The rise of Workplace Consultants and how they can help your organisation
Updated: Jul 12, 2022
Workplace Consultants have been in demand over the past 18 months, which is unsurprising due to the sheer volume of UK employers that have been re-evaluating their workplace design strategy and flexible-work approach in light of the Pandemic.
Workplace Consultants will ultimately help you to 1. Understand how your business currently operates, and 2. Find areas where improvements can be made. Dependent on your goals, a Workplace Consultancy will cover an analysis into four areas of your business; people, office space, business processes and technology.
When the pandemic hit in 2020, places of work were abandoned and almost 50% of the UK’s working population began to work from home (Office of National Statistics) and the need for big fancy and expensive city-based offices was questioned. Barclays CEO at the time publicly stated that "big offices may be a thing of the past" (BBC).
Workplace Consultants will help you to understand what your business needs and identify a roadmap to get there.
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What is the ultimate goal of a Workplace Consultant?
Workplace Consultants will work with you to help you to achieve your goals as a business by addressing issues in the working environment. These could be physical issues such as workplace layout and design. Although Workplace Consultants are not interior designers, they can help you with improving the function of the workplace. You may wish to understand desk utilization levels in your organization and occupancy rates. Do you need as much office space as you have? Are you utilizing your workplace in the best way possible for your people to do the best job possible?
Workplace consultants can also help you to introduce new ways of working. This could be to help you to move towards a digital-first policy and paperless office (link to paperless infographic). You may be wanting to reduce manual business processes and paper usage. Is your current workplace functioning at a high level? Are your staff productive with the tools and processes they have?
More lately, Workplace Consultants are involved in helping organizations with their hybrid working arrangements. This is about understanding what tasks can and should be undertaken in the office and what tasks can be completed at home. Do you have the right blend of home and office working? Are your staff equally productive in both environments? How can I downsize my office space when everyone wants to attend on the same days?
When should you engage with a Workplace Consultant?
Ultimately, it’s all about change. When change is happening, be that an office relocation, office re-stack, office downsizing or a move to flexible working – these are all excellent catalysts for changes elsewhere in your business, as staff will already be in the mindset for something different.
You may also work with a Workplace Consultant when change is needed. For example, if you are wanting to reduce operating costs, going through a reduction in headcount or belt-tightening, or wanting to make business processes more cost efficient - these are all triggers for engaging with a workplace consultant to understand what is possible and how quickly.
What are the benefits of working with Workplace Consultants?
Workplace Consultants will provide the much-needed support and advocacy for change within your organization. Getting any type of change signed-off can be difficult, but getting the change successfully implemented can be even harder. Workplace Consultants are experts in their field of workplace optimization and will show you where you are, where you need to get to and most importantly HOW to get there. A Workplace Consultant will also identify any potential obstacles you could encounter including any resistance from specific areas of the business, and how to overcome this. This will assist in the smooth implementation of any optimization programmes.
Having fresh eyes assess how your business is functioning is also beneficial and utilizing the expert services of a Workplace Consultant will give you market context in terms of how you compare to your competitors and this benchmarking will help you to gain a competitive edge.
The benefits of a workplace consultancy exercise go beyond optimizing your workplace for the best work to take place. Through optimized processes your customers will be positively impacted, reducing response times and improving interaction – overall a better customer experience.
Ultimately working with a workplace consultant can help to ease the change process, reduce resistance and ensure whatever needs to happen, happens in a timely manner.
Can a Workplace Consultancy help me to go paperless?
This could certainly be one of the outcomes of working with a Workplace Consultant if this is one of your goals. Addressing paper heavy and manual processes can be covered as part of the analysis stage and recommendations could be made to work towards a digital-first way of working.
Environmental drivers for workplace optimization projects have certainly been on the rise again as many FTSE 500 companies are now announcing and committing to net-zero targets. Paper usage has been a focus for many companies in recent times, having survived the Pandemic without access to paper records in the offices. In addition, inefficient business processes are quite often found to be manual, paper reliant and without the technology needed to optimize them. However, it should be stated that investing in expensive technology may not always be necessary. Going Paperless could start with an exercise to remove redundant media in your office or relocating files that aren’t referred to daily, to an offsite storage provider.
Check out our Go Paperless Infographic for quick wins to reduce paper in your offices.
Could I do a Workplace Consultancy inhouse?
More and more organisations are recruiting for full-time Workplace Transformation Managers as they are beginning to understand the benefits of having transformation experts in-house for projects big and small. A Workplace Consultant tends work with these individuals and where this person isn’t available they typically work closely with Facilities and Operations Managers and their teams.
One of the main benefits of outsourcing in general is freed-up time. If you bring an expert in from outside of your organisation, you are freeing up resource that would have been allocated to the cause in-house. In addition, do you have the skills in-house to provide a Workplace Consultancy? Workplace Consultants are experienced in change at a strategic level, they have had experience across different sized businesses and across different sectors. They have the ability to communicate with individuals at all levels of the business and negotiation skills to facilitate the changes needed. It can sometimes be easier for an ‘outsider’ to gather the information from employees because 1. If staff can see the organisation has invested in an external resource, they may treat the project more seriously, and 2. It may be difficult for staff to be candid about a problem if talking to colleagues that they are familiar with.
What does a typical Workplace Consultancy project cost?
This can be different for each and every requirement and will depend on your goals and other factors such as; headcount of your organization, your sector, how many sites you have and the issues you are currently looking to fix. Typically, Workplace Consultants charge a day rate, however, a project rate may be more suitable if on a larger scale.
How long does a Workplace consultancy take?
Again, this depends on the number of employees, size of the business, number of locations and what you want to achieve. It may also come down to your budget. Another factor to consider is availability of your staff as a number of them will most certainly need to be spoken to as part of the assessment. You may have a timescale in mind or a deadline because of an imminent project such as an office move or downsizing project, and this will need to be factored into the timescales.
Typically, we say that a consultancy with the goal of understanding how to reduce paper reliance will take 3-4 weeks, based on a 500 headcount organization. This would cover analysis, interviews with key members of each department, a report and recommendations. Workplace occupancy and utilization surveys can be quickly implemented but again, it’s dependent on how much time you have and also ensuring enough information is collated for it to be a fair representation of your business. This will ensure any recommendations for change are realistic, achievable, and right for you!
What does a typical Workplace Consultancy Process look like?
Project kick-off: As with any type of project, taking the brief and understanding your business goals comes first. Capturing any urgent issues or pressing timescales will need to be factored in - what do you want to achieve and by when? Then will likely follow site visits and meetings with key stakeholders. Project kick-off involves scheduled communications to staff and/or any departments/individuals affected by the project to ensure everyone feels the urgency, understands the drivers and is ‘on-board’. It’s important staff are involved and aware of what is happening to be prepared to input into the process as required and with permission. Communication is key!
Analysis: This will take form in two different types of activities. The first being quantitative activities which includes; measuring space, occupancy levels, staff movements into and around the office, volumes of inbound documents, volumes of processed documents, staff engagement, surveys etc – activities undertaken will depend on your requirement and what outcome you need. In addition to statistical collating activities, it is likely key members of staff will be interviewed for a more in-depth analysis to understand their productivity and their connection to the environment around them. The second type of activities are therefore qualitative and will most likely involve one to one/team interviews. How many interviews and the direction of the questions will again depend on the project goals.
Review & report: The Workplace Consultant will then review the findings and make recommendations with actionable insights – usually presenting the ‘as-is’ and then designing the ‘to-be’ which will include a roadmap to get you to where you need to be.
Workplace Consultants can help with all kinds of changes that you are wanting to make in the working environment. They can help you to address issues with space, spiralling costs, inefficient business processes and much more. Your workplace is unique, and your business will have legacy processes, systems and habits that are being upheld with detriment to your business. The ultimate benefit of working with a Workplace Consultant is that you will get a unique solution to your needs, which will only make change easier to implement.