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What's Your Office Value Proposition?

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An “Office Value Proposition” or OVP defines the unique benefits and value that a physical office space provides to the employees (and visitors) who use it and to the organization as a whole. An OVP goes far beyond the mere functionality of a workspace as a collection of furniture, fixtures, and equipment to include: 

  • Employee experience and well-being, 
  • Productivity on work-related tasks for teams and individuals alike, 
  • Collaboration, community-building, and company culture, 
  • Overall business success. 

As today’s organizations navigate hybrid work models and seek to find the right balance between remote and in-office work, optimizing your OVP can be a source of competitive advantage in attracting and retaining top talent, among the many other benefits we’ll discuss below. 

If an organization adopts hybrid work, for example, thus giving employees discretion and autonomy over when they come into the office, it’s imperative that workplace leaders focus on OVP in order to: 

(1) Give people a reason to come into the office and 

(2) Offer a compelling enough reason for people to endure the hassle and frustration of commuting into the office. 

Time spent in the office should be focused on meeting in-person and collaborating.

The 4 Components of Your Office Value Proposition

A strong OVP must be constructed atop a foundation of four essential building blocks: 

  1. Connection, 
  2. Collaboration, 
  3. Creativity, and 
  4. Culture. 

These 4 Cs collectively foster a workplace environment where people feel aligned with each other and with shared business goals, as well as being motivated to do their best work individually and collectively. By focusing on the 4 Cs that make up your office value proposition, organizations can create an office space that not only meets the practical needs of their workforce for physical space, but also: 

  • Supports people’s mental health, 
  • Fosters innovation and creative problem-solving, and 
  • Creates a strong, cohesive organizational culture. 

You should care deeply about your OVP because once you understand the building blocks of your OVP, you can make adjustments (based on solid, evidence-based research) to your workplace in order to improve your OVP and the 4 Cs that drive business value. Choices related to office layout and design, for example, can bring massive impacts on the ways your people interact and collaborate in the office, boosting your OVP and people’s productivity.

When you collect and make decisions based upon workplace data showing how people are using your office, you can optimize your OVP through a process of continuous improvement. Let’s dive into each of the 4 Cs.

Give your office a purpose and make it clear from the outset.

1. The Need for Connection

Human beings are social beings who have always relied upon positive relationships with others (families, friends, neigbors, work colleagues, etc.) for encouragement, development, and support. Americans actually report the highest levels of happiness when they spend six to seven hours per day socializing, according to research from Gallup.

In-person workplace connections, which were lost in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic’s social distancing restrictions, provide people with a necessary sense of belonging, support systems when they confront challenges, and reduced stress levels compared to the chaos of working from home (with kids, spouses, pets, TV, and more competing for people’s limited attention).

Remote work has contributed to what a recent Wall Street Journal article, The Loneliness of the American Worker, calls “an epidemic of isolation.” The WSJ article begins:

“More Americans are profoundly lonely, and the way they work—more digitally linked but less personally connected—is deepening that sense of isolation.” - Wall Street Journal, The Loneliness of the American Worker

Social media, another form of remote communication, has clearly contributed to the loneliness epidemic, but so has remote work.

Building professional relationships can happen virtually through Zoom and Slack, but social science research suggests that in-person interactions are actually more effective and more impactful. An experiment by Sherman, Michikyan, and Greenfield (all social science researchers at UCLA) found that bonding between two people was greatest during in-person interaction, beating out (in order of impact) video chat, audio chat, and instant messaging. 

Humans evolved over Millenia via face-to-face interactions, while digital media is a relatively new arrival, from an evolutionary perspective.

Facilitating Connection 

Opportunities for face-to-face interaction are weakened when employees either don’t come into the office or come into the office at different times. Many organizations now have specific policies requiring employees to be in the office on certain days of the week, and provide people with the scheduling and space management tools (like Robin) to make coming together easier. 

On-site social events also provide an opportunity for people and teams to structure their workweeks around maximizing face-time with colleagues.

Use your office data to understand if the activities you facilitate are actually resulting in more office visits.

2. The Need for Collaboration

Collaboration among people in the office, whether via teams or otherwise, plays a critical role in how work gets done in today’s business world. In terms of the value of collaboration, the social science research is clear:

  • Companies that actively work to leverage team collaboration as an organizational skill are five times more likely to be high-performing organizations, according to a joint study by The Institute for Corporate Productivity and Babson College.
  • A Northwestern University study shows that sitting near a high-performing employee can make someone better at their job. The study found that when an employee sat within 25 feet of a high performer, that proximity -- independent of other factors -- improved job performance by 15%. 
  • Research from the Copenhagen Business School and the London School of Economics found that employees were 10% more effective in time-sensitive and critical situations when they were co-located in the same room.

Facilitating Collaboration 

There are multiple ways workplace leaders can facilitate collaboration in the office, including: 

  • Promoting physical proximity in how you design office layouts (open plan offices, spaces dedicated to social interactions, etc.).
  • Scheduling collaboration with greater intentionality, whether that’s by requiring people to be on-site/together on specific days or through the thoughtful coordination of meetings (facilitated by meeting room management software). 
  • Providing technological tools and platforms that facilitate the coordination/scheduling of people coming together for collaboration.
By prioritizing collaborative initiatives, leaders can encourage the types of behaviors they want to see in the office.

3. The Need for Creativity

Creativity and creative problem-solving are mission-critical capabilities for driving innovation and competitive advantage in today’s business landscape. Creativity today is a team sport that happens across disciplines and functions. The companies whose teams do the best job of generating new ideas for products and services, and who are most adept at problem-solving, are the ones who become market leaders.

Today’s business problems are so complex that they can’t be resolved inside a single domain of expertise. Let’s look at one example: if company X seeks to build a wearable medical device that can monitor a person’s heart rate and send the results to a medical professional in real-time, that’s not “just” a feat of engineering. It will require a cross-functional team whose members need to blend expertise from multiple areas, including medicine, hardware, software, data privacy, human-centric design, and more.

Facilitating Creativity

Organizations can’t mandate creativity and innovation, but they can create an office environment that facilitates it. How?

  • By providing spaces that help spark creativity, including flexible workspaces for collaboration, inspirational decor (such as natural light and greenery), and access to diverse resources that can facilitate innovation (e.g., maker spaces with cutting-edge equipment).
  • By encouraging cross-functional collaboration through projects and informal interactions. You could also invite outside experts to come in to teach your people new things (e.g., lunch and learns), or leverage your internal experts to share their knowledge across your organization.
  • By upgrading spaces with the latest videoconferencing and virtual collaboration technologies/tools so your distributed teams can more easily brainstorm ideas in both physical and virtual spaces, even at the same time.
Did you know that 90% of all interactions in the office happen at desks?

4. The Need to Build Culture

Organizational culture, in its simplest form, is the way people behave at your company, the way they do things. You can define your organizational culture on your website or via a “mission statement” you put on a poster in the breakroom, but that’s not your organizational culture. What you say your people do isn’t culture, but what your people actually do is.

An “aligned culture” is when people’s words and behaviors are consistent, which isn’t the case at many organizations. Culture can also be seen as a shared set of values and beliefs that people act upon, both in their words and their behaviors. When an organization has an aligned and positive work culture, people are prone to act in positive ways consistent with that culture. 

Company culture, then, is an important factor in shaping employee behavior, engagement, and alignment with business goals.

Facilitating a Positive Culture

The physical office is an important locus in shaping and reinforcing an organization’s cultural values, practices, and behaviors. How?

Physical proximity and culture. When person A sees person B working hard to solve a business challenge, that example tends to motivate person A to behave in the same way (much like the Northwestern study we described above). It helps to put people together so they can share knowledge and support, which helps build a company culture.

The office as a “locus of culture.” Do people at your organization share their knowledge? Do they coach and mentor new employees? Do people talk to each other openly about challenges and how to overcome them, providing support and encouragement in tough times? Well, you can see the answers to these questions happening in your office every single day.

The office and belonging: Gallup points to a growing problem: “employees in the U.S. are experiencing a concerning decline in feeling connected to their organization’s mission and purpose. This detachment from the organization tends to be most extreme for fully remote workers who are both physically and psychologically distanced from their coworkers.” Again, physical proximity has a strong impact on culture and people’s feelings of belonging.

To build culture in the office among teams, seating should be strategic and intentional.

Make the Office “Easy” by Simplifying Logistics

Seamless logistics contribute to your OVP and create a positive office experience that anyone can access. Traditional frustrations related to the office such as long commutes are bad enough (and hard for leaders to impact). But organizations absolutely must eliminate more “controllable” forms of office-related friction. How?

  • Offering flexible scheduling options to accommodate diverse work styles, as well as technology tools so people can see who’s coming into the office and coordinate interactions accordingly.
  • Offering technology tools that make it easy for people to book desks and meeting rooms, which can significantly impact employee satisfaction and productivity.
  • Surveying your people and reviewing your workplace analytics regularly so your organization can make needed adjustments to improve its OVP.

Improving Your OVP Starts Here

By understanding and optimizing the 4 Cs of Connection, Collaboration, Creativity, and Culture, organizations can create a productive in-office experience that improves their OVP. Your OVP addresses why employees should come into the office and ensures that their time there is meaningful.

The day-to-day details of building and maintaining a strong OVP require your organization to simplify logistical challenges around accessing the office and also leverage technology tools to streamline office usage. 

By continuously improving your OVP through data-driven decisions, organizations can ensure that their office space remains a valuable asset in achieving the success of both your people and your overall business.

Robin can help you get there. Reach out to us to learn how.

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