New technologies have allowed the individuals to get disconnected from a fixed workplace. Meanwhile, market requirements in terms of responsiveness, agility and immediacy have pushed companies to develop solutions that permit greater flexibility. Especially regarding workspaces that nourish collaboration and interaction. This way, professionals become more nomadic. They have at their disposal open spaces, flex-offices and other dynamic spaces, in order to meet increasing demands for collaboration. Emmanuel Mercier: Sociologist, communication expert, project manager in New Forms of Work and Company Experience ® on behalf of BICG, gives us his point of view.
To Boost well-being at work, performance and motivation
For non-assigned workplace to favor this mobility and run properly, we need a shift in paradigm and new behavioral rules to be applied. Behavioral rules, as we can call them, are not moral guide of conduct. They are not linked to the control of the employees. They are measures allowing to preserve life quality at work, while taking advantage of the available resources. For instance, an optimal use of meeting rooms would imply that if a meeting is cancelled or ends before intended, it should be freed up for those who may need it.
This practice may sound just like common sense, but it should be verbalized or even written down to be mandatory. Even this is sometimes not enough if there is no consensus, monitoring of implementation and the involvement of everyone. Within an open, flexible and shared workplace, in short, operating on a non-assignment basis of workstations; the behavioral rules and their application become crucial.
A workstation is logically not free to use for anyone else if there is a laptop on it, a dossier, a plant, a snack, etc. left from the previous user, who has been working there for more than an hour. For this organization to run, it is important to set up a clean desk policy: once the workstation has been cleaned up from the personal belongings of the previous user, it becomes free to use for anyone else. To legitimize this situation, professionals must benefit from an ecosystem of workspaces that will compensate this loss of space “property”.
A «free office» policy
This way, employee has no longer an assigned and fixed position. It has a whole range of workplaces, perfectly adapted to his/her activities regarding the current needs. On this basis, personal lockers have a key function as they must allow everyone’s affaires to be stored. Employees must have proper technologies to be able to work anywhere. The overall variety of spaces must come with an added value for them. Compared to an assignment-based model where the workstation is individual and personalized. Having think tanks, creation rooms, added value services and open workspaces, will encourage employees to accept a «free office» policy.
The co-creation as the basis of accountability and cohesion
This is easier said than done. Indeed, there is a risk when imposing this kind of measures within an organization used to sedentary ways of working. As real relationship of belonging exists between workspaces and their users. The co-design or co-creation is, a development method providing an ideal solution for the awakening of the benefits of a cultural evolution. Involving as many people as possible in the process of creating the new common living rules. It promotes commitment and cohesion from employees. It is done by including users as the natural decision-makers. In a horizontal conversation that will boost accountability and trust.
An overall framework must be previously defined to avoid any diversion and to channel ideas in a constructive sense. The core of a real spatial strategy, focused on the user’s needs. We could define the co-creation fields and allow everyone to participate and adopt the work environment issue. Establishing a maximum of questions related to co-creation or co-construction, allows to gradually obtain the addition of a bigger amount of them. The co-design workshops are ideally organized so that their participants represent all their collaborators. They are not chosen according to their hierarchical status but based on their sociability criteria. Transparency becomes essential.
The reasons for the chosen model.
Providing information about the project and its scope. Its advantages and defined limits for everyone ́s customization. By deconstructing prejudices in a first stage, we can easily dilute eventual resistances. Explaining the real advantages, the concrete reasons for the space organization. The impact that employees may have upon the defined living rules. If any nonsense arises -and they always do- we must apply the group’s common sense. Redirect the conversation towards the real issues to be solved.
Being well-informed from the beginning. Defining the legitimated behavioral rules that will ensure an optimal cohabitation within the mobile workspaces. That will be the clue for the collaborators to commit. They will then relay the doubts and suggestions of their colleagues and start to promote the decisions taken together. It is an appropriation process. It arises from each one’s accountability, as the rules have not been imposed but decided in common. This is the reason why it is crucial to be aware of co-creation.
The first consequence of transparency and implication is the accountability of the collaborators.
Those who know what is going on and participate on it cannot act as if they were not involved. Involving collaborators in the development of working ways of organization and different environments, implies a need of a framework for decisions to be designed. This approach cannot be restricted to the color of the carpet or the furniture style inside a relaxation area. The goal is to arrange a deeper transformation of the practices. Providing the collaborators with means to influence their working environment cannot be restricted to decoration; it must be a way for them to leave their trace in the use of the spaces. To participate in the rules making, the interaction modalities, etc. It is a question of giving them the right settings. To sway the culture they need, in the core of a space that must suit their requirements.
Behavioral rules for meeting organization.
Co-creation promotes awareness of what makes sense. Erasing preconceived notions and fears that arise when a transformation is established. An issue that always arises when it comes to pushing the evolution of an organization’s culture is the frequency and length of meetings, which can often waste precious time and become a nuisance for employees.
Formal meetings often suffer from a lack of regulation,. Both from management’s point of view (who lament losing precious time without making meaningful decisions) as well as from the point of view of employees, exhausted from unsuccessful and boring meetings. First principle: is it really necessary to organize a formal meeting for the topics we want to treat?
Distinguishing between formal and informal meetings.
if the aim is to boost brainstorming, to debate or create, then informal collaboration appears to be the most suitable. The working environment must encourage spontaneous and informal meetings. Avoiding systematically resorting to formal, lengthy and time-consuming meetings. The orgnaization must have reservable and non-reservable spaces. To be able to hold stand-up meetings … in short, to be able to be more agile in his/her interactions. The informal meeting is dynamic and has no time restriction. It is perfect for establishing an action plan and sharing information without straying too far off subject.
Defining the proper framework for holding formal meetings.
Meetings have specific purpose of gathering people involved in decision making and finishing with defined actions to be implemented. A simple and precise definition of the right context for these meetings has to be arranged. It is also a key element to make them succeed. Concrete decisions to be made, precise objectives, relevant participants …
Defining specific and realistic objectives.
it will be extremely important to determine all goals accurately, defining which are urgent and which are not. While keeping in mind that not every issue can be solved in a single meeting
Inviting stakeholders only.
There is no point in inviting those who will not participate directly in the decision-making processes. Participants must have a defined role in relation to the defined objectives and be directly involved in the topics covered. Therefore, there should be no last-minute invitations nor extra participants on the call.
Sharing information in advance and preparing for meetings.
This is crucial to avoid discussing subjects that have already being covered and focus on the actions at hand instead. The person in charge of organizing the meeting must ensure that the information was accessible to every participant in advance. The meeting is not the place for information sharing but the moment for arranging action plans.
Distributing key roles and sticking to the agenda.
Topics to be discussed and the time spent for each one is decided in advance. It must be done by the person in charge of the formal development of the meeting. Some roles are therefore critical. The person who starts the meeting and defines the topics. The person in charge of the agenda and the allotted time for each subject. The person who takes care of the tone and mitigates deviation from the current topic. Potentially, the person who narrows down decision-making according to the topics. And finally, the person who sends a summary of the decisions taken and ensures their tracking.
Dismissal of external topics by moving them to their own framework.
This will be key to avoid spending time on external subjects or expanding into anecdotes, examples and perspectives. Any topic that deviates from the current one must be dismissed. They must be moved to its specific framework within a different meeting or reserved for exchanges during spare time. Therefore, the moderator plays a key role to stop those diversions and follow the established working plan.
Finishing on time and with a defined action plan.
Putting a person in charge of monitoring the decisions taken with clear deadlines. It is then possible to justify their implementation with concrete actions. When the allotted time is up (the maximum recommended duration is 45 minutes), the meeting stops. The person in charge is responsible for sending the conclusions and the implementation schedule to the participants.
These basic elements could be integrated to foster good practices from employees. They could be displayed in all formal meeting spaces. Shared by internal communication to be integrated into the decision-making process. When these rules are co-created, they avoid the need for formal restrictions. A common symptom of a lack of cultural evolution through the participation of actors in their own working model.
Confidence is the pillar of commitment.
it allows to obtain a greater implication of the professionals towards their activities. Innovation, collaboration and the search of solutions for the organization challenges, are realities that arise when responsibilities are effectively distributed. Empowerment and transparency are key elements on this regard. They require a redesign of the management model, internal processes and the general culture. For co-creation to really be given an amplitude and the behavioral codes to benefit from the participation of each collaborator, it is necessary to think about space, from the very beginning, as a functional element based upon the activities and aspirations of the professionals.
This is what the New Ways of Working (NWW) teach us.
A participatory analysis of the current and desired ways of working, defining the existing experience model aligned to customer experience. Based on this, it is possible to draw those cultural and structural transformation initiatives. They will allow to establish a new working environment, spatial and technologic, and awakening the commitment of each professional. The so-called nomadic spaces. The issues linked to innovation and continuous improvement. Even the responsibility of the users. All are elements that result from a methodological approach based on transparency and employee participation in the decision-making process. This kind of project allows a significant room to co-define the frame. The rules that will permit eperiencing new working spaces in a more efficient and righteous way. Quick wins or Short Wins methodologies will boost the awakening of the possibility of a concrete evolution. Establishing small short-term objectives, will provide profound evolution.
Employees, as contemporary citizens, are increasingly searching for meaning in their actions, and ways of living that match their aspirations. Career paths are changing. They are no longer fixed to one organization. To attract and retain the professionals and take advantage of their potential, it is mandatory to involve them. Particularly in the process of defining rules of spaces and ways of working. If spaces are adapted and put in place for to mobile work, it is by being transparent and involving users that we will be able to establish the best ecosystems of workspaces. And above all, the most efficient ones.