Innovating your office spaces can benefit your employees and the business
In our post-lockdown new world of work, organisations have had to adapt their business model to reflect higher employee expectations. This has involved putting more focus on the employee experience (both at work and in their remote working environments), wellness, and supporting employees through challenges such as burnout. Now the era of hybrid working is upon us, it’s important for businesses to assess the purpose of their office spaces, and how they best support employees to collaborate, think creatively, and evolve their way of working. What worked pre-pandemic may not have the same impact now, and BHP, for example, have overcome some challenges to better their workspace offering.
BHP has 20 corporate locations across Australia, Chile, the Unites States, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Canada, meaning their workspace requirements are widely diverse. For this reason, BHP has been working with Leesman over the past five years to ensure that they are making the most of their space and understanding what their employees need, which, incidentally, was a dynamic workspace – offering more creative freedom – and an activity-based workplace solution.
For BHP’s Adelaide space, their offering was split between two locations on the same street. Both offices initially had a conventional design, consisting of an open plan approach with dedicated desks for individual employees. Therefore, when the business planned to move office to a new location 15 minutes’ walk away, leaders at BHP saw an opportunity to increase this dynamic working with a more flexible approach; offering employees an open and creative space which increased worker productivity, benefiting both the employees in their career progression and overall development, as well as benefitting the business as a whole with increased productivity and employee engagement.
In the original Leesman survey for BHP one of the biggest findings was that less than a third (32.6%) of employees claimed their office to be “a place I’m proud to bring visitors to”. This was a concern as it can link to morale, client relationships and community within the workforce. By investing in the new workspace – implementing flexible seating, removing physical barriers and introducing family friendly and wellness spaces – office pride increased from 32.6% to 91.6%. This effect also rippled through employee sentiment: pre-occupancy measures showed only 54.1% of employees were in agreement that their workplace creates an enjoyable environment to work in, post-occupancy, however, this number jumped to 89.0%. Most importantly, post-occupancy, 92.5% of employees felt that their current workplace has a positive impact on corporate image, as opposed to a mere 38.9%, preoccupancy score.
For companies looking into how to innovate office spaces and adapt them to worker’s needs, implementing a more sociable and open-plan space can be an effective solution to improving the employee experience. It supports the ever-present need for collaboration and social interaction, both of which many employees were starved of over the lockdown period.
“We have transformed our workplace experience focusing on connectivity, spaces to support our evolving ways of working and improving our technology to enable more flexible and dynamic working. We have seen the positive impact these changes have made on our workplace culture, community and team, and individual productivity. Our workplaces are places that remind people about who we are as an organisation, what we value and our purpose while providing great spaces to connect, socialise and perform.” – Bec Chamberlain, Principal Workplace Strategy and Transformation at BHP
Overall, BHP aimed to provide a consistent workplace experience that enables its people to get great results and have access to high quality spaces, services and technology that support individuals and their teams to perform, collaborate and connect, boosting productivity across the board and increasing efficiency and overall business success.
By conducting a pre and post Leesman survey for the transition from the original offices to the new office and uncovering potential pitfalls and opportunities, BHP could understand what spaces work best for its employees and what techniques it needed to implement in order to make a big impact on employee experience.
This was important as BHP prides itself on its people, focusing on attracting and retaining the best global talent. Its spaces and workplace must therefore provide a world class experience that enables people to do their best work.
“More than simply improving the morale of employees, a company culture can also improve productivity, and instil an attachment to the business as a young employee becomes immersed in the shared culture of their work environment… despite the low satisfaction with noise levels in the average open workplace, the best workplaces in our database are predominantly some sort of open concepts” – Dr Peggie Rothe, Chief Insights & Research Officer at Leesman
With the spotlight on leaders to ensure wellness at work, BHP reviewed its need to improve their space to accomodate this across their offices. Just 39.1% of respondents previously reported they felt better supported for relaxing/taking a break. After receiving this data from Leesman, BHP put value on organisational needs. This figure has now risen to 95.8%, which means relaxing and taking a break support increased by 56.7 percentage points.
BHP also found that after adopting the new, more flexible approach to working, 82.4% of employees felt their workplace enabled them to work productively as a team, an increase of 24.8%. There was a further substantial increase in creative thinking support in the workplace, which saw a substantial jump from 29.6% of respondents to 81.7%.
By having mixed activity-based design at its core, employees found they were supported more in both collaborative work and individual tasks to benefit employees across the board – we often see younger workers at the beginning of their career needing the support and osmosis-based learning from older workers, the open plan space best enabled this level of collaboration.
After receiving the survey, BHP implemented these new, dynamic, open plan and more sociable spaces, as well as areas for individual work, such as ‘quiet’ rooms. Additionally, 87.5% feel telephone conversations are better supported, going up from an initial 38.2% and 88.7% for private conversations from an initial 29.1%. Finally, 88.8% feel they now have support for informal or unplanned meetings – a significant rise from 33.3%.
“Through COVID-19 we have changed, we’ve had time to stop and consider what’s most important to us as an organisation, a community and as individuals. As our people change, so does our work environment to ensure our people are supported, connect and get great results.” – Bec Chamberlain, Principal Workplace Strategy and Transformation at BHP
The new BHP Adelaide office has received a lot of attention, including a mention from the Prime Minister in a LinkedIn post. It is a great example of listening to your employees needs to custom create a workplace that enhances your business.
Dr Peggie Rothe , Chief Insights & Research Officer at Leesman says: “BHP Adelaide received the best Lmi rating across all Leesman+ certified workplaces in 2020 due to its focus on providing a workspace that worked for all. They received a significant increase in productivity and overall positivity in the workplace as they listened to their original results and focused on using this information to make their office function for their people.