When they seek ways to improve productivity, companies often miss one very helpful tactic: Looking around. Literally. Take a moment to think about your current office space. It’s likely that the way you work has changed significantly since it was designed years, if not decades, ago.
The rise of collaboration technologies, mobile devices and mobile workers has made it easier for businesses to significantly reduce real estate square footage per employee. These factors, combined with rent and real estate costs rebounding since 2009, make rethinking your office space and design an option to not only realize hard-dollar savings, but also to encourage collaboration and diverse workstyles, which can boost employee engagement – and productivity.
In today’s environment, companies are finding that existing workplace designs need to adapt to allow for the collaboration and flexibility that modern surroundings demand.
While moving to a smaller office with fewer desks is a good start for saving on cost, the real value is in incorporating technological improvements that enable employees to seamlessly collaborate in and outside the office and ultimately bring hard-dollar savings.
When we at Ricoh Americas Corporation, a technology company, increased our focus on services that make our customers more efficient and improve the way they make information work, we knew we had to assess our own operations, too. As we evaluated ourselves through that lens, many opportunities for improvement – in productivity, employee morale, and cost-savings – came into focus. This transformation is what we call the “new world of work.”
It starts with minimizing real estate costs, but improves with infrastructure.
To be sure, reducing our office size by an average of 30% helped us realize some immediate savings in real estate costs. But we knew that our goal was to increase productivity by immediately re-investing some of those savings into new technology and eco-friendly solutions, as well as upgrading the furniture to allow for open floor plans that could help unleash the full potential of our adaptive, mobile workforce.
First, we needed our office space itself to have the kind of flexibility that enables employees to cycle in and out of the office as needed. That meant getting rid of assigned seats – and, by extension, getting rid of cubicles and offices. This new design enabled employees to use shared work space. They can come into the office, sit right down in an open work area and start working and, the next day, take that same work on the road while someone else uses that work space, without either of them missing a beat. To foster a culture of collaboration, we developed a variety of conference rooms in different sizes and for different uses to help people work better, together.
Another important aspect was working to help ensure collaboration tools were made available. Whether in an office or on the road, workers need access to important data anywhere, anytime, from any device. A Cloud file-sharing solution or a Cloud-hosted virtual desktop allows users to do just that. It’s also important to think how remote workers can better collaborate during meetings. While for some meetings a simple phone call can be appropriate, when visuals, such as charts, get involved, you can’t leave your workers who are scattered across different locations with only half (or less) of the information being shared. Leveraging a unified communication system using devices such as interactive whiteboards, teams across the country and globe can share and edit various formats of information in real time, as well as return the full range of interpersonal communication – including facial expressions, gestures, and the like – to the conference room.
While our journey to drive efficiencies through workplace improvements is just beginning, the changes made thus far have given our employees the tools to work in the ways that suit them best and created an office environment that supports them. With more meetings now being held using interactive whiteboards or via video conferencing, we anticipate seeing hard-dollar savings as well as reduced travel time.
We’re continuing to roll out the new world of work to our 325-plus offices and centers across the U.S. that support Ricoh operations. Now, when we look at our offices, we see productivity gains, innovative workstyles, and lower costs. When you look at your own offices, what do you see?
Gary Crowe is chief financial officer of Ricoh Americas Corporation.