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Georgia Elliott Smith

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1 April 2019 Georgia Elliott-Smith

We’re designing, managing and maintaining our workspaces poorly because we fail to value our people properly, argues Georgia Elliott-Smith.

We measure performance with Industrial Revolution-based output metrics such as units produced and profit achieved. Great if you manufacture widgets, but not when people generate profit. 

People don’t work like machines. We need to be inspired, empowered and motivated to be productive. Great leadership helps but a sense of ‘place’ is vital.

The London School of Business & Finance says more than 50 per cent of people hate their jobs. Gallup research shows 85 per cent of global employees are “emotionally disconnected from their workplaces”. 

I often visit businesses working in uninspiring spaces that offer no views, no colour, no amenities, and no hope. They say there’s no budget for well-being. 

Human needs such as daylight, decent ventilation and acoustics, thermal comfort, nutrition, access to community are not capital expenditure priorities. 

But this isn’t about money. It’s about understanding what people need to flourish. 

I used to run a small business with no budget for expensive real estate. We had a little, draughty serviced office space, but we loved it because we had daylight, pot plants, colourful décor and a sense of community. We ate lunch together and laughed as hard as we worked.

How do we get our workplaces right? Workplace and FM professionals must answer the following: 

  • Does the space foster community or stifle it? 
  • Does it inspire creativity and fun or demand you sit down and shut up? 
  • Can it accommodate quiet focus and noisy collaboration? 
  • Can your people access healthy food and drink, get exercise and take breaks? 

Unhappy staff either leave, or stay and make others unhappy. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Invest in your people. Now.

Georgia Elliott-Smith is director at Fourfront Group