What is the state of today’s workplace, how has it evolved over the past five years and what are the trends for the future? A new research report explores these topics and reveals how organizations are using new workplace strategies to improve the productivity and success of employees.
The International Facility Management Association (IFMA) has released Distributed Work Revisited: Research Report #37, which is a follow-up to its 2009 Distributed Work report. Workplace strategy and design experts HOK helped IFMA develop and analyze the survey, collect the case studies and write the report.
IFMA members from 538 different organizations worldwide—83 percent were from the U.S. and Canada—completed an online questionnaire about their on- and off-site workplace accommodations, operational needs, technologies, specific facilities, change management processes and measurements for success. The area occupied by participating organizations ranges from 50,000 to more than 1 million square feet. Distributed Work Revisited summarizes the complete survey results and provides a detailed analysis of the findings.
“Distributed work is an all-inclusive phrase for work that takes place across different teams and locations within an organization,” said Isilay Civan, a research and strategic innovation specialist with HOK’s consulting group. “This report will help corporate real estate and facility management professionals create, roll out, measure and improve distributed work within their organizations.”
The report features detailed case studies describing innovative distributed work programs across different stages of maturity in eight organizations: Microsoft, GSK, eBay, Credit Suisse, the U.S. General Services Administration, Accenture, Rockwell Collins and the City of Calgary. Results of the study reveal some surprising details about today’s workplace. Highlights include:
- Distributed work is still a relatively new concept. Sixty-one percent of facility professionals responding to this survey reported using unassigned workspaces in their facilities. Only 18 percent of survey participants have had a distributed work program in place for more than 10 years and 37 percent for more than five years.
- One hundred percent of survey respondents who reported implementing unassigned on-site distributed work options cited work-life balance as being a “very important” reason for doing so. Other factors listed as “very important” were to accommodate changes in the organization’s size (64%), leverage new technology (62%), increased productivity (60%), align with organizational goals (59%), cost savings (57%), improved flexibility (56%) and benefits for employees (55%). While important, cost reductions are not the primary driver of distributed work.
- Employee benefits are the major drivers for off-premise solutions, enabling organizations to improve flexibility and support work-life balance. Of the organizations surveyed, however, less than two percent of the total number of employees sit off site.
- Respondents reported that distributed work strategies appeal most to Generation X (aged 35-48) employees, possibly because they work more independently than other groups and are more likely to have family commitments that require flexibility in how and where they work.
- The most popular on-site distributed work settings among respondents are spaces that promote collaboration and innovation, including war/project rooms (72 percent), huddle rooms (70 percent) and open lounge/soft seating areas (67 percent).
- More organizations are providing incentives to employees adopting distributed work. Thirty-three percent of respondents reported that when they adopted a distributed work policy, they provided an incentive—typically technology such as a laptop or mobile device—to employees. This is up from 18 percent in 2009.
- More organizations are measuring the results of their distributed work programs. Almost one-third of the organizations engage their workforces in testing and carrying out distributed work settings. This is up from 19 percent in 2009.
- Despite the expressed importance of employee engagement and satisfaction in achieving successful distributed work programs stated in the interviews, only 45 percent of the respondents mentioned use of change management processes.
“Workplace needs are different at every organization and this report provides a valuable snapshot of what IFMA’s member organizations are doing,” said Tom Polucci, director of interiors for HOK in New York. “To provide effective workplaces that enable collaboration, innovation and productivity, real estate and facility management professionals must understand what their culture will accept and what available technology and budgets will allow them to do. This also requires a careful consideration of operations, policies, building management solutions and workplace delivery methods.”
“Successful distributed work strategies must constantly evolve to keep pace with the changing needs of organizations and their people,” added Gordon Wright, director of consulting at HOK. “The best programs are incorporated into the development of a portfolio strategy and site master plan and continue to evolve during workplace planning and design and through ongoing operations. Once implemented, the process starts again.”
The complete version of Distributed Work Revisited: Research Report #37 is available for sale on IFMA’s website. Funds raised support ongoing and future research.