Study: Companies Turn to Alternative Workplaces for Cost Savings

This week we’ve been looking at a benchmarking study from New Ways of Working called “Alternative Workplace Strategies in the Current Economy: A 2009 Global Benchmarking Study by New Ways of Working.”

In this installment, we’ll dive deeper into results around the shifting priorities with alternative workplaces. The New Ways of Working study clearly marks a shift from “soft issues” to “hard measurements.”

For example, compared to last year, the primary business drivers of alternative workplace have shifted toward “hard” economic issues such as cost savings and real estate flexibility and away from “soft” employee-centric issues like improving work-life balance, increasing employee productivity, and bettering employee attraction and retention.

What’s more, for all the talk of going green, the study ranked sustainability as one of the least important drivers of alternative workplace adoption. That is poised to change as more companies make the connection between sustainability and alternative workplaces (read: less commuting, less paper use, less office space and so on).

But for all the discussion around cost-savings, the study shows that 76 percent of alternative workplace employees still have an assigned workspace in the company headquarters. That somewhat dilutes the purpose of alternative workplaces form a cost-savings perspective. The study suggested there is a cultural resistance to “losing one’s desk.”

Surprisingly, the study reveals that a third of companies aren’t tracking their alternative workplace strategy impacts by function, department or business unit. Clearly, that makes it difficult to evaluate how effective alternative workplace strategies are. One thing is certain, though: there is a cultural shift afoot. Alternative workplace strategies are no longer a closet theory. It will be interesting to see next year’s study and how the concept has progressed.


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