Duncan blog

How to deliver a truly effective, high-performance workplace

14 November 2018, by Duncan Mitchell

The workplace is a complex environment that needs to balance many competing drivers. In my previous blog, I expressed my frustration with many businesses seeking simplistic solutions to complex workplace issues. Here’s what I believe you need to consider if you want to deliver a truly effective, high-performance workplace solution. 

What is a high-performance workplace?

In my commercial view, the current Activity Based Working (ABW) mantra is, “give people a range of places to work to suit their needs, give the teams 80 desks for 100 staff and let the teams figure it out”.

This approach may work for some large business that have many teams, with similar types of workstyles. However, in my experience, many businesses are finding that this approach is not getting the best out of their people and teams.

For some time, we have been told that a high-performance workplace needs to balance the physical, the technology, key business processes and the people factors. In fact, Gartner expresses it like this:

 "A high-performance workplace is a physical environment designed to make workers as effective as possible in supporting business goals and providing value.

A high-performance workplace results from continually balancing investment in people, process, physical environment and technology, to measurably enhance the ability of workers to learn, discover, innovate, team and lead, and to achieve efficiency and financial benefit."

 Four key business objectives you need to consider

In a recent workplace project for a 2000-person office here in New Zealand, I worked with the Senior Leaders of the organisation to think about their competing business objectives for a range of stakeholders. These really boiled down to four competing drivers:

  1. The CFO and Property Group want a workplace that uses space efficiently and is easy to change when needed.
  2. The organisation wants a workplace that will help it work differently in the future.
  3. The Business Operations Managers want a workplace that helps their teams be productive.
  4. Staff want a workplace where they enjoy working and can-do great work.

For some time, property planning has focused on the first of these objectives as it is tangible and easily measured. However, high-performance workplaces are created when the other three objectives are incorporated into a more sophisticated workplace solution.

Dig deeper – understand what ALL your teams require

Consider how different teams work. Ask yourself the following questions for a Finance Team, an Operational team and a multi-disciplinary Project Team working in an agile methodology:

  1. Does the team collaborate within itself or with others in the business?
  2. What is the nature of the collaboration - is it spontaneous and informal or planned and structured?
  3. Is the team sensitive to noise or a noise generator?
  4. Do the team members need to sit together or are they semi-autonomous and only need to come together occasionally?

You will quickly realise that the one size fits all ABW approach will not create a high-performance workplace for the differing needs of these teams. Creating a workplace that uses space efficiently and that can be changed easily is only one dimension to the workplace value proposition of the business.

Take a sophisticated approach and deliver real returns

To create an effective, high-performance workplace we believe a more sophisticated approach needs to be adopted – one that explores both the aspects that are easily measured but also those that impact on people and team productivity.

This thinking translates into a workplace solution that considers the following aspects:

  • What each of the teams need to deliver their people a good work experience
  • How teams work together so they can be located to support their optimum relationships
  • How the utilisation of the physical workspace can be optimised
  • What workplace technology is required to support how teams and people work most effectively

Think about what would happen to your business if you created a workplace that allowed your people to be 5% more productive?

While we understand that controlling property costs are important, we believe more can be achieved by really considering what your teams require to allow them to be most effective.

If you want to think differently about how your workplace can support your business get in touch.



About the author

Lives on Asian food. Listens to music that sounds like a washing machine. Once played the clarinet! Dreams of lazy days sailing. Rides a mean mountain bike. Predicts the weather. Avoids crowds and dancing.

Duncan leads our Strategy practice area which includes our property strategy, workplace strategy, strategic briefing, technology and master planning areas and has been the driving force behind the growth of this practice area. Duncan remains focused on how the workplace (physical environment, technology, people and process) can best support organisational performance.

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