Based on first-hand experience and 20+ years in the field of HR and employee engagement, Tracy Mellor, Unispace’s interim Global Director, People & Culture, shares her views on why agile workspaces make sense from a people perspective.
I wrote a blog post a year or so ago when I was People and Culture Director for Reward Gateway entitled: “Eight ways to be a better People professional: Keep the 'human' in HR”. I then presented the eight points I’d uncovered at a couple of HR meetings. Interestingly, there was one point that resonated most with those I spoke to, and it was this one discussing the physical office:
“Get out of that office. Repeat after me: You don’t need an office. Really, you don’t. You don’t even need to be in the corner next to the meeting room “in case you need a private conversation.” There are other meeting rooms or coffee shops and it’s more important for you to take that laptop and go and sit in different places in your organisation. My recommendation is to manage by walking around and hear the snippets of what’s hot and what’s not. Hear the managers talking to their teams. Help in problem solving. Be part of the team - and the solution.”
I concede that in some company’s offices it’s difficult – but here at Unispace it’s easy.
I’ve been based in the Unispace Sydney studio for less than a month and I’m already in love with the agile working environment. There are some great spaces to work: This afternoon I sat on a window seat in the sun; earlier this morning I was in more formal meeting space with our Client Relations team; and I’m now writing this in one of the quiet booths so I can focus, without disturbance. I love the fact that I can find a space that fits whatever task I’m doing and/or what mood I’m in – and so do the Unispace team!
From an HR or People and Culture perspective, I think an agile working environment makes great business sense – you can choose to sit near your team, or if you’re business partnering, then you can collocate with the department or managers that you’re collaborating with. It just makes sense.
We shouldn’t underestimate the fact that everyone is different and, whilst collaboration is the key to creativity and success, people also need quiet spaces to really focus and contemplate. Unispace has recently published some great research about the need for focus too – you can read it here.
After having spent the last five years focusing on employee engagement, working with some of the best companies in the world, I’ve always appreciated that the spaces we create have a valuable contribution to make to the success of our employees. We can’t all have killer views, but we can take the time to ensure our people are set up to succeed, to collaborate, to have some quiet, focus time and to help get them out of those silos that they slip into when they’re literally in the same spot each day.
It’s been a great couple of weeks – I’m still finding my feet and working out who’s who. I can’t wait to get out and meet some clients, see some of the great workplace environments we’ve created, and hear how we’ve helped our clients’ businesses succeed.
About Tracy Mellor
With a strong passion for people and wellbeing, Tracy has a breadth of experience across HR including 20 years in the pharmaceutical industry in Northern Europe. Moving to Australia in 2008, she became Executive GM, People and Culture of Rebel Group. She was then Global People Director and Managing Director for Australia and NZ for Reward Gateway for five years.
Tracy is a Chartered Fellow of Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, a Fellow of Australian Human Resources Institute and Australian Institute of Management and a Member of Australian Institute of Company Directors – she’s also been named AIM Leader of the Year (NSW).