Archive for June, 2011
Not so long ago it was very normal to travel to your company office, which had been there for more than 20 years and work alongside all those colleagues who also had specific functions, which in unison, made the big machine work in a very regular way. Then something happened. Without us knowing it technology took over our lives and gave us the ability to complete multiple tasks at the same time and delivering the results to a multitude of places both virtual and physical. The author is not sure that we actually do any of these tasks as well as back in the day when we could concentrate fully on them and is sure that our customer service will never be the same, but complete the tasks we do and at an ever increasing rate. Our youth do not even see this as change but the norm. In a sense our place of work is as irrelevant as the locations we need to get our finished product to. Its just about getting the job done. Interestingly though, although the vast majority of companies have taken advantage of this to start to move workers home and reduce costs, improve work / life balance and increase efficiency, there is still a hesitation by some to make this their culture or even make more than a token gesture towards anything other than pure 100% office bound working. Is our lack of trust for our fellow human still so low that that we cannot take this simple step to fall in line with advancing technology and lifestyle? Is it really that hard for us to measure productivity and efficiency? Like it or not ladies and gentlemen, unless we change and accept these efficiency gifts we are receiving we will be a extinct when rivals start producing the same product with far lower operating costs and a happier workforce. Keep this in mind. You can reduce your total cost of occupancy by as much as 50% by having a good mobile / home and office work balance. Your Office Agent are a driving force in changing the way people and companies work to help us all keep getting better at what we do and stay ahead of those who feel they can do it better. If you would like to learn how then contact us on www.yourofficeagent.com and let us show you the future.
Your Office Agent pride ourselves in looking for how companies will work smarter in the future and helping our clients start working towards that goal right now. What is sometimes frustrating for both us and our clients is that we both know the inevitabilty of change but it takes a braver customer to take the plunge immediately rather than wait for someone else to do it first and by that time its generally late in the game. By helping educate the world on the importance of changing our work / life balance to fall in line with to other real positive changes in the world we are changing hearts and minds one square foot at a time. We understand that we are swimming against the tide of an entire industry but that is what makes us unique as a company and its what gets our consultants asked back into the same boardrooms time and time again. Most of the time we look to provoke thought by putting new ideas out there but sometimes we come across some forward looking views from within the office space industry itself and we think you will enjoy some of what is to follow. Our blog for this week is from the managed space industry and how they dont measure cost per square foot and instead measure the cost of wasted time (Muda in japaneze), which is the one truly limited commodity we have.
Companies often blindly continue with existing practices just because they are the norm, rather than carefully deliberating how little they may actually contribute and how much money may be wasted in the process.
The hugely successful Toyota Production System (TPS) emerged as an antidote to unthinking waste, embodying the management philosophy and practices developed by the Japanese car manufacturer in the post-war era. Because of its pivotal role in the success of Toyota and other Japanese companies, TPS became highly influential throughout the organisational world.
One of the central objectives of the TPS was to eliminate what the Japanese called muda – a wasteful or futile activity that adds no value, but still consumes resources. The focus on muda heightened awareness of activities that companies routinely or blindly undertake without considering whether they could be performed more efficiently.
Sixty years after TPS emerged, however, there is still much that can be done in the war against organisational waste.
WASTE OF HUMAN POTENTIAL
While muda was developed with industrial production in mind, we can easily transfer its principles into the office environment, populated by white-collar knowledge workers, that increasingly dominates the contemporary workplace.
For example, we have the muda of overproduction. In Europe, each worker prints an average of 31 pages a day, seven of which were not wanted, according to research by Lexmark, a printer manufacturer. Citigroup has estimated that it could save US$700,000 (S$863,940) a year and eliminate 76 tonnes of solid waste if every employee just saved only one sheet per week by using duplex printing and copying.
Previously, the productivity of factory workers was likely to be closely related to the amount of time they spent by their machine. However, maximising the output of the knowledge worker is altogether more complex. The propensity for creative, original or logical thought depends not just on ability, but on a range of other factors – most notably, the individual’s engagement or motivation.
The 2008 Towers Perrin Global Workforce Study looked at 50 global companies over a one-year period, correlating their employee engagement levels with financial results. The study found that companies with high employee engagement had a 19-per- cent increase in operating income, whereas companies with low levels of engagement saw a drop of more than 32 per cent.
The muda of the unnecessary movement can be easily seen in how companies work.
Mobile technology and secure virtual networks now allow most work to be performed remotely. Consequently, workers should be able to avoid commuting, achieve a better work-life balance, travel only to essential meetings and use flexible workspaces near to home or at mutually convenient locations for individual or group activities.
Regus research in early this year surveyed more than 17,000 businesses around the world and found that 81 per cent of companies allow workers some form of flexibility over when and where they work. However, a significant proportion of 40 per cent restrict this to senior managers. In Singapore, 41 per cent of businesses allow employees flexibility over working hours and location when they reach a certain level of seniority.
“Companies currently have an administrative relationship with their workers,” says Mr Jean Gomes, chairman of The Energy Project Europe. “But they don’t give people what they want – autonomy and accountability. Senior managers pay for engagement surveys and make superficial adjustments but they don’t really believe in people. If they did, they would change the way they operate.”
A study from last year reached conservative estimates on the underutilisation of office space. It found that 38 per cent of this space is at any single moment not utilised. The cost of this under-occupancy ranges from US$8 billion in the UK and France, up to more than US$70 billion in China.
Several factors contribute to this massive waste of office space. Although downsizing after the recent economic downturn has exacerbated the problem, fundamental structural changes to working arrangements are the predominant cause.
Mr Simon Taylor, head of property for Yell in the UK has personal experience of this. “There is rent, rates, insurance and there is also the issue of space utilisation – if you’re paying £15 (S$30)-£20 a foot, and you’re only using that space one day a week, the cost is very high. Then there are all the other elements that go into running a portfolio of properties – the cost soon rolls up.”
Last year, Mr Taylor cut waste in this area and saved £1.5 million annually by shifting his distributed sales workforce in 40 regional offices to Regus’ network of 140 local Regus business centres, on a pay-as-you-go formula.
Long-term property lease commitments and a fixed approach to work, on the other hand, prevent an agile response to changing circumstance, and lead to muda that not only saps resources but is also largely avoidable. In a corporate world that prides itself on the ability to tackle obvious examples of unnecessary cost – a particularly essential process after the global financial crisis – underutilised and continually emptying offices appear an atavistic anomaly.
Going back 50 years it was all very simple. We left our homes at 7am in our tin box in the morning to get to the office at 8am to spend the day in a concrete box with lots of other people who could not be trusted to work elsewhere and then at 6pm we clicked our imaginary clock out and got back into our little tin box to start the long journey of the masses home to sanity. This is how it has been forever and reflects the lack of imagination, trust and foresight of world business, however, since early 2000 a mobile working revolution has started and the old guard in the company C level positions are being forced kicking and screaming to accept that their era of being in control by eye contact has changed forever. Improvements in technology and the more recent global recession has made this the number 1 issues in business and the question is being asked how efficient our people and workspace really is.
A few statistic for our readers. In the US overy 79% of companies have a mobile working program and over 25% of workers could be classified as mobile workers. In a later article we will delve much more into the stats and which country does is better and why but for now we want to leave you with a thought. Why do you take all your space in 3 to 5 year leases when your business plan is no more than 6 months? Do you have employees who are spending up to 20% of their time travelling and are you truly efficient as a company? Later we can delve into social responsibility and why are we here but for now just be honest with yourself and look at the money shot. Are we being as smart as we can truly be? For more info about how we are trying to change the way people work please reply or come on to our site and learn about this on www.yourofficeagent.com.