Work environment

For better performance

             Work is a word generally embodying concepts associated with the labor, force, energy, and/or effort required to produce a specific result.

             A workplace is a location where someone works for his or her employer, a place of employment. Such a place can range from a home office to a large office building or factory. For industrialized societies the workplace is one of the most important social spaces other than the home, constituting “a central concept for several entities: the worker and his/her family, the employing organization, the customers of the organization, and the society as a whole”. The development of new communication technologies have led to the development of the virtual workplace, a workplace that is not located in any one physical space.

              The role of the person charged with developing the strategy, the ‘workplace strategist’, is to understand the organisation’s requirements and recommend a workplace solution that will help them meet their current and future needs. The workplace strategy may facilitate meeting business objectives such as: reducing property costs, improving business performance, merging two or more organisations/cultures, and relocating or consolidating occupied buildings. 

              In more simple terms, the workplace strategy provides a response to either running out of space, having too much space, or wanting to introduce organisational change. The workplace strategy and its implementation quite often occur at an opportune moment such as a property lease break or a company merger or acquisition.

             The proposed workplace strategy will focus on how to use the space more efficiently and effectively. Recommendations often include moving from cellular (predominantly private office) environments to open plan, or introducing new ways of working and moving to a flexible, activity-based or agile working environment, as first proposed by frankduffy and Veldhoen + Company in nineties. Flexible working is where the occupants have access to a range of work settings, including working at home or on the move, but also share workstations, often referred to as hot desking or the related Hoteing. 

           Since 2001, the concept of coworking space has also provided options for the startups, freelancers and companies who prefer this plug-and-play solution with shorter lease terms commitment.

            With the fourth industrial revolution, people have questioned the relevance of physical workspace and workplace strategy as team may work remotely outside an office space. The meaning and purpose of work spaces is changing to align with the organisation’s growth strategy.

          As stated, the study of postures can give a vast amount of information about emotions and self-perceptions. The study of posture has also proven beneficial in other fields. Professional counselors, who were the participants, had to view recorded interactions of counselors and clients and determine the emotions of the client. Researchers found that relying only on verbal communication to determine the emotions of the client resulted in an accuracy of only 66%. High levels of empathy could be misconstrued without the matching positive nonverbal communication.

         In similar studies it was noted that the arms and legs were the most important bodily factors in signaling low levels of empathy. Further, researchers suggested that counselors should not only be trained in verbal communication but also in nonverbal communication.

             Its an oddity in the open workspace to have something that can be described as charming. the casual observer may not see it. Only when you listen to whats happening and soak in the industrial funkiness of the workspace does the charm become evident. the noise becomes white. The fervent conversations reveal intelligence creativity fun connection and even creative disagreements. The employees at menlo innovations in ann arbor michigan love what they do and where they do it fits their culture like a well-tailored suit but youll not find anyone dressed in a suit or even wearing a tie. Menlo innovations is a software-development company its name inspired by thomas edisons factory once in menlo park new jersey. There are no managers overseeing the work. 

           Instead team members work collaboratively. When i ask some menlonians their term who the boss is there is no consistent answer. Even the founders are not unanimously thought to be chief anything. Though they have titles with chief in the name they are treated as part of the team not differently. Serving as a meeting reminder a dartboard hung on the wall signals all team members to stop what theyre doing and form a large circle. one menlonian grabs a two-horned viking hat and brings it to the circle. In less than 15 minutes 50 or so people share project and company updates.

              All the information is relevant. People pay attention. As for the viking hat well everyone works in pairs every day at menlo. For the stand-up meeting each working pair holds a horn and gives an update. the hat is then passed to the next pair. Think of the viking hat as an updated version of the talking stick. Whats described above are elements of menlos culture a la the tradition of a stand-up meeting facilitated by a viking hat. Culture is how things are done in an organization. its the companys history stories passed down over time. Its cultural artifacts like the viking hat. as another example
of culture consider menlos hiring approach. Large groups of potential candidates are brought in and paired with one simple instruction: make the other person look good. menlos interview process is how it weeds out those who wouldnt fit into its highly team-oriented culture. 

1. Yet what is equally important as culture is what it feels like to work day to day in the workplace. This is climate and its the element of organizational life that isnt discussed much. Harvard university psychologists robert stringer and george litwin explain climate as the quality of the workplace environment and its influence on the work experience and team members behaviors and perceptions. 

2.   Think of organizational climate like walking into a party that youre excited to attend. You arrive and feel the buzz from the lively crowd and happy music. you see people you want to meet. The feeling of excitement is palpable. You smile and allow yourself to enjoy the festivities. of course the opposite could be true. You may have to attend as an obligation and arrive to the party feeling overwhelmed by the crowd and loud music. A feeling of dismay might overcome you as you find a quiet place in the party away from the crowd. 

               Ultimately the degree to which you enjoy the party depends on your expectations. Even previous experiences shape your perception of the party. But your perception of the party can be changed. how the people at the party can make a fun party a blast or help you loosen up to enjoy the festivities. Now take the party example and place it in an organizational context. How do people view your leadership style how do you use your style to influence the climate what does it feel like to work in your team these questions focus on elements central to workplace climate. Research from hay group points to the importance climate plays in business results.

3.  People in positive work environments outperform those who work in negative climates by 10 to 30 percent. In a positive work environment people are more confident about their work. they enjoy working with one another. As in the party analogy its the people who make the difference between a fun party and a dud. In the workplace who has the greatest influence on the climate according to hay groups research its the immediate leader—you. You set the mood in the work environment. In fact your leadership style impacts climate by up to 70 percent. Think about that 70 percent. Its mostly how you show up and interact with others that shapes the climate that influences your teams
performance. 

                For instance consider these leadership styles: welcoming. do you have a range of conversation types with your employees curious. Do you inquire into how things are going on their projects into their personal lives social. How often do you connect them to others within the organization that might help them achieve their goals thoughtful. how frequently do you coach your employees to develop resilience in a demanding work environment its the words you use and the tone of your interactions with your team that influence climate. Purpose influences climate. Stringer and litwin explain that clear role definitions help to positively shape climate. High performance expectations are also essential. Autonomy shapes climate. Trust and a sense of belonging are also key to a positive work environment. These are all elements within your control.  This is what makes climate a powerful influence.

4. From a leadership perspective climate is easier to influence than culture and is useful in creating lasting change necessary fo the organization to create value. Culture is embedded deep into the bedrock of the organization and is hard to change. It can take years to shift culture. through your leadership style you can shape the climate to positively influence how team members perceive experience and respond to work. For positive workplaces to thrive leaders must get to know the whole employee. Not only is
this a fundamental belief thats important to optimistic workplaces it also requires a fundamental shift in thinking about your leadership style. Today you need to be relatable—you need to be more human. 

5.  To shifting the climate is to demonstrate that you care about each persons wellbeing: do your employees have a healthy mix between their work lives and personal lives the
former leadership style of command and control has little relevance in the modern workplace. For positive workplaces to thrive leaders must get to know the whole employee. Transformed work experience its 8:00 a.m. and the first wave of people arrive at work. They shuffle their way to cubes and offices ready to do their work for the day. The next time this daily ritual happens notice how it unfolds. observe what peoples body language signals. Are they interacting with one another every person arriving at work is bringing with him the world he left behind and carries forward the anticipation of what the day holds for him. 

                  But there is more to this seemingly mundane ritual. If you look deeper youll see on the faces how employees feel about the day. its in their arrival that you can check the pulse of what the work environments influence is and how it affects people. Is there anticipation eagerness or does body language signal something less motivating between the endless offerings of meetings and the occasional break the day is consumed by the needs of others and pressing deadlines. With this reality it can be hard to imagine an aspirational tone making its mark on the workplace. How could it after all there is work to be done and no time for activities and interactions other than meetings and the work squeezed in between. 

             This though is where the logic breaks down. The belief that there is no time for the leadership activities and interactions that yield optimism is as outdated as viewing employees as assets or resources. In a 201 study by linkedin of 18 000 employees 15 percent were satisfied with their jobs and didnt want to leave. Research by gallup from the same year found 13 percent of people were engaged with their work. Theres not much hope in those numbers. pair these abysmally low numbers with the aspirations of employees and you can see that a desire for a better work climate lurks but in 

6. Most organizations theres not much opportunity for it to emerge. In a report from net impact 58 percent of students identified with the importance of working for an organization that aligns with their values. In the same study 54 percent said they believe its important to them to make a difference for others. Ninety-one percent of students— the future workforce— want a positive culture where they work. In the same study 88 percent of all workers wanted the same thing. These numbers reflect the aspirations of todays workforce. What is being done about it in your organization 

7.  Too many leaders are waiting for someone else to start the work to improve the culture or the climate. Certainly it is ideal to have a top-down approach to improving both. Yet todays senior leaders are not effectively addressing peoplerelated business concerns. In a towers watson study fewer than half of the respondents agreed that their organizations senior leaders were sincerely interested in their employees wellbeing. How it feels to work in your team and within the organization is a critical workforce development issue. We need more leaders who are willing to choose to set a positive tone for their teams despite what senior management isnt doing. This can be done by intentionally leveraging the nuances and interplay between what i call the origins of optimism. Ill explain this a little later in this chapter. Will you choose to create a positive work experience even if your organization isnt focusing on it ?

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