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FCRE autumn seminar 2011


8 December 2011


by Cathy Hayward


With real-estate costs under constant pressure, the Federation of Corporate Real Estate’s (FCRE)autumn seminar in October 
at Jones Lang LaSalle’s London West End office, revealed 
the key requirements for an efficient workplace.


More than 100 delegates heard from Tim Oldman and Annie Leeson, founders of Leesman, which is the opensource index that measures the performance and effectiveness of office environments and the capability of the workplace to support the people who use it.

According to research from the previous quarter, key areas range from good lighting, temperature and noise levels, to the provision of a variety of workspaces.

But the research also revealed that users are not getting what they need. Almost 30 per cent were unhappy with the lighting, 64 per cent with the temperature, 38 per cent with noise levels, 
49 per cent with air quality, 
26 per cent with copying and printing equipment, 52 per cent with quiet rooms and 45 per cent with informal break-out zones and workspace variety.
These ‘productivity toxins’ are getting in the way of effectiveness, said Oldman, although he noted that certain factors are more important than others in different organisations. Can we personality-profile organisations in the same way the Myers-Briggs system personality profiles people, he wondered?

Meirion Anderson, managing director of workplace project and change management specialist Aberley, explored what people need from a workspace.

“At its most basic, a workplace is there to protect us from the elements,” he said. “A desk is just there to stop your laptop falling on the floor.” He urged businesses to use more club-style furniture to encourage flexible and collaborative working.

Discussing the case for flexible working, Anderson argued that the primary driver was always reduced real-estate costs. Organisations often failed 
to recognise the secondary benefits, including attracting 
and retaining talent.

Show us the money

But it doesn’t matter how organisations buy into new ways of working, said Dr Anne Marie McEwan from the Smart Work Company in a break-out session. “If saving money is the key driver, that’s great, we can then go on to demonstrate all the added value benefits afterwards.”
Delegates quizzed Anderson and Oldman about how they could demonstrate to their boards that productivity would be increased by introducing flexible working. Oldman’s research, for example, is subjective – users are asked whether their own sense of productivity is changed by workplace developments.

But Anderson said that real-estate teams should simply argue that any changes will not reduce productivity – the realestate savings will be enough to win the board round.

Flexible working does need to be carefully thought out, however. One organisation introduced it so successfully that it turned its offices into virtual ghost towns. That might be good for the bottom line, but it does little to motivate those who are 
office-based.

Mark Pearce, from Pearce Consulting, argued that workplaces become less productive in the interfaces between people and people, and people and processes. “Just as windows don’t leak in the middle, but in the interface between the frame and the glass, processes break down when people and organisations meet.”

Lean and keen
Pearce talked about how ‘lean principles’ could be applied to transforming workplaces, although he acknowledged that this has not yet been 
done successfully.

Knowledge workers spend 
35 per cent of their time searching for information, he said, simply because it was not readily available in the organisation.

He outlined seven types of service waste that could be reduced through improved process flow: duplication, delay, unclear communications, incorrect inventory, lost opportunities to win or retain customers, defects and rectifying errors, and unnecessary movement in a building. If this waste was reduced or removed, he concluded, organisations’ productivity 
would rocket.
In the panel debate at the end of the morning, other speakers cited specific examples of where a lack of process led to a reduction in productivity. Oldman used the example of the FM team that delivers printer paper to the printer, but doesn’t fill it up, so people arrive with their printer card, only to find they have to wait for their printout while they fill the machine themselves.
The last session of the morning heard from Martin Pitt, real estate director at Johnson Controls, who, having been seconded to Motorola during his time at Jones Lang LaSalle, discussed the technology firm’s real estate transformation. “Motorola’s ideal real estate strategy would be no real estate,” he said, adding that the EMEA real estate team used to be made up of 31 people, but has now been outsourced to one person.

“There has been a radical reduction in the use of offices – they are no longer considered a destination people must go to every day. Instead they are there to facilitate work when 
it’s appropriate.” 


Cathy Hayward is director of Magenta Associates