27 (122) 2016
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Real Estate & Construction

Wellness and efficiency – key factors in modern workplace solutions

By Joanna Mroczek, senior director, head of Research & Marketing, CBRE Poland
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The evolution of the office workplace in Poland has been significantly different than in the more advanced western European countries.

The strong inflow of international standards after 1989 resulted in a considerable pipeline of modern buildings, while cost considerations contributed to growing popularity of open-plan offices. These open-plan concepts are currently giving way to a certain extent to more agile office concepts with activity-based work policies, where people have a wide variety of places, rooms, tables and other types available, but they don't their own desk. In exchange, people are offered a number of leisure area and wellness and comfort of employees are highly valued.

Regardless of the role held within the company, expectations in respect of the ideal workplace in Poland are quite similar. In 2015/2016, CBRE conducted a survey called How we want to work?, according to which personal control over the working environment (level of noise, temperature) and access to daylight are the most important elements of the office. This is only possible in the agile office, as people can easily change their place and the way of working, and thus have the largest possible control over their work environment.

A number of companies have recently decided for the change due to higher attractiveness for employees, greater flexibility and cost effectiveness. The most important for companies is not a fancy office, but high efficiency – a key word in today’s management trends.
How should a firm approach the change?

A major change in the organisation, which isn't accepted by the staff, may result in increased attrition rates or a growing dissatisfaction that may actually translate into deteriorating productivity. There are many measures that could be undertaken  to reduce the negative consequences of the workplace transition.

These may include:

  • Conducting an audit of the current office to identify aspects that are considered problematic by the employees. The new office layout should particularly address those issues,

  • Concentrating on key issues. Control over the working environment (temperature, noise, access to daylight), seems to be the most important factor indicated by employees, regardless of their role within the company. Quiet areas, ‘telephone booths’ and internal meeting rooms form part of the most effective ways of increasing control over the open-plan environment

  • Getting the staff involved by creating working groups of employees who should have an influence on certain aspects of the new office (such as materials, colours, furniture or elements in the conference rooms)

  • Visiting other offices where the proposed environment has already been successfully introduced

  • Encouraging people to express their opinions about the new workplace solution, maybe by arranging question-and-answer sessions

  • Monitoring satisfaction after the relocation, sharing the results with employees and allowing for minor rearrangements  to address the most problematic aspects which may arise

Five key conclusions that apply to the modern workplace in the Polish context

  1. Due to the fact that the service sector in Poland started developing after the transition from a centrally-planned to a market economy, the typical manager in the country is usually much younger than their western European counterpart. The majority of the people that occupy this role are aged between 25 and 50 years old and belong to Generation X or Y. Most of the office employees aged over 50 entered the labour market before the economic upheaval in 1989 and are characterised by visibly different opinions than the other parts of society.

  2. People from the other age groups, regardless of the role held within the company, have a relatively similar opinion about the key aspects of the analysed office layouts. However, a visible tendency is that the younger generations of employees is much more positive regarding the open-plan and agile concepts. Nevertheless, the same group is considerably more sceptical about home office and co-working.  

  3. The vast majority of respondents indicated that control over the working environment (the temperature, level of noise, access to daylight) is the most important element of the workplace. Significant  interest in quiet rooms, internal meeting rooms and ‘phone booths’ proves that employees could accept a collaborative office layout more easily if they're provided with facilities that enable concentrated work.

  4. There's no universal workplace solution that could fit every institution. As indicated by CBRE’s Fast Forward 2030 report, an attempt to create ‘one size fits all’ usually results in ‘one size fits nobody’. In every case the character of the office should result from the corporate culture and be utilized as a tool to shape the image of the company.

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