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How big is a square foot of space? The battle of effective vs. efficient workspace planning.

From Mayhew & Associates

What does space have to do with business? Every enterprise needs it. And, companies spend huge amounts acquiring, furnishing, and managing it. Their standard measure is the square foot ... and their traditional focus is efficiency. Every CEO wants to reduce real estate costs, and shrink the number of square feet used to do business. Today's leaders are also looking for effectiveness--and redefining space as a tool that can boost performance and worker satisfaction. How can you turn a square foot of space into an effective and efficient business tool? You begin by identifying the essential components required to complete the job by evaluating the factors affecting the task.

Here is a fresh look at an often overlooked business asset: the workspace. Leading companies no longer view physical space as simply a cost to be managed. Instead, they use space to enhance revenue and advance business results.

The model for success blends four ingredients. First are the people who make your company operate. Next is the work process they use to get things done. Then there are the technology tools of your trade. That leads to the workspace--the physical environment where everything comes together. When all elements are in harmony, a business is on track for success. When pieces are out of sync, it's very hard to achieve maximum productivity ... and results.

Is your workspace working?

Stop for a moment and answer these evaluative questions. They are worth asking.

* WORK--Does the responsibility require individual effort, collaborative effort, or both? Does your corporate business plan identify facilities as an asset or a liability? In the last five years, has your company changed everything but its workspace?

* WORKERS--Do the employees have control over when and where work happens, of are their tasks predefined? Are your people spending more time in teams, and too much time looking for team spaces? Does the work environment inspire your people?

* CULTURE--Do you have space that encourages cross-department communication? Does the nature of your business require private conversations or open communication? Does your space match your desired work culture?

* TECHNOLOGY--Do people need access to data and communications everywhere or just in their individual workspaces? Are your people technology-dependent? Are your facilities technology-friendly?

* HEALTH AND SAFETY--Do you have people engaged in intense computer usage who require proper ergonomic support? Is your office environment free of hazards to worker safety? Are your absenteeism and disability rates going up?

* RATE OF CHANGE--Does your organization change often? Do your facilities need to be more flexible to support this change? Are you paying too much for the simple changes?

* ECONOMICS--Are you trying to lower costs of real estate, change, and life-cycle management in your facilities? Are you trying to use less space without affecting worker productivity and satisfaction? Are your occupancy costs growing faster than sales?

The answers to these questions may be a surprise. You may, for example, come to the realization that the majority of your private offices are designated to people who are out on business 75% of the time. Or you may realize that your space does not emulate your current brand image. Most importantly, these questions drive conversations on workspace and help identify the money-draining holes in dated workspace formations.

Space is a tool to connect every aspect of a business. Elements such as daylight, air quality, recreation areas, and travel paths can be the deciding factors for a healthy work environment and productive employees. To find the areas in need of change, all aspects that influence a business should be evaluated. This may be a difficult task for companies that have operated under the same structure for several years. Longtime managers may not see the problem areas because they seem correct by the existing protocol. To combat this challenge, approach your organization with a third-party perspective of hire a consultant who has the experience and tools to provide a clear picture of the current environment.

Businesses that operate in environments that support their craft reduce real estate costs, and increase the productivity and satisfaction of the work force. There are four basic steps that Mayhew, an acclaimed space-management company, follow to develop and sustain successful workspaces for their clients:

1. Exploring the ways clients work and the results they expect.

2. Planning specific workplace solutions that support client's unique performance and cost needs.

3. Implementing a full range of products and physical services to help clients shape an effective workplace.

4. Managing workplace change as client's needs evolve.

The steps derive from Activity Based Planning. This practice, when adapted to workspace development, analyzes the relationship between the actual work conducted and the actual space required to achieve it. Offices are custom-made to support the task instead of employee hierarchy or to follow traditional department structure. Applying professional planning to your business, department, or team will give a fresh insight on your organization's culture and provide options to improve the use of a square foot of space.

When evaluating your company's needs a professional planner will take into account the nature of your business. Leading companies house their operations in spaces that support their work--they do not try and fit their business into any available space. Focus on your business objectives and identify their implications in your workplace model. Use your business plan to guide decisions on designing an integrated work environment. A workspace should be more than a simple building, it can state a brand, motivate teamwork, and drive success. Think of a workspace as a business asset--not a business location.

One common fear of hiring a professional consultant is the notion that more dollars will have to be spent in order to create an effective space. This resistance will quickly vanish when decision-makers identify the wasted resources the company's current set-up is allowing. The right consultant will provide you with a measurable return on your investment. Through assessment of your space, based on understanding of your departments, space saving and money saving solutions will be found.

All types of businesses can benefit from professional planning. Operating in space that is effective and efficient is as important for the corporate business with 200+ employees to the retail store with 5. Start a conversation with the people who are part of your businesses about where their work occurs. Including all employees in brainstorms will give deeper insight to the needs of the company and create a sense of company pride through ownership of the space. Recognize the importance of the physical work environment by dedicating time to its transformation and watch how big a square foot of space can grow.

Mayhew is a leading one-source solution company for all workspace challenges. Operating out of 5 Canadian locations, Mayhew successfully provides hundreds of businesses with lasting results. With their unique expertise and talented people, clients of Mayhew are delivered optimal space solutions that have the flexibility, to mature with the company's growth.

For more, information on Mayhew and the services they offer visit or contact 1-866-544-4424
COPYRIGHT 2004 Canadian Institute of Management
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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Canadian Manager
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Dec 22, 2004
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