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For Knowledge Workers, Productivity Begins With Workplace Strategy

CHICAGO, July 17, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Knowledge workers are often most productive in workplaces that support collaboration and creativity. Yet, companies typically have focused on facilities costs rather than real estate's potential to support employee performance and results. To optimize business performance, companies should create work environments that support choice, collaboration and flexibility, says Jones Lang LaSalle's (JLL) workplace team, by adopting five key principles of workplace strategy for knowledge workers.

"A typical knowledge-oriented organization spends significantly more on its workers than on its space," says Bernice Boucher, a member of Jones Lang LaSalle's global workplace strategy board with responsibility for the Americas. "For these companies, productivity is not about presence—that is, sitting at a desk—it is about performance. The right workplace strategy can help increase shareholder value, achieve business goals and create a high-performance, cohesive corporate culture."

Corporate real estate executives face growing pressure from senior management to affect the wider business agenda. According to JLL's Global Corporate Real Estate Trends 2013 survey , 72 percent of corporate real estate executives face high expectations to deliver clear enhancement in workplace productivity and 65 percent are charged with transforming the quality of the workplace.  

The JLL workplace strategy team has identified five workplace principles that support increased shareholder value, improved business performance, a cohesive corporate culture and other corporate objectives:

1. Work is what employees do, not where they sit. The focus of work and workplace is no longer about square-footage per person, but about revenue per person.

2. Think membership, not ownership. The traditional one-person-per-desk model does not best serve knowledge workers. The most productive workplaces create non-territorial neighborhoods by function. These workplaces provide a wide range of environments—formal meeting zones, casual brainstorming spots, IT stations, private spaces—for different kinds of work.

3. Do more with less. The "ownership model" of assigning a seat to every employee is no longer sustainable, given that 50 percent of desks will be vacant on an average day in a typical company. In North America and Europe, for example, job sharing, telecommuting and virtual meetings have significantly decreased office space usage. Vacancy translates into underutilized real estate and a less-productive environment.  

4. Provide choices to enhance productivity. Companies must find the right balance between supporting individual and team productivity. When employees have greater control over how and where they work, they are empowered to choose the space that is most productive for the task at hand. With spaces that support quiet or confidential work, as well as virtual or face-to-face collaboration, the workplace can drive cross-pollination of ideas, employee engagement and foster a sense of community. It may sound counter-intuitive, but employees who are given greater autonomy are often more engaged and loyal to an organization, even without personal desks.  

5. Flexible workspaces translate into agility. In a fast-moving, ever-changing economy, the organizations that can adapt to the market and economic forces succeed—and those that are built on a flexible workspace model have the advantage because their culture is wired for fluidity. People and technology are in the right place at the right time, which drives innovation.

"Productivity depends on the ability of a company to get the most out of its employees in line with the organization's objectives," notes Boucher. "The right workplace can shape culture, promote collaboration, inspire ideas, respond to trends, improve performance, build retention and grow the bottom line."

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