01 July 2016

Lendlease HR Director Lisa White explains why boardrooms and corporate decision makers must recognise the importance of workplace design as a catalyst for improving wellbeing and optimizing performance of their employees. ‘Employees now the boss in productivity conundrum’, published in The HR Director, highlights that workspaces should no longer be homogenous spaces, and demonstrates how International Quarter London is incorporating innovative design into the four million square foot of new office space being built in Stratford.

The productivity crisis continues to lead the economic agenda and sits forefront in the minds of chief executives. Downgraded growth forecasts have brought vague commitments of government initiatives to help boost output, while business leaders are continually looking for new ways to increase performance.

‘Cracking the whip’ is not the answer. Productivity is not a ‘nose to the grindstone’ issue. The amount of policy-making manpower invested in increasing output and the complexity of the productivity puzzle suggests that there is no quick-fix. This is true, but there is a logical long-term solution. The majority of millennials – the future of the workforce – are at their happiest with technology in their pockets and their laptop or tablet in their bag, consuming vast amounts of information on the move. Operating in changeable environments has become one the defining features of this generation’s identity. The challenge for employers is to adapt to individuals who are most comfortable working on the go and used to a rapidly changing environment. Nowadays, employers looking to boost company productivity have to cater to these changing employee requirements.

A blanket overhaul of the way business leaders view their workforce is needed. Productivity is often viewed as a simple equation which determines output per employee – but this is not the right starting point. Instead, business leaders must think about what employee engagement actually means and consider how their employees actually want to work.
The office does not have to be one big homogenized space. The very nature of good work is the product of different processes and functions, delivered by employees with completely different personalities and working styles.

Across the globe, we have been working with businesses and organisations to help them ensure their employees have a more rounded and tailored working experience. This means access to different environments – outdoor working areas, walking meetings, interactive creative environments and healthy buildings. The mobile world is such a dynamic place because it gives each of us options, and so the workplace should give its employees options too. But the UK has fallen behind in in embracing these concepts. As one the world’s foremost business centres, London is the natural place to begin this overhaul. But it’s no easy task.

New business districts like International Quarter London have a considerable advantage over established commercial areas. Starting from scratch allows an entirely new workplace destination to be built from the ground up. In practice this means businesses can apply a focus on employee health, wellbeing, engagement and state of the art connectivity from the outset. A far more efficient and cost-effective way than trying to completely retrofit and redesign outdated buildings. For example at International Quarter London, Lendlease is working alongside businesses to help shape their new workplaces. Giving their staff and teams the ability to work where and how they want, personalising the working environment across four million square feet of office space.

Never assume

Office space as a catalyst for performance has only recently been fully recognised. But the correlation between employee wellbeing and the health of the balance sheet is so powerful that it cannot be ignored. The idea that the workplace should be a controlled and regimented space is, in most cases, misplaced and out of date. The office has moved on, because the behaviour and needs of employees has changed beyond recognition in the space of a decade. As a result, we’re increasingly seeing organisations all over the globe seeking workplace design expertise to help them redefine their workplace to tackle this conundrum, and we expect this to only grow in UK in the years ahead. Once upon a time, employees were molded by their career path - now the shoe is on the other foot, and employers must mold their workplaces to the needs of their employees.