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Alternative workplace strategy for maximum efficiency, lower costs

The latest trend in layout planning for a new office is to consider an alternative workplace strategy. That refers to an alignment of work spaces with work patterns, behaviour and environment to fit the company's objectives of reducing operating costs, maximising efficiency and engaging employees.

"Even though workplace strategy has traditionally been led by companies in the West, now leading Chinese and Japanese companies are already looking at introducing workplace strategies' processes and practices," Peter Andrew, director of Workplace Strategies Asia, said last week.

Workplace strategy has become more diverse and has increasingly been implemented by multinational companies following the global economic crisis in 2008. The rapid advances in mobile and information technologies have accelerated this trend.

Similar to the trends of other products today such as vehicles that have become more diverse, buildings and space planning have also evolved.

In markets where office rents are significant operating expenses, space efficiency becomes one of the key drivers of a workplace strategy.

It is also a trend for young generation global employees to adopt the new workplace environment, as they are very hi-tech and eager to adopt new ideas. A well-established workplace strategy will enable them to work and collaborate with other functions more effectively.

In Thailand, some multinational companies have adopted an alternative workplace strategy through their parent company. We wonder if Thailand is ready for this new trend.

If you look at traditional office space today, everyone has been assigned a desk. Senior managers have been assigned private offices. More than 70 per cent of the documents and items on a desk are not being used for daily work, such as old files, unused stationery and paper, vases, calendars and souvenirs.

There are also a lot of personal belongings in assigned work stations. It is obvious that not every desk is 100 per cent occupied each day, especially in sales and marketing functions.

Employees are now working with a high degree of mobility, which leads to less utilisation of physical office space. Some functions need access to private and quiet places where staff can concentrate.

An alternative workplace strategy usually divides a space based on activities among interruptible and uninterruptible work and work that requires collaboration. Assigned private offices are limited. An open plan layout with natural light is preferred.

The space needs a great diversity depending on work practices, functions and behaviour. Some traditional settings are retained, including conventional meeting rooms and workstations.

However, with an alternative workplace, new types of work areas such as hot desks, shared and hybrid spaces, focused spaces, team-based work settings, a cafeteria-style meeting space, quiet focused rooms and phone rooms need to be considered.

The concept of alternative workplace strategy answers corporate needs in terms of cost-saving and efficiency. The challenges lie at every level of employees' reaction to changes in their traditional workplace and the investment not only in fitting it out but also in IT and technology.

According to a case study in which an alternative workplace strategy was adopted, headcount capacity increased by 30 per cent, 72 per cent of staff said their ability to focus improved and 92 per cent said their ability to work as small teams also improved.

Any strategy needs to be carefully considered and implemented. Experience shows that there is a shortage of experienced and industry experts and suppliers who can formulate tailored space and technological solutions for each company based on the nature of its business, work patterns and culture.

With a lack of understanding, especially from leaders, and the process of developing a new workplace, it could become a "fad" and distract employees from the real benefits of the original concept.

However, the successful implementation of a workplace strategy results in higher productivity, increased employee motivation and better business performance.


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