Davinci Virtual Blog



Lessons Learned from Alternative Workplace Studies, Part 1

Preparing for Alternative Workplace Migration

Over the past few days, we’ve been exploring the alternative workplace. As part of that, we’ve relied heavily on findings from a benchmarking study from New Ways of Working.

“Alternative Workplace Strategies in the Current Economy: A 2009 Global Benchmarking Study by New Ways of Working” has yielded valuable insights about many aspects of the alternative workplace.

If you missed any article in this series, go back and do a little catch up. You’ll be glad you did. In this installment, we’re taking a look at managing the change process and planning for the future.

The study shows that although most organizations help prepare their employees for the changes involved in alternative workplace programs in some manner, almost one fifth (18 percent) of the companies provide no help with managing change. That one-fifth is mostly in the manufacturing sector.

Now, when looking at organizations that do include their employees in the alternative workplace program planning process—and that’s about 35 percent of all companies surveyed—81 percent ask for employee input and 64 percent include staff in program planning.

This is wise because the employees are the ones that are expected to continue working at high productivity levels and therefore need to be involved in expressing needs. A two-way dialogue between HR and employees will yield the best results as companies move to develop and implement alternative workplace strategies.

The study also revealed that the alternative workplace is expanding in almost all organizations that participated in the survey. Those plans, of course, vary widely. Some are looking toward improving online collaboration systems. Others are adding more drop-in centers. Still others are working to support collaborative work in other ways. But the trend is real—and it’s gaining momentum.

Don’t miss tomorrow for the last installment in this series on the alternative workplace.

What Barriers Remain to Alternative Workplace Adoption?

The rise of the alternative workplace is nothing new, but the economy has accelerated the mandate of corporations to look for more cost-effective ways to house employees. Downsizing office space is preferable to downsizing human resources in a Knowledge Economy.

This week, we’ve been taking a look 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 take a look at the barriers that remain to mainstreaming alternative workplace strategies in corporate America, as well as how organizations measure success.

Indeed, obstacles do remain for the widespread adoption of the alternative workplace model. The study identified several key challenges: organizational culture, management concerns, resistance or fear of change, and executive buy-in and endorsement. These are all people issues, not economic issues. Essentially, the alternative workplace goes against decades of corporate norm.

With this in mind, the study authors are calling for more evaluation of alternative workplace impacts on issues such as attracting and retaining talent, employee satisfaction, and employee engagement. If companies can see clear-cut evidence of the value of alternative workplace strategies for the human resources side of the equation, that could lower some of those barriers.

Study participants that shared success with alternative workplace strategies cited several benefits, beginning with reducing the corporate footprint and saving money. But there are also softer benefits, such as employee satisfaction and engagement. About one-third of companies measure employee productivity as it relates to the success of alternative workplaces. However, this is an employee’s self-appraisal of productivity rather than a true measure based on schedules and budgets.

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.

Study: Home Offices Are Top Alternative Workplace Strategy

Ready for more results from New Ways of Working’s study? “Alternative Workplace Strategies in the Current Economy” is chock full of insights that are relevant to large companies and entrepreneurs alike. We’re exploring the results of the study this week, and how it relates back to virtual office space and virtual office technologies.

Let’s jump right in and take a look at what’s driving the alternative workplace strategies trend. In a word, it’s “recession.” Indeed, survey participants identified the 2008-2009 recession as a “significant impetus” for alternative workplace adoption. While some companies reported that the current economy delayed (7 percent) or reduced (6 percent) their alternative workplace programs, a whopping 40 percent expanded their programs.

What’s more, the recession also pressured companies to reduce overhead expenses, such as travel and real estate, and encouraged worker mobility and other remote work options. When asked to assess the lasting impacts of the recession, four out of five organizations reported an anticipated increase in remote collaboration and continued reduction in business travel. More than 60 percent reported replacing assigned one-to-one workplace seats with alternative workplaces.

So how is the alternative workplace manifesting? Survey respondents are using a diversity of alternative workplaces. Off-site locations such as home-based workplaces are atop the list. Eighty-nine percent of survey respondents are using a home office as an alternative workplace. That’s where the realm of the virtual office comes in. Virtual office space gives you a prime business address and plenty of amenities, including mail and package receipt, access to conference rooms and more. With a virtual office, you can have the luxury of working from home without compromising your professionalism, whether you live in Billings, Montana or Burbank, California.