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Building an office fit for employees, not just for buyers

This piece originally appeared as an article in the IFMA Knowledge Library

Blissfully’s recent SaaS trends report revealed that a typical large company uses more than 200 tools across their workplace, with an average employee using 8+ apps every day. That deluge of products places a huge burden on facilities and IT teams to integrate tools together, navigate security concerns, and reduce redundancy. 

But it also means that employees have little mental bandwidth for adding more tools, managing more logins, and installing more apps on their phones. Implementing a new tool, however mission-critical it might be for your facilities team, may be an uphill battle. More technology doesn’t always make for a better environment or lead to more employee happiness and productivity – in many cases it does the opposite. 

The best way to break through that noise and adopt technology that employees will actually use is to focus on tools that resonate with how they work, not just tools that check your boxes as a workplace leader. Here are three questions that I’ve found helpful in identifying if a new technology is ripe for rapid adoption by employees in a modern office.

“Can I do it from my phone?”

More than ever, our phones are the command center for our lives, whether at home or at work. 87 percent of businesses depend on employees being able to use business apps from their smartphones, and employees access an average of 5.2 business apps on their phones daily. Workplace messaging tools like Slack have made it easy to connect with teams on the go, and mobile applications of Google Drive and Microsoft Office mean that you can work from wherever you are.

As our reliance on our phones has grown, so have our expectations about what we should be able to accomplish on them. Employees have grown accustomed to slick consumer apps that put the user experience first, and even if your legacy enterprise software for expenses or submitting tickets has a mobile app, chances are you’ll hear employees griping if the experience isn’t in line with what they expect. 

When bringing in new workplace tech, facilities leaders should prioritize those that offer their employees the best on-the-go experience, with strong UX design that doesn’t give them any reason to get frustrated or seek workarounds.  

“Can I see/feel the benefits?” 

The quickest way to gain the endorsement of your employees is to make the benefits immediately visible or tangible. This might mean appealing to their physical comfort: in our offices, we’ve carved out “microclimates,” which provide our employees with a variety of unique working spaces to suit different needs and working styles. 

It might also mean focusing on solving any one of a series of mundane problems they deal with on a daily basis. For example, in an open office layout, finding spots for private meetings and collaboration is a recurring pain. While the perception might be that there are never enough meeting rooms, our product research showed that more than 20 percent of scheduled meetings never use their reserved space, suggesting that rooms remain booked with outdated meetings, or that meetings are canceled but rooms are not released.

Instead of overreacting and investing significant funding toward moving to a bigger office space, facilities teams can work with employees to understand average meeting size and length, and times throughout the week that are especially meeting-heavy, and then seek out ways to open up spaces to those who are scrambling at the last minute for a room. What’s more, providing that variety of microclimate spaces offers employees more venues for collaboration that might not always need a dedicated meeting room. Employees gravitate toward solutions that give them options and save them time and effort every day.  

“Is employee experience the deciding factor?” 

One of the most exciting developments in workplaces over recent years is the rise of teams focused on the workplace experience. At Envoy, our workplace team brings together leaders from our IT, facilities, and HR divisions to determine how our tech, physical environment, and workplace policies can create better employee experiences. When you’ve heard input from every team and consider how a new tool or system will interact with the various other tools and systems that affect that team, you’ll have a much higher chance of widespread adoption and positive employee feedback.

When all those perspectives join forces, we’re able to choose solutions that make our divisions greater than the sum of their parts. Instead of eight different project management solutions across marketing, sales, engineering etc., we have one way of communicating that allows us to work cross-functionally. And when our teams use different tools, there’s a clear reason why, not just because that’s how it’s always been. 

At the end of the day, investments you make in your workplace should be all about helping employees do their best work. If the interface is frustrating, or they can’t feel the impact, or if there isn’t a critical mass using the tool, you’re very likely to end up with a less than stellar rollout that brings you back to square one.