Your office is upgraded--but will employees feel at ease there?

Sure, everyone's usually excited for a cool new office remake. But hip furniture and efficient layout aside, a workplace reboot may be alienating. What can companies do to help the transition?
Written by Reena Jana, Contributor

The latest edition of 360 magazine, a glossy publication from office furniture maker Steelcase, focuses on a cultural study conducted across 11 nations by the Steelcase WorkSpace Futures team to better understand how people interact and use their office environments. The research is full of very detailed insights and is absolutely worth a deep read for learning about work dynamics, the quality of life, and job satisfaction in areas of the world ranging from China to Morocco to India to the United States, among others.

In addition, an article titled "Unlocking the Code: The Cultural Challenges Multinational Companies are Facing, and What They are Doing to Address Them," offers practical advice for improving office design. And, more important, how to help employees adapt well to a new environment.

In the piece, John Hughes, a principal with Steelcase's international work and workplace consultancy, Applied Research & Consulting, cites four key elements for a successful office remake:

  • a leadership team that is actively engaged in the design process
  • employees that are significantly involved in the design transformation
  • designs that are based on actual user behavior and which may change over time to better accommodate that behavior
  • a well-designed and implemented change-management program

The article goes beyond these big-picture concepts and offers concrete actions for the change-management aspect of the process, using a real example (experienced when Vodafone's Amsterdam offices were redesigned.) The elements of such a program can include:

  • an intranet site with digital "tours" of the new office design
  • models of the new workspaces where employees can sample the new furniture and related technology (which could be videoconferencing or other elements)
  • management coaching on how to guide employees through the transition
  • staff meetings that include discussions about the new office features
  • a launch party in the new office before employees settle in, to feel at home ahead of time
  • relocation services for anyone joining the new office from other locations
  • a printed orientation booklet, including external points of interest if the office is in a new neighborhood

The article if full of many more observations and real-life corporate examples. Similar to the small taste of Steelcase's research that I'm offering above, the content in the new issue of 360 can provide practical guidelines for managers around the globe who are excited about an office upgrade--and who must face the challenge of helping staff not only adjust, but also thrive, in their new and improved digs.

Image: Steelcase

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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