What do home offices, airport terminals, cafes, and office touchdown areas all have in common? — they are all important spaces in today’s alternative workplace solutions.

As part of an overall sustainability strategy, leading companies are innovating beyond traditional workspace practices and are evaluating shifts in the location of work, hours of work and schedule of work hours.

At a recent Client-Only meeting of the Sustainability Roundtable, Inc. (SR Inc.), new research on “Integrated Alternative Workplace Strategies” (AWS) was presented that found:

  • Changing demographics, advances in technology, new business needs (24/7 service), globalization trends, and environmental considerations influence the move to greater mobility and accelerate the adoption of AWS.
  • Leading companies implement AWS to reduce real estate operating costs and carbon footprint; retain and recruit top talent; increase human capital outcomes; enhance real estate and operational agility; and enhance their brand.
  • Executives follow an iterative process to plan, implement, and evaluate AWS to maximize benefits.
  • Executives deploy AWS on company-wide level after making a compelling business case, aligned with business goals, ensure departmental integration (RE, HR, IT, EH&S), conduct initial assessment, and test pilots.
  • Executives integrate AWS into their company’s sustainability strategy; adopt options customized to meet their business goals and organizational culture to enhance sustainable value creation across the enterprise.

The organizational readiness of companies to adopt AWS differs and this impacts the level of employee mobility they are ready to embrace. SR Inc. classifies AWS into four types of solutions based on the level and mode of mobility:

Internal Mobility – working and moving within a dedicated office, group workstations, open office, and hoteling

External Mobility – working across multiple offices of the same company or home-based work, remote/satellite offices, and telework centers.

Virtual Office – full mobility and third places of cafes, libraries, airports, and client sites.

Fourth Generation Office – fully furnished flexible offices worldwide with outsourcing office and equipment provision to 3rd parties. I.e. Regus, Metro Office, Workspace Group

SR Inc.’s research included case studies from American Express, AT&T, Cisco, GSA, Nortel and Oracle that highlighted lessons learned of:

  • AWS aligns workplace and technology with the way employees already conduct work.
  • Proactive stakeholder engagement is critical. This includes a cross‐functional team with start-to-finish support from RE, HR, IT and the C-suite and engaging employees.
  • Building a legitimate business case, includes RE, HR, IT, and EH&S perspective as well as a real employee value proposition.
  • Technology is available, mature, and effective. It is expected to advance significantly in the next several years, and therefore, companies can design for maximum IT flexibility
  • Formal, comprehensive assessments of the program helps determine what works within the unique company’s context in order to make appropriate adjustments and maximize benefits.

As much as organizations are looking to AWS for the inherent benefits it is important to anticipate the needs to facilitate face-to-face interaction that can stimulate team building and knowledge exchange.

SR Inc.’s Senior Sustainability Analyst, Irina Mladenova, says, “companies across industry sectors find it necessary to revisit their workplace strategies to accommodate evolving working needs. Those who are unwilling will find it challenging to retain top talent, improve collaboration and innovativeness, and ensure low costs. One issue executives still struggle with is capturing space utilization accurately and attributing real estate and GHG footprint optimization or reduction specifically attributed to AWS. Another issue that companies still need to address more directly is how to adapt standard AWS practices company-wide level to local culture and practices.”

If you would like to learn more about how AWS could become part of your company’s sustainability strategy, feel free to download the Executive Summary of the “Integrated Alternative Workplace Strategies” at http://sustainround.com/research/AWS.php.

(The author is Larry Simpson, Executive Vice President, Sustainability Roundtable, Inc.  who can be reached at larrysimpson@sustainround.com. Additional posts can be found in SR Inc.’s Forum found at http://www.sustainround.com/forum/ )

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