Your Office Can Be Just Like the French Riviera (Sort of.)

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Mashore, Derrick_New for Blog
From Derrick Banks Mashore
Managing Director

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Hey! Yes, you. You sit too much. You, and all of your co-workers. Look around. You are all sitting.

"CA'te daaAzur, french reviera, view of luxury resort and bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer near Nice and Monaco"

“CA’te daaAzur, french reviera, view of luxury resort and bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer near Nice and Monaco”

My friend, Lee Negroni, is not among you. Lee’s been hiking in Menton, along the French Riviera. Retired after 33 years of sitting in office chairs, conference rooms and airplane seats, she was determined to get outside.

Lee picked a hiking trip because it promised the outdoors and strenuous exercise. Her busy work schedule had been an excuse to avoid the gym. She finally decided to test herself physically and see if she could still move — walk, hike, climb and swim.

Lee knew Paris well, but not the South of France. She was immediately and completely transformed by the Mediterranean.

As she told The Washington Post, “The restaurants line the seawall in Menton, so every night the smell of salt air mixes with the fragrance of fresh fish being grilled or fried. I loved the way both locals and tourists paraded back and forth along the seawall every night, and the fact that couples of all ages, from teens to senior citizens, held hands during their evening walks.”

“I went to Menton unsure if I could keep up with a 42-kilometer hike with altitudes as high as a mile above sea level, and walks as long as 10 hours in a single day. It was brutally hot, but I powered through, with only one day off. When I got back home, I committed to an exercise program and have stuck to it. I am going to make up for lost time and include exercise and outdoor activity into every day”, Lee says.

Clearly, in the end, Lee’s realization that she could appreciate a physical workout and rejuvenate was a huge gift.

Rejuvenation at work?

Most of us won’t get to hike in the hills of France anytime soon, and many of us have to go to work in an office every day.

  • Is there any way to reinvigorate our days?
  • Can we reimagine the workplace so our offices can provide a transforming experience?

JLL, the global financial and real estate company, is working with the architectural firm, Gensler, to meet that challenge, and soon JLL will unveil a new space that ushers in a contemporary way of working at its Chicago headquarters.

JLL has developed a very simple metric, 3/30/300, that quantifies the financial rewards of a space that engages,  and expects its new headquarters to rejuvenate its workforce and increase the performance of the overall enterprise.

A few data points:

  • Companies that actively develop their culture return 516% higher revenue and 755% higher income
  • JLL previously had estimated that employees were mobile 30% of the time — but seat sensor data confirmed most people spent close to 50% of their days away from their desk
  • Roughly 25% said they need more opportunities to interact with colleagues in other departments
  • Organizations with connected and engaged employees yield nearly 150% higher earnings per share when compared to peers.
  • Flexibility is key to winning the war for talent. Seven out of 10 HR leaders use workplace flexibility programs as a recruiting and retention tool, according to WorkplaceTrends.com
  • Technology-driven flexibility supports employee retention. Nearly three-quarters of employees would like more technology that allows them to work anywhere, and the same proportion report wanting freedom to try new tools that make them more effective at work.

No single “right” vacation

These days, it’s not uncommon to have five decades of ages represented at a single office. Just as there’s no single “right” vacation, there also is no single “right” workplace that will move all these personalities.

The best workplaces bring a company’s culture to life in a way that shapes the culture as a whole, while providing individuals with a choice of spaces to do their best work, wherever that worker may be in their career lifecycle.

For her transformational adventure, Lee Negroni chose a familiar country, but an unfamiliar locale. That was the right decision for her, given where she is in her journey. Your workforce also should similarly take a fresh look at the workspace — as a familiar country, but somewhat unfamiliar locale.

“Membership” rather than “ownership”?

It is unlikely that the sole and exclusive correct solution for your enterprise is either cubicle farms or perimeter offices and desk-ownership. Perhaps your workforce would enjoy the concept of seeing themselves as “members” — rather than “owners” — of space.

There may be countless variations on “heads down” versus “collaborative” activities. Yet, while a recent survey found that while 74% of workers consider thinking, talking, and brainstorming bring the most value to an organization, only 24% actually reported spending most of their time on these activities.

Rather than being productively engaged in this way, employees generally spend most of their time on e-mails, phone calls and formal meetings. These undertakings are considered lower value, but are the very behaviors actually encouraged by traditional office configurations.

The membership model might enable more creative ways of using the entire office as a productivity tool by providing a wide variety of environments that are tailored to specific desired use, such as

  • video-conferencing
  • “first-ring hunts” that track the worker to their desk or cell phone
  • smart whiteboards
  • different-sized meeting rooms
  • personal work booths
  • activity-based work areas
  • informal collaboration zones
  • purely social areas, like cafés

Sustainable. (No, I’m serious.)

Often used as a synonym for environmental practices, sustainable workplace design actually goes much further than the purely green halo.

Sustainability initiatives can save energy and fuel workforce productivity. For example, features like automated lighting and personalized temperature control support emissions goals, cut energy costs, and contribute to employee satisfaction, health and comfort all at the same time.

Also, consider new furniture systems. People come in all sizes and shapes, so why shouldn’t your desks?

Adjustable-height desks and chairs that can be moved around easily create collaborative space on a whim. Other flexible furnishings include cushioned filing units that double as informal chat chairs, adjustable-height monitors, and sound-absorbing privacy panels that can move up and down with the desktop to support more focused work.

You can(not) almost smell the Mediterranean Sea

So, maybe to feel reinvigorated we don’t have to smell the fragrant salt air of the Mediterranean Sea after all.

Perhaps we can be rejuvenated simply by the experience of a workspace that actually allows us to do the work we need to do in a way that strikes the balance that best suits the organization’s needs.

Ps. Hey! Yes, you. It’s summer. (Yay!) Stop sitting. Be like Lee. Go outside and get moving!

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