Last week, in Ten things to manage in a recession: 5 – cut power, I very briefly talked (point 5) about the energy-saving potential of enabling people to work from home. It needs to be emphasised that this should not be about cost-cutting, but about achieving a more efficient combination of ICT, buildings and human resources.
While I have benefitted greatly from being able to work from home in recent years, it cannot be a complete replacement for face-to-face interaction in the office. However, better workplace design can help organisations make better use of the space they have at their disposal while employees are home-working, on holiday, off sick, in meetings, on breaks or out on the road. I first learned about this ten years ago when I encountered BT’s WorkStyle flexible office concept, and I was reminded of this today when reading an account of a presentation given last month by Cisco Systems to the Modern Built Environment Knowledge Transfer Network (MBE-KTN) regarding its ‘connected collaborative workplace’ (PDF here – registration may be required).
Richard Fryer, programme manager of Cisco Workplace Resources, describes how Cisco has switched from fixed desks to flexible desking and mobile working. Using the company’s own IP Access Control system, Cisco was able to do basic analysis on space utilisation, helping it to identify some key issues and confirm some statistics (very similar to those delivered by BT ten years ago):
- 40% of space is unused/wasted at any point in time
- “Dilbert” type corral office layout drives isolation, silo mentality and hinders creativity
- Insufficient collaborative space impedes, resulting in a ‘flat’ atmosphere.
Cisco aimed to develop a more energy-efficient workplace, drive better communication, improve collaboration and enable more/better networking. Its enablers included Web 2.0 tools, smart phones and webcams, and telepresence and collaborative meeting tools (dramatically cutting travel budgets). To date (this is apparently still work in progress), Cisco has moved from having 85% of its employees desked to 50% desked; 85% telecommute part-time, and the 85% of the flexible employees are among the company’s top performers.
While Cisco’s regime will extend use of its facilities by at least three years, it is clear that the ‘hard’ cash benefits are not as important as the ‘soft’ benefits achieved by both employees and company:
|Mobility is about:||Mobility is NOT:|
For me, this was a reminder of the lessons gleaned from my first tour of a remodelled BT facility back in the late 1990s that such benefits are achieved by a holistic approach to a business’s property, to its information and communication technologies (ICT) and – perhaps most importantly – to its people. This is an area where HR, ICT and facilities management must work effectively together.