What can you expect when you tell a cubicle generation of workers that your company is adopting a flexible workplace redesign? Even if you don’t say the words “open office,” panic ensues.
“Where will I put my things? I won’t have my own office anymore? How will I find my team? What about germs!?”
These are the questions I received (over and over again) when I was part of the organizational change management team handling the people side of the workspace redesign of our Citrix HQ in Ft. Lauderdale, FL almost five years ago.
Today, according to our recent survey with Wakefield Research, 87% of US office professionals say a flexible work environment resulted in positive outcomes: increased morale (51%) and productivity (50%), lower turnover (35%), and stronger recruiting (34%).
After personally experiencing the benefits of flexibility day in and day out, I wholly agree. But first, let’s rewind five years to when a redesign felt like an unsurmountable challenge.
From a business perspective, the benefits of a redesign were crystal clear: increased employee autonomy, higher engagement, a productivity boost, a culture of innovation, and better bottom line results. We had the technology to securely enable flexibility, so what could stop us from achieving these results?
As a member of our Organizational Change Management team, who was dually affected by the redesign, I knew the answer: people.
Most people are naturally resistant to change. They feel vulnerable when they perceive a threat to their sense of certainty and ability to be successful. Apply this general truth to a generation that associates “workspace” with their office or cubicle, and you can imagine the challenge of implementing a flexible work environment.
Most of all, people have a hard time dealing with sudden change.
That’s why the ADKAR® for change management is one of my favorite resources for implementing change. ADKAR, which stands for Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement, is a five-stage process that enables individuals to gradually become aware of, and open to, an initiative before all the details of its implementation—the what, when, who, why, and how—are announced and enforced. We managed the workspace redesign just like a project—assessing the risks and rolling out the plan in calculated, gradual iterations based on how our people felt and what would be on their hearts and minds as we progressed to working in a very new and different way.
Once the walls came down in our workspace, we quickly realized that our old cubicle-farm model had been inhibiting collaboration and, quite frankly, segregating us from one another. It was scary not to have cube walls to hide behind, yet we found that this new feeling of vulnerability didn’t limit us, but rather created a genuine sense of connection and trust. And, we were surprised at how liberating it felt to work how we wanted to.
If you’ve ever spent time on a college campus, you’re familiar with how many different types of workspaces are available. After our workplace redesign was complete, the environment at Citrix didn’t feel much different. In quiet libraries, private nooks, loads of non-reservable privacy rooms, social spaces, function-specific rooms, and fun, collaboration stations, people were now free to work any way they wanted to in a matter of minutes—on any device.
Redesigning the workspace also included a few surprises like valuable and spontaneous mentorship opportunities. People started to work with more new people and in new ways. The results were big: new ideas, more innovation, faster decisions, and a strong sense of community and equality among us.
It’s hard to think back to the time when this change felt like an obstacle to overcome. After first-hand exposure to the efficiency that flexibility has brought to my own work, I could never turn back. In fact, when people who had once been resistant to give up their personal offices in the past later received a chance to regain one, they turned the opportunity down.
Workplace redesign is a major success story at Citrix, but it’s also a story about the future of work. 40% of survey respondents said they would turn down a job that didn’t come with a flexible work environment. At the C-level, 68% of respondents said the same. Given the positive impact flexibility has on work-life balance and how we work, the value that job-seekers place on a flexible environment will only grow.
When you focus on and involve your people in the changes that affect them, you can not only effectively implement change, but inspire meaningful personal and professional growth. The future of work is already within reach—and it’s the best change your employees don’t know they need.