The initial outfitting concepts for the New Way of Working were based on carefully analysed processes that took place at clients’ business locations. These days, you often see these processes copied indiscriminately by companies so that they can subsequently claim to work on the basis of the New Way of Working. This is certainly a trend if ever there was one. Whether it works is questionable but it probably won’t.
A certain fact is that companies with a modern outlook that decide to furnish their office space to accommodate the New Way of Working have got a pretty good idea of what the basis should be. This does not mean ludicrous space hoppers, dartboards, beanbags, awkward dual-person workplaces and Piet Hein Eek cocoons draped in panty hose (sorry Piet Hein, but it had to be said). Cutting edge companies that are pioneers in their sector realise what’s going on. These companies see the changes that are happening and anticipate accordingly. They formulate outfitting concepts that are based on their core activity: The Production of Information (yes, it’s surprising that hardly anyone knows what white-collar workers produce. Just ask your colleagues). This raises the question: What are the circumstances under which the production of information takes place? Verbally, officially in meetings or in the corridors, in the hub, via smartphones, skyping or video conferencing? Or in writing, via smartphones, PCs, on paper, memos or bulletin-boards? And possibly even more important, where? Is a worker a resident or nomad (internal or external), or something of both (a hybrid). These days, there are hundreds of places where people can work ‘on the road’. Most wayside restaurants and motorway service areas have business clubs, and hotels have places where you can work quietly. This does not include the large number of business and work meeting points such as Seats2Meet, Igluu, The Hub, etc. It is noticeable that especially the latter are turning into home bases for self-employed professionals with their own ‘Me Ltd.’ This group of workers has grown over the past ten years from approximately 150,000 to 760,000 people (source: Statistics Netherlands (CBS) 2012)!!
And when? A nine-to-five mentality really does not go with the New Way of Working, the main aspect of which is that it is not limited by time or place. In any case, I never trust statements like: “I close the door at 5 and stop thinking about work”. That’s like saying: “If something happened to my child, I would never think about it at work”. You cannot usually get away from the interrelationship between earning and spending income. These two things are very closely related. Good employers understand that and leave the responsibility for running ‘Me Ltd.’ to their employees.
Large chance of failure
This brings us to the trickiest point: why do projects for introducing the New Way of Working end in failure so often: To what extent can (middle) managers delegate responsibility and monitor the work of subordinates without jeopardising their own productivity? A (good) sales manager does not need to learn anything about virtually steering his/her team, because it is continually roaming around outside the office where you can sell products and services, instead of being stuck inside all the time. And if the ‘Me Ltd.’ of each team member runs smoothly, the way he steers the team as a whole will become almost automatic. But what does the New Way of Working mean for the head of finance, the internal sales desk, or any other administrative department? These managers will have to learn to deal with people who do their work – in consultation – in the way best suited to their customers (internal or external) and their own ‘Me Ltd.’. And that requires a tailored change management process.
The New Earning Capacity
Change management geared to the most important social trend in modern offices: The New Earning Capacity. The ‘McDonaldisation’ of society requires people and businesses to think in terms of earning capacity. Office outfitting and the organisation of office work methods are designed to serve the goal of maximising profitability. With an 80% share in all office costs, the employees are by far the most expensive. The office building accounts for 20% and the fixtures and fittings only 1 to 2 %. It is therefore clear where the priority lies. For the Facility Manager, this means that he can be forced into providing additional functionality by employees if the present office accommodation impedes or does not improve their productivity.