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Facility Planning and Management: Don’t Forget the Human Factor

Facility planning is a hot topic these days as businesses seek new and improved ways of increasing their offices’ efficiency, productivity, ergonomics and eco-friendliness. Closed dedicated offices gave way to open-plan facilities decades ago, but the “everyone together” concept has been associated with stress and hypertension rather than positive collaboration. Now that facilities are looking into shared desks, telecommuting and other non-traditional uses of space, we’re once again dealing with how workers use and feel about that space. Are they delighted with the new arrangement — or are they furious about it?

Office space planning means office workflow planning. Any time you reroute common traffic areas, remove (or add) walls between coworkers, relocate departments or expand/shrink the total amount of office space, you’re changing more than just the look of the place. You’re changing the way your people interact with each other and/or your customers, and the manner in which information flows from one area to another. Unless you research the possible ramifications of these changes thoroughly before you implement any of them, you may find that your employees react with a mix of confusion, anger, resentment and passive-aggressive “acting out.” Your employee turnover rates may even skyrocket as morale sinks.

So what do you do to prevent this negative impact? First, of course, you (or your facility management company) must assess which changes are likely to cause friction within the staff and refine those changes while they’re still on the drawing board. Next, take a look at which entitlements you may be taking away from certain employees, such as private offices or break room access. Can you substitute other rewards in your new plan? If your people see the changes as benefits rather than deprivations, you can score a positive impact instead of a negative one.