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Here’s how to define your workplace strategy in 5 steps

Opening and managing workplaces around the globe is as exciting as it is complicated. As the people, buildings, and programs you oversee grow, so do the costs, and opportunities for inefficiencies. Meanwhile, employee expectations remain high. No matter which office they use, they want a consistent, safe, and distraction-free environment to focus. 

To keep up with growth, maximize space and budgets, and empower employees, it’s important to define your workplace strategy.

What is a workplace strategy?

A workplace strategy aligns your company’s processes and work environment to achieve the business’s goals. That may sound like a tall order if you oversee multiple, diverse workplaces. But keep in mind that there’s no one “right” strategy—your strategy will be as unique as your company values and business goals. 

Like most projects, it helps to break it down into pieces. Let’s take a closer look at the five key components to building a thoughtful and actionable workplace strategy.

1. Align to business objectives and make your own

Before you define your global workplace strategy, first consider the larger context of the business. Whether your company aims to increase revenue, reduce costs, or keep employees, your workplace strategy should help the company achieve these objectives.  

Think about the company’s current priorities, and what you expect the priorities will be in the next three to five years. For instance, is your company gearing up for rapid expansion after a new round of funding? Or are you streamlining costs in preparation for an IPO, or to become profitable? 

Use the answers to these questions to craft your objectives as a workplace organization. Your objectives should illustrate at a high-level what your team intends to accomplish in a set period. Now you’re ready to define the strategy that will empower you to achieve these objectives.

2. Get ahead of changing work preferences

A good workplace strategy is proactive and accounts for expected changes. Predicting the future is never easy, but listening to your employees and staying on top of workplace trends is an excellent place to start.

Send out a company-wide survey to understand how employees would like to make use of your workplaces moving ahead. For instance, find out the ideal number of days they’d like to work on-site, what amenities they use most, and their openness to new programs. 

As we look towards the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and reopen offices, expect employees to have notably different expectations regarding flexibility. For instance, 48% of people say their ideal is to work from the office 1-4 days per week. Think about adapting your physical space to allow for hot desking or allot more space for group collaboration. Also, consider how you can empower employees to get help and resources whether they’re working from home or at the office.

3. Understand the current state of your workplace

Taking a thorough inventory of your workplace and how things work today is just as important as looking to the future. You can assume your predecessors laid out the current team and processes deliberately and to solve a problem. Before making changes, try to understand why things exist the way they do. 

Once you have the lay of the land, assess how your workplaces measure up to key operational metrics. Here are some essential metrics to track across your workplaces if you aren’t already.

  • Workplace utilization: How many people (employees, contractors, visitors, etc.) use the office each day? What percent of your desks and conference rooms are used and how often? How much of your space is vacant or goes unused?
  • Operational costs of workplaces: What’s the cost per square foot? Cost per employee? Total workplace costs as % of revenue? 
  • Revenue of workplaces: What revenue could you generate each month from tenants, events, or other short-term leases?
  • Security and compliance: Do your workplaces comply in full with all health, privacy, and building access regulations?
  • Employee satisfaction: Are employees satisfied with the workplace environment and amenities provided? How many reports of workplace maintenance issues or tech issues do you receive? How quickly are issues resolved?
  • Energy efficiency: How much energy do your real estate assets consume? How much of this energy comes from renewable sources?

4. Make it specific and write it down

Remember, your strategy lays out how you will achieve your workplace objectives. This is the step where you explain and document the approach you will take to get from point A (today) to point B (wherever you plan to go). 

Rather than list out tactics, your strategy explains where you will focus your efforts and why. Say, for instance, that your objective is to reduce your cost per square footage. Will you focus on maximizing the space you have or instead explore leasing a new space with a lower cost per square foot? If you plan to both reduce costs and also improve employee satisfaction, which will you prioritize and why? 

Write out the answers and get as specific as you can. Articulating your plans can help you spot untested assumptions and clarify your thinking. Before you crystallize your strategy, share it with your immediate team to make sure what made it on paper is what they had in mind.

5. Make it known

Deploying any strategy well takes a team, and people can’t get to work if they don’t know what they’re doing and why. Publish your objectives and strategy in one place that’s both easy to share and easy to digest. 

Share what you propose with stakeholders and executive sponsors to get their buy-in before you start executing. Their questions and criticism will sharpen your strategy to ensure it achieves the business’s objectives. 

Last, make your strategy known to the people it will impact most: your employees. Share it at a company-wide meeting or join team meetings to socialize what the future holds for your workplaces and why. The more people who are rallying around you, the better your plan’s chances of succeeding.

Creating a strategy gives you a blueprint for where to take your workplaces. The next step is gathering the people and tools that will bring your vision to life. Explore the guide on How to define and launch a global workplace strategy for best practices and tips to get you started.