By John T. Anderson, president and CEO, PeopleCube
The rise of the mobile worker has led to a strong movement toward alternative workspace strategies. According to a recent international survey conducted by CoreNet Global and Microsoft, 76 percent of respondents indicated that they employ some form of a “flexible work” program. These programs help to attract and retain top talent, support work-life balance, enhance collaboration, increase productivity, reduce costs, and even extend the agility of the office space.
While corporate real estate, IT, and finance are involved, typically human resources (HR) ultimately is held accountable for the rollout and ongoing management of flexible work programs. Therefore, it is vital for HR to understand how to initiate and manage a mobile workforce, both to maintain productivity and also to ensure that all employees continue to feel needed and appreciated throughout the potentially challenging implementation and transition period.
There are 10 basic, yet crucial, concepts HR professionals should grasp as they develop and employ a mobile workforce:
1. Strengthen the business case for the alternative workspace environment.
To ensure internal buy-in for the flex work initiative and to help those involved become more engaged in the process, HR should demonstrate to key decision-makers the hard cost savings to be obtained by implementing a flex work strategy, such as projected real-estate savings and demonstrable ways the company can operate with fewer resources. HR also should communicate potential productivity gains, such as increased teamwork and collaboration, improved morale and work-life balance, and the attraction and retention of top talent.
2. Address the cultural change of the mobile worker.
Concerns may arise during the implementation of a flex work program, such as mobile workers feeling they are no longer appreciated because they are not allocated personal workspace. HR should immediately address any such concerns by building upon existing HR policies, alleviating fears from the top down, and coaching individual contributors and the managers to whom they report.
3. Ensure success through advance planning.
To guarantee success, HR should develop a plan that include tactics and logistics, staying focused on the ultimate objectives, while still allowing room for adjustments and improvements along the way. Having a plan conveys to others that the decision to transition to a mobile workforce has been well thought out and demonstrates the program’s feasibility.
4. Impact on facility management, CREs, and IT.
To ensure organizational alignment when implementing a new mobile workspace system, HR should work closely with facility management and corporate real estate. These groups should participate in the redesign of the office space, and it should be made clear to all how assigned and unassigned workspace decisions will be made. IT also should be involved, so it can determine how the program will affect the current infrastructure and to be in a position to surmount any potential technological challenges that may arise.
5. Conform to corporate infrastructure.
It is vital that any new flex work program conform to the existing corporate infrastructure. It is wise to run a pilot program so HR has a chance to work out the kinks and ensure itself a seat at the decision-making table. The pilot program is used to identify target employees, create an inviting workspace, and determine the tools needed to accommodate the transition. Pilot programs prepare the company for the impending larger-scale implementation and demonstrate whether it is able to accommodate the change at the projected time.
6. Maximize efficiency while maintaining productivity on site.
During the transition to a mobile workplace, mobile workers may feel disconnected, and office workers may feel left behind. Collaboration is critical, so HR should be sure all workers can connect with peers and participate in projects and meetings. New tools may be required to provide a collaborative work environment, such as scheduling software that helps mobile workers find the workspace they need to maximize productivity while in the office.
7. Consolidate workspace.
The goal of a consolidated workspace is to increase headcount without increasing office space. One way to reach this goal is to have less “I” space and more “we” space. Open areas where workers feel comfortable create a welcoming environment and help employees feel more confident about the newly implemented mobile workforce.
8. Manage and measure performance.
Without measurement there can be no management, so HR should use the pilot program to track variance and behavior by comparing baseline planned data with actual data, then analyzing the results. HR also should solicit feedback to determine what worked, what didn’t, and what needs to be improved. Such information makes it possible to maximize the efficiency of a new flex work plan without compromising productivity.
9. Track actual vs. planned utilization of space
To understand precisely where changes need to be made, HR must track actual versus planned utilization of space using nonobtrusive occupancy detection, kiosk, or security badge log systems. This helps to distinguish not only what space is being underutilized, but the reasons for it, thereby allowing HR to identify problems and resolve them quickly.
10. Track ROI.
It is critical to track a new program’s return on investment. The implementation of a mobile workforce, the adjustments, and the tracking of changes are all meaningless without carrying through to the final step of calculating ROI. Understanding the tangible and intangible impacts on the company makes the entire transition worthwhile, reflects positively on those involved in the process, and shows that all the time and effort put into the transition has been wisely invested.
The transition to a mobile workforce is likely not a matter of “if” but “when,” and it demands a great deal of planning, discussion, and encouragement. Following these tips should help to ensure a successful implementation, and help HR to develop better ways to manage a mobile workforce and increase overall productivity throughout the company.
John T. Anderson has more than 25 years’ experience managing the successful startup and turnaround of companies, and he has led PeopleCube through 10 years of sustained growth. PeopleCube provides intelligent on-demand workplace management solutions that help 7,500 customers in small, medium, and large enterprises around the world cut real estate, meeting services, travel, and energy costs based on actual workspace usage.