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Hey - where's my desk gone?

The drive is on to remove permanent desk assignments, whether it's via hot desking or activity based working. But are employees convinced?

In my last blog we looked at the case for creating a flexible work strategy for employees, and the fundamental business benefits - which includes an increase in employee engagement, loyalty, and diversity.

But if you can work flexibly, there's no need for a permanent desk any more. In fact the budget assigned to the technology and business change - required to drive flexible working - might well have come from the reciprocal decrease in office space expenditure.

There's a risk that all the hard work done to increase employee engagement, through implementing flexible working, might be very quickly reversed through unrest and dissatisfaction with the resulting workplace. Especially for the time that employees do need to spend in the office. How can you avoid a monumental contradiction?

Many organisations embark on a precarious journey by focusing too narrowly upon the physical space cost savings and losing sight of the real prize.

Employees are unquestioningly shifting their priorities and expectations of an employer.

We are entering a new age where a much higher percentage of staff craves an identity, responsibility, and a traceable line between what they do, to the success of the organisation.

Let's take this changing psychology within the workforce, and put that alongside a core imperative for every organisation and that is to reduce operational costs. The conclusion should never be to undertake whole-sale changes in the working environment, which ultimately might seriously jolt anyone's sense of purpose and identity, without bringing every last person in your organisation with you. They need a reason beyond cost-cutting to get on-board basically.

There are many practicalities that are driving the need for us to reduce the financial and environmental impact of 'the commute'. Those organisations that still insist upon maintaining line of sight management of staff, and the coming together of all their employees in one place for the 9 to 5 'stint' everyday, seriously risk diluting the engagement of existing staff, and are unlikely to be attracting the 'cream of the crop' when it comes to new staff.

So how might this come together? How do you avoid savings in the physical workplace sparking a landslide in staff costs (through the cost of disengagement and staff churn)?

One answer might be to avoid isolated planning within the workplace, but rather bring that planning together with ICT and human resources - a single plan for workforce, workplace and technology.

But then what's that plan for? What should the aim or goal be? This is where your executive comes into play - for a Future Way of Working plan to be meaningful. It needs to deliver the core goals and strategy of your organisation as a whole.

There are few organisations on the planet that are not looking for innovation across their staff, brand and identity. Digital business is a must and everything needs to fit within a lower operational cost model. Significant savings can be generated by reducing office footprint - done in line with a grander plan and a cultural transformation that involves your staff. It's only then these savings will not come at a cost.

For more on Collaboration, go to Telstra Exchange.

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