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A recent report took a closer look at the drivers and perceived benefits of alternative workplace programs, uncovering the leadership and workplace strategy implications organizational leaders.

The study, entitled ‘The Once Alternative Workplace Strategies,’ was conducted and released by Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA), Global Workplace Analytics and Haworth Inc. Having surveyed 130 organizations representing over 2.3m employees globally, the research pinpoints five leading trends within today’s workplaces, and compares the findings to the initial research from over a decade ago.

‘Alternative workplace’ programs or practices can be defined as ‘the combination of non-traditional work practices, settings and locations that supplement or replace traditional offices’. While some may argue that these styles are no longer ‘alternative’ and are becoming increasingly more common, the ten-year study honored the original phrasing to best ensure continuity.

The 2018 report has unearthed several key trends including:

1. Only 7 percent of the respondents believe that implementing alternative workplace programs can negatively impact productivity
Managers often worry that alternative workplace programs will lower employee productivity. In most cases, the opposite is true.

2. People impacts are now the primary measure of success
The potential for cost savings might kick-start the program, but along the way leaders begin to see how making work better for people can deliver far more than they thought.

3. Internal mobility has more than doubled
With the rising use of technology and ‘smart working’, an increasing number of employees are roaming offices freely, making the most of flexible environments and resources. Internal mobility has more than doubled in the past 10 years, while external mobility has remained the same.

4. Assigned seats die hard
The percentage of full-time office-based employees who are permanently assigned to one particular space (48 per cent) has remained virtually unchanged since 2008.

5. Employee involvement is decreasing
As alternative workplace programs increase in size and maturity, the report shows employee involvement in the planning, implementation and evaluation has significantly decreased. This runs contrary to what the researchers have found works best – the more people involved in the process, the more likely they are to accept and own it.

As trends in facilities shift and change, staffs responsible for cleaning these spaces must also adjust. For example, No. 3 above suggests that facility workers are looking for mobility in their working spaces. But as people move, so do touch points and the potential for cross-contamination. This, in tern, will change how cleaners attack cleaning and disinfection. (For more on how to clean changing work spaces, click here.)

Researcher Insights
Chris Hood, research lead and one of the directors at Advanced Workplace Associates: “Unfortunately, the results of this global study demonstrate that a high percentage of companies still see this as a real estate initiative and not the opportunity to reinvent their businesses in deeper and more transformational ways. Workplace innovation is a litmus test for management quality and leadership. This isn’t about real estate, it’s actually about people and business outcomes.”

Dr. Gabor Nagy, research program manager at Haworth: “There is tremendous value in longitudinal studies, as they truly capture long-term trends. We started this study back in 2008, in the middle of the recession when cost savings were perceived as the top benefit of these programs. Now, work/life balance has become the number one benefit. Only time will tell whether we will see a reversal of this trend when the next recession comes.”

Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics: “It’s great to see the trend toward more human-centric measures of success. I believe this is an indication that organizations are taking a less-siloed and more holistic approach to workplace change. They are realizing that workplaces and work practices that work for people are good for the bottom line.”