firm would probably have a lot of collaboration spaces, crash out areas, booths and small meeting rooms alongside their workstations. On the other side of the scale if you take a more design/engineering-based firm then the focus would be on the workstations with each employee at their own desk and there would be maybe a few meeting rooms and a little collaborative space. This is because of the nature of the work these people are doing. The salesman is active and only needs his laptop and smartphone to function. The engineer has is workstation and needs a powerful PC to operate.
It’s when you look at the type of organisation and how they operate that you realise the importance of personalisation. Or as we call it at Amos Beech workplace consultants: creating a fingerprint environment. If you want to find out what environment your staff need then come to us and we’ll work it all out for you.
So, how do we make a catalyst workplace?
Figured out your transformational roadmap?
The questions are answered, and you have a clear vision on how your workplace can be made to be more empowering and suited to your specific culture. You need to build on it more. Hone it down to the finest details! We have got to start aligning that workplace to the people that use it every day. As one of my contacts once told me – it’s even down to small things like what brand of tea is in the canteen cupboard. Get the tea right and you have happy employees in the morning working with a smile and sipping their fave tea!
It just highlights the point that as soon as friction develops with something in the workplace then the negativity can follow very quickly. Talking about friction in the office – you can probably guess what’s coming next…
How do we develop a seamless technology experience?
If technology doesn’t work, are you happy? Chances are the answer to that question is NO. In fact, at this point you are usually questioning the fact you even came into work that day.
The frustration is real, but it can change. It’s all about finding the perfect solutions. I am going to write briefly about some areas within workplace experience technologies like video conferencing/meeting rooms and employee apps.
Both are in high demand by most organisations. However, the market is saturated with products that only partly fulfil what the organisation requires. This leads to very ‘clunky’ user experiences which has a very negative effect on the drive towards a truly catalytical space.
My advice to you would be to look into the smaller and more innovative start-ups and companies and you will find these seamless and complete services that will actually work for you. Thanks to the experience of the founders of these start-ups, they have managed to develop solutions that bring complete answers to the problems faced by so many companies today!
At this point you may be asking what are the best VC systems and workplace apps in the market? I’ll tell you.
For the best video conferencing and meeting room solution? I wouldn’t be the first to say Starleaf are the market leaders in this! Use one tool for every single VC function and internal communication need.
For a workplace app that empowers your employees in the space? I would recommend iotspot. Providing an app-based tool that allows staff to book and reserve desks and meeting rooms, find colleagues, navigate the space, manage visitors, security access and even book room service. All on one app. I would say this is probably the most empowering tool for employees a firm could ever consider.
How do we get better employee engagement in our workplace?
This is one of the FAQ’s in the workplace consultancy world. The answer is simple. You need to empower them, don’t bring anything into your workplace if it could have a detrimental effect on the way your employees work. Bring in tools that are simple, empowering and have obvious benefits to the user and you will find that your employees will engage more with the space and the companies vision. This empowering could be through technology that works and a working environment that is task orientated and aligned with the employee’s culture.
It is probably important to mention that when designing a catalyst workplace – take into account the future when planning! What we don’t want is a decline in 2 years’ time. Make your environment as future-proof as possible.
Workplace settings that will have a positive effect in any firm.
A workplace setting is a type of working environment that is related to a specific type of task. The usual settings you hear about are collaborative areas, silence zones, team benches, workstations, pods, meeting rooms. All of these are relevant and can be found in most offices. If you find the correct balance of these then you can end up with an extremely powerful environment.
So how do you make your environment supersonic?
Bring in something which is known as Social Cohesion Zones. These areas aren’t seen as typical working areas but more like areas we have at home and in places where we socialise. A social cohesion area can have table tennis, a pool table, some biophilia and naturality or something interesting that attracts and brings people in.
What happens when people come together? The talk! They aren’t mute and don’t wonder about in silence!
A social cohesion zone isn’t seen at first-hand as something that brings in immediate work and productivity but more an area where a team can unite, come together and gain more human connection within the space.
Want to see how a social cohesion area can be created in the fabric of your office then get in touch.
Occupational and Environmental Psychology
Dima Najib an environmental psychologist at Morgan Lovell kindly contributed the below and stresses the importance of considering psychology when strategizing and designing our workplaces.
Environmental Psychology studies the transactions between people and places. As a Workplace Consultant with a design background, it is key to understand how individuals interact, connect and establish their identity within working environments. As design shifts from individually assigned work desks to technology driven collective ways of working, understanding individuals’ needs and building accordingly matters now more than ever. When designed strategically with data analysis and insights from psychology, our work environments can be a powerful tool.
On doing a little reading into creating a space that empowers people I came across an interesting study:
‘Leesmans Report – The next 250K’ states that 28% of workers reckon that their workplace has a negative effect on their productivity. A further 15% believe that the space has nothing to do with your productivity. The remaining 57% think that their workplace has a positive effect on their productivity and feel empowered when working.
These findings were collected from over 200,000 people from around 2000 individual organisations. 28% of 200,000 is a staggering 56,000 people. That’s 56,000 people who don’t think their space empowers them. Extrapolate that percentage to the whole world’s working population! What does it equate to?
The Point? If firms decided to go through a relevant and sufficient change management and transformation process, then this 28% could diminish to an insignificant number. The more catalyst workplaces we create – the smaller that percentage will get!
In writing this I don’t claim to have said anything new. I’ve only put a few thoughts in writing and plonked it here. This really only lays the foundation of a much more complex and wider process. This isn’t diminishing the point of writing this article though – Make people your priority and you will prove my point – catalyst workplaces are a powerful driver for better productivity, efficiency and happiness within your employees.
Ladies and gentlemen, agile working is now officially a thing!
And rightly so! This new trend, which basically started as a ‘buzzword’ in the corporate circles, now has a life of its own.
Little did everyone know that companies and top executives would have no choice but to pay attention to this new way of working as the idea silently grew and caught on.
But before we dig in further into why agile working has become such an important concept in today’s working environment, let’s recap a little bit on how this new phenomenon came to be.
Agile Working Is Good For Your Business
If you think about it, agile working is really not an entirely new concept.
The ideas existed way before it finally became the sought-after concept it is today. The only difference between then and now is that back then the concept was largely fragmented. These ‘fragments’ eventually gravitated towards each other and later merged to form what is now known as agile working.
It all started when companies allowed a section of employees to clock in say an hour after the official check in time but then they would have to clock out an hour later.
This was, and is still is, referred to as ‘flexitime’ – a practice that was initially mooted to accommodate working moms.
Other ideas and concepts were later incorporated into the working culture, like giving employees an opportunity to work from home from time to time.
Then came the workspace co-sharing, which worked extremely well for start-ups (which are basically early-adopters of agile working).
Soon after, cloud computing moved past being a hype and became the new reality.
Fast-forward to today – all these changes, concepts and ideas are part of what we call ‘agile working’.
Stiff resistance from anti-change proponents and conservative managers notwithstanding, agile working has now metamorphosed from just another corporate lingo into a must-have.
But even as this interesting concept continues to disrupt the work environment, many are still in the dark as to why it is important, why are some companies excited about it, and how do they become part of this new culture of working?
In the process of trying to fit in, some are getting into it for all the wrong reasons.
Some even claim they apply it in their day-to-day operations but in reality, it only exists on paper (read website) or in their conversations.
So, to put this agile working concept into perspective, this article takes a look at some of these critical questions.
Why is Agile Working Important?
First of all, let’s agree that in a fast-paced world, change is inevitable. Workplace practices and consumer demands are constantly evolving and therefore businesses need to stay a step ahead — always.
These changes call for a relook at how employees can be empowered to adapt to these changes and still manage to deliver what is expected of them.
This is where flexible working comes in.
Most organisations have now realised that agility in the workplace has a direct effect on their competitiveness in their respective industries.
Speed, ladies and gentlemen, has, for the very first time, overtaken perfection. Disagree? Read on and you may change your views.
Agile working is important because it energises your employees.
There’s something about being able to work wherever and whenever that motivates and inspires employees. It significantly boosts their productivity and enhances creativity – two extremely important factors for success.
Agile working has now broken workplace barriers that confined them to a traditional and static environment.
It energises your customers as well.
When a company is always creating new and exciting opportunities for customers, it keeps them excited, alert, and curious. Customers will, therefore, be “tuned” in to see what you will come up with next. This keeps them engaged – discussing your products and services. This is how the best kind of brand awareness is born.
How does this relate to speed overtaking perfection, you ask?
Well, without agile working, your company would always be stuck in perfection-mode while your competitor is making real sales. The way I see it, you can never achieve 100 percent perfection unless you release your product when it’s already obsolete.
That’s why features are constantly being improved on after products hit the market. Otherwise, you would always be playing catch up as you try to tweak your product only to find out when you launch that consumer demands have changed.
What Are Some of the Benefits of Agile Working?
Number one – key decisions are made quickly. Agile workers can quickly get together, discuss the issues at hand and make quick decisions. They don’t take ages to schedule a meeting anymore. Nor do they spend hours in said meeting without reaching a decision. When they need to meet, they do it – almost informally.
Agile working also attracts the Millennial generation. This group, unlike the Baby-Boomers and Generation X, particularly thrive in a fast-paced environment. They like being autonomous, prefer fast response times, and flexibility.
Millennials also like “cool” places to work. But you probably already know that by now.
So the question is, is your workplace “cool” enough to attract Millennials and, most importantly, retain them? The freedom that comes with agile working can also boost employee loyalty.
And speaking of a cool place to work…
How Do You Create an Agile Office?
The answer to this question has everything to do with your office interior design and layout.
You are less likely to rip the full benefits of agile working if you don’t create the right working environment for your employees.
Agile working calls for a professionally designed space that ultimately gives employees the freedom and flexibility to operate. Such spaces should also allow employees to work in different areas of an office, or remotely via hot-desking.
With properly designed office layouts, teams are now encouraged to work in a more open and collaborative space. Technological advancements have also paved way for the development of agile working apps and solutions that help companies manage flexible workspace environments.
But agile working is not a one-size-fits-all. You need to get an expert workplace consultant to advise and recommend the best and most effective combination for your company and employees.
Most companies that have made the all-important switch to agile working are now literally laughing all the way to the bank. Why? Well, because their bottom line has significantly improved.