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  • Writer's pictureDavid George

The Workplace Renovation Gamble

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

Virtually empty restaurant
Is this how your occupancy feels?

The Workplace Gamble.

If your “Build it and they will come” approach hasn't panned out, you're not alone. It's a gamble. We’re hearing a lot about mandates and seeing less evidence that newly designed office spaces are reaping optimal occupancy results.

Not only do employees want to be included in the process of creating their new workplace, both the project and company benefit from employee engagement. We're calling this, the "Engage them and they will come" approach.

Let’s imagine this is a restaurant:

A restaurant is losing business. On what have historically been the busiest nights of the week, the restaurant is quiet. Below are two imagined scenarios.

Scenario 1- Build it and they will come. The owners decide to invest in renovating their restaurant with the latest furniture and decor, and new items on their menu. After being closed for renovation, they open up, hoping customers will flock to their restaurant. Maybe it’s a hit, maybe it’s a flop, it’s a real gamble.

Scenario 2 - When they come, I will build. Now imagine the same restaurant- digs their heals in the ground. It’s clear they need to make a change, but they want proof of use and funds to necessitate the space. They delay new investments in their restaurant, asking their customers to continue to patronize their outdated establishment, promising to make updates in the future. (ring any bells?) They are asking their customers to take a gamble – if you keep coming, when the time is right, you’ll be rewarded, maybe.

In these scenarios, there is a promise, a gamble, a hope. It's a bit of fantasy thinking, the solution is not likely to meet some groups’ expectations.

We’re seeing this in office spaces.

A company unveils a shiny new space for their employees. As employees were not meaningfully involved in the planning of the space, it doesn’t fully meet their needs. The company took a gamble with their workplace, and while the space may be beautifully designed- the lack of emotional ‘buy-in’ and functionality for employees’ needs lowers occupancy.

“If employers are looking to see employee commitment to the office prior to making informed changes- they are very likely to be disappointed. “

Optimizing Occupancy & Workplace Renovation

Now let’s talk about a reduced risk approach- the “Engage them and they will come” way.

Back to our restaurant. Upon losing business our restaurant begins speaking with customers and their workers to learn more about the state of their business. What are our best dishes, what would you like more of, how is the experience of coming here, working here? What would you like to see in this neighborhood?

Perhaps from this research, the restaurant tries out a few new sample dishes to gain feedback and show people they are listening and making changes. Then they shift their layout to experiment with service experience. They find people mostly come to them for a certain style of food and they can create more space in their menu for this type of cuisine, removing the dishes that are no longer being ordered.

Now this restaurant’s business is beginning to pick up – not because of any major changes- but because there are signs of greater attunement with their consumers. This change has immediately created a more desirable environment prior to a full overhaul. By showing interest in what their customers want, they've gained a wealth of information and fostered loyalty, delivering a clear path between customer feedback and the changes that are integrated.

"People want a high touch change where they don’t have to wait and guess what might happen, they can see the direction changing in a desirable way."

Now the restaurant is ready for their intentional renovation. As they've been creating pilot projects along the way, they feel confident their new direction will be a success. Their customers are cheering them on and telling their friends because they feel connected, valued, and exceptionally served.

An "Engage them and they will come" approach to workplace change, connects with employees throughout the process creating a solution that is built off evidence, insights, and successful pilot experiences. With the guesswork removed, the outcome will already have benchmark data as a proof of concept, ensuring the results you've invested in materialize.

There’s no need for gambling or leaps of faith with your real estate. Creating a Real Estate and Workplace Strategy with a focus on workforce engagement provides a clear and reduced risk path to a successful solution.


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