Guest post by Michael Kruklinski, Head of Region Americas, Siemens Real Estate

The average American worker will spend at least 40 hours a week at their office. For a place where employees spend such an enormous amount of time, it’s no surprise that office managers are making intelligent workspace design a top priority. Whether it’s investing in communal or co-working models, or transitioning to an open-office plan, businesses are actively investing in workspace of the future. Yet for all that money spent, we don’t always pay enough attention to how a company’s physical office spaces impact employees.

It’s no secret that an underutilized or disjointed workplace presents a chaotic view of your company to the outside world. But exactly what does that mean to your bottom line? According to a recent study by the International Interior Design Association (IIDA), there is a clear correlation. One finding showed that half of the 1,206 employees surveyed were satisfied with their workplace and envisioned staying with the company for another year.

Through the adoption “intelligent space design,” companies can determine the optimal layout of their space, maximizing efficiency. This technique can have a positive impact on retention rates and save companies money by helping to determine the best use of resources.

Monitor and React
One of the tenets of intelligent space management is data. Without knowing how your employees use their workspace, it’s impossible to know how to properly manage your office. This is one of the hallmarks of Siemens Real Estate’s (SRE) NewWow (New Way of Working). At our facilities in Chicago, Siemens is testing the use of occupancy sensors. By measuring traffic between buildings, how many people are using meetings rooms, etc. we can determine exactly how much space is needed in the building, reduce its footprint, and ultimately make the workspace more efficient for all employees. Some surprising data came out of these tests: Less than two-thirds of employees are in the office at peak time, indicating that there is room to add staff without moving or leasing more space.

Outside the Cubicle Thinking
There is an increased demand for flexibility and collaboration in the modern workplace. I call this the “uberization” of services. Creating a work environment that supports this modern way of thinking is key to fostering innovation at your company and, in turn, boosting profits. This means ditching the traditional cubicle model and embracing more creative seating arrangements. A great example of this can be seen at Samsung, which has done away with the typical office arrangement in favor of an outdoor shared space that allows employees to brainstorm and interact more freely. This ultimately lead to new ideas and concepts.

There are arguments against such a model, noise level being chief among them. But, anecdotally, I’ve found that non-traditional seating arrangements lead to conversations and idea sharing that may not have otherwise happened. The research also reflects that this is what employees want, and listening to employees can play a big role in workplace satisfaction. According to a study from Brandware, 64% of employees who were satisfied with their work environment strongly agreed with the statement “my organization cares about my well-being.”

Building a Neighborhood

It stands to reason if your employees make efficient use of their time in the office, the goals of your company will more quickly be achieved. I recommend you think about your office as a series of neighborhoods. For example, your marketing employees should work in the “marketing neighborhood,” while your financial team works in the “financial neighborhood,” so they can more easily share ideas with each other. This kind of collaboration works wonders for morale, but it can also have a more tangible effect on your bottom line. With employees of the same department working close to one another, it eliminates the needs for long treks across the office or lengthy emails. While on its own that might only take a few minutes, the time saved over a year could mean more hours of productivity.

Going Green Saves Green

Sustainability is a big focus these days and building design is no exception. Going green is not only a great move for the environment, it can also help save your business money. Siemens’ R&D office in Princeton, NJ is a great example of how sustainability can inform building design. The new lobby uses a combination of natural light and energy-efficient LED lighting to reduce overall emissions. And to avoid waste, materials were re-used as work continued on the lobby. For instance, re-purposed wood was used to line the walls of the elevator.

Even more changes are on the horizon. Siemens is hard at work on transitioning the building to a distributed energy system that uses solar energy. That energy would in turn be tied to a battery storage system, which would give the building flexible and reliable sources of energy.

The changes outlined above are just some of what I will discuss on October 16 at the CoreNet Global Summit in Boston to help you transition your office to the workspace of the future. And the future is now. Start talking to your employees to get their feedback on these or other changes. This will inform your work going forward and ensure you are making the right choices for your businesses future.