Our world is speeding up. The pace of business and technology change is fast and furious, with no signs of slowing down. How can you keep your finger on the pulse of your employees in this environment?  The answer to this very human problem may lie in your use of technology—and more specifically, understanding your workplace data.

Every company struggles with finding the right workplace balance. Employee needs are constantly changing: should there be more open, collaborative spaces? Should employees have more freedom to choose where they work? Do conference rooms need a technology upgrade?

The tricky part is finding the right mix that will work for your organization. Figuring that out requires a team effort to develop a smart data-based strategy that leverages technology to inform decisions about the workspace.

Let data provide the answers

What concerns employees and slows their productivity? Where do they draw their energy from? The most effective solutions will identify specific barriers limiting productivity and erase them.

When JLL renovated its 200,000-square-foot corporate headquarters last year, we wanted to create a flexible and adaptable space that would both reinforce corporate values and give employees what they need to be happy and productive. The 1,500 employees working inside the space were a key part of the planning process, providing input on what drives them and holds them back. One of the biggest problems they surfaced was a lack of rooms for meetings and private conversations, and a complex booking process. Seat sensor data confirmed that employees spent nearly half of their days away from their desks.

We acted on that data. Our new space significantly increased the number and variety of meeting spaces, especially for smaller groups, which was identified as the greatest need. Now there are small phone rooms, four-person huddle rooms and larger conference rooms all available for ad hoc use.

Empower employees 

A recent study of U.S. companies with the best cultures found a stronger culture emerges when employees feel supported and are given some level of control over their work. Technology can provide that feeling of support and individualized control. Think about the frustration that builds when you have a shoddy conference call connection, a technology fail with a presentation or an inability to access WiFi in part of the building. In our renovation, we installed features like phones that perform “first-ring hunts” to reach desks first, and then mobile phones. We also provided smart whiteboards and dual monitors in conference rooms to view web-based content and presentations simultaneously.

Giving employees options is essential to increasing workplace happiness. Most of us move through the day with changing needs: there are periods of intense focus where we need quiet space, mixed with a desire to bounce around ideas with others and some space to recharge. Having a variety of collaborative and private spaces to choose from makes it easier to perform different types of work. It’s equally important to give employees the ability to tweak their personal space to maximize their focus and comfort, such as having easily-adjustable desks, ergonomic chairs and even cubicles that can raise and lower.

Break down walls 

Technology giants, like Google, have been long-time advocates of collaborative environments, designing spaces where employees across the organization can run into each other and spark new ideas. We wanted to be deliberate about this in our new headquarters space, since a quarter of our employees said they wanted more opportunities to interact with colleagues in other business teams. Our cafés on each floor were designed to be used as both dining and gathering spaces. We also designed a two-level coffee bar and lounge area to use as an employee escape, as well as a spot that would intentionally create run-ins between employees scattered on six different floors. We incorporated a variety of seating types, including bar-height seats that are scientifically proven to be more conducive to conversation. There are also plenty of spaces to plug-in and have informal meetings.

Make maximum impact

Commercial real estate executives won’t get very far on their own; having a close working relationship with HR and IT can ensure the right levers are pulled to successfully enable employees to give their best. While the tools and tactics will vary, prioritizing versatility, agility and choice will give organizations the ability to satisfy the varying work styles of multiple generations of employees and evolving preferences. And having the right data is essential to understanding exactly what makes your people thrive.

Ed Nolan

Ed Nolan

Ed Nolan is a Senior Vice President with the Strategic Consulting group and based in JLL’s Chicago office. Ed currently leads the Workplace Strategy practice for the central United States.

Ed has over 15 years’ experience developing and implementing enterprise-wide strategies to realize more value from the workplace. He has a proven track record for delivering positive workplace experiences using an analytical approach to workplace strategy development, resulting in optimized real estate efficiency and increased workforce satisfaction.