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Management Masterclass

By Christine Hayhurst, Chartered Management Instituteexternal link

Contact us for advice on your problems at work.

Q: "Our office is about to undergo a long overdue makeover. What can I do to make sure the re-design is a success?"

A: We spend nearly a third of our day in the office, but very rarely do we stop to reflect how far the working environment meets our needs or how our workspace should be developed to cater for future requirements.

And rather than a straightforward discussion about who sits where, the office move or makeover can be a potentially business critical issue because it raises issues of staff morale, and productivity.

New technology is undoubtedly having an impact on the way we work.

Indeed, there are numerous anecdotes about home or remote working, but ultimately the basic human need for social interaction means that we still need a physical shared workplace.

And research conducted by the Chartered Management Institute only last year (The Workplace Surveyexternal link) revealed that many offices do not meet employees' needs.

So, before undertaking the makeover, you need to find out what staff actually want. Recognize that you may not be able to accommodate every request, but you must demonstrate willingness to do so.

After all, if changes to the physical environment are made without consulting those who occupy it, the logical accusation could be that staff opinion doesn't matter. The impact that could have on morale doesn't bear thinking about.

What you should think about is the type of environment you are trying to create. The research identified that while only 22 per cent of managers claim to be unhappy with their immediate physical environment, concerns about a lack of quiet space, under-equiped meeting rooms or inadequate meeting space were high.

If yours is a sales environment would an open plan, noisy, environment be best? Consider whether some staff need to work undisturbed and, if so, whether it's possible to allocate space or rooms for quiet work.

Accessibility is also an issue to consider. Forty-four percent of managers have their own office within the workplace, but if leaders are cut off from colleagues, does this create a feeling of "them and us" and will it foster a "closed door" culture? The answer will, naturally, depend on the nature of your organization's work and the attitude of staff -- across all levels.

If you haven't got enough space it would be easy to suggest moving to bigger premises. But that would ignore the costs and any ties you may have to property agreements. So consider exactly how space is used.

In the survey, seven out of 10 managers claimed that some desks or offices in their organization are unused at any one time.

Unused space has cost implications, so work towards reducing this. Maybe allocate some unused desks for hot-desking purposes; after all, remote workers often need a base when they do come into the office. If rooms are under-utilized, consider defining a purpose for them. Do you need a place people can go to relax or brainstorm or do you need additional storage space?

Ultimately, the office makeover is a chance to improve the working environment. Use it to help create a more productive and welcoming atmosphere.

But don't let this makeover be your only attempt at addressing workplace environment issues. Whether it's looking at health and safety issues or more general comfort you should remember that people's needs change over time.

Reflecting these requirements is an ongoing challenge and one that should not be swept under the carpet until it is long overdue.

-- The Chartered Management Instituteexternal link shapes and supports the managers of tomorrow, helping them deliver results in a dynamic world. With 74,000 individual members and 500 corporate members, the Institute helps set and raise standards in management, encouraging development to improve performance.

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