Blog: Minna Ahvenkoski, Director, Workplace Planning Services, Martela Sweden

Workplace design is undergoing a radical shift. Driven by digital disruption, changing work habits and increasingly agile leadership methods, the workplace now has a completely new role.

Today’s people centric offices are everything that yesterday’s cubicles and open plan offices failed to deliver. With areas reserved for the Four C’s - Communication, Concentration, Collaboration, and Chill out - the new workplace provides today’s knowledge workers with an ideal environment for each task and situation.

For business leaders, the new strategic paradigm essentially turns the workplace into a leadership tool.


With innovative design and data driven optimization, business leaders can leverage the work environment to encourage teamwork, support innovation, boost productivity, save costs, increase wellbeing at work… and improve employer brand while doing all that.


However, change never happens by the flick of the switch. Even with all the promise, there are several key steps that need to be taken into account.

We were sharing interesting insights and experiences around these issues at our Workplace seminar and here’s a quick overview of the path to success:

1. Set up a cross-functional task force

A strategic view on workplace requires a holistic perspective. It’s time to finally tear down those silos and set up an internal task force. Bring in key people from the executive team, HR, IT, facility management, business units, marketing, finance - you name it.

Workplace strategy brings together physical and digital work environments as platforms for work, all designed to support efficient and creative processing of information. The new platforms are best created as a joint effort of a multitalented team, ensuring adequate input and speeding up organization-wide adoption.

2. Commit internal resources

It’s important to think of workplace redesign not as a project but as an ongoing process: continuously monitoring and optimizing the workplace to support the culture and work habits you want to establish is simply crucial.

Make sure you assign enough resources to keep the desired change on track over the long term. You will need committed people on both the executive level and other key parts of your organization.

3. Engage employees early

Have you ever thought why it’s so common to perceive changes as threats? The key reason is the element of surprise, which the human brain is hard-wired to avoid: to ease the brain, communicate more than you thought was necessary, and discuss fears and suspicions in addition to the positives.

The vast majority of people are likely to enjoy the freedom, flexibility, and social interactions in a people centric work environment. The key to success is to involve employees early in the process: be sincere about the goals for the change and listen to everyone’s hopes, worries and ideas.

4. Prepare detailed office rules

Work environment of any kind is only as good as the way it’s used. Consequently, leveraging workplace design as a leadership tool requires translating the sought-after changes from executive slidesets to practical office rules: how do we expect each other to behave in our various new spaces?

Each of these areas in the “Four C’s” framework needs a different set of rules. As an example of the level of detail, at Martela we have a rule that it’s completely OK not to greet a colleague who enters a concentration area. And, needless to say, all the rules must apply to everyone, including executives.

5. Never say you’re done

Ideally, a work environment is always optimal, but never ready. Sensor data of usage rates and qualitative feedback from employees should be analyzed either continuously or at regular intervals, and changes implemented on an ongoing basis.

Data-driven workplace design essentially turns the workplace into a service for employees. If there is a need for more sound-proof and air-conditioned phone booths while some of the hot desks are rarely used, it’s really a no-brainer to make the change - if you’re wired to listen and to adapt.

Workplace redesign is no longer about furniture, it’s about culture. Adopting a strategic view on workplace may well be just the push you need to boost both productivity and wellbeing at one go.

More interesting articles:

Improve collaboration - get more ideas!
Designing together is half the work
Workplace Strategy, More Crucial than You Thought

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