The way we work is changing—today’s office work is less about showing up for your 8-hour shift and more about team dynamics, flexible working, and constant innovation. As work styles evolve, the physical space is having more impact on the employee experience. For example, organizations have become flatter with CEOs and leadership teams sitting in open office settings with employees. The debate over open offices vs closed spaces has become more vocal, office trends a re-shifting, and real estate professionals are being tasked with fostering the ultimate workspace that drives productivity, improves the employee experience and increases collaboration.
Understanding how teams work can help us identify which spaces promote success for which
teams, and why. An engineering team may need a space that allows for more “heads down, focus time” than a sales team, which may benefit from a bustling open space. It may make sense to position an R&D team closer to marketing to allow more opportunities for collaboration and product feedback. Having the right people in the right environment is the key to long term success, and understanding what the best space is, becomes essential.
Social network analyses help companies identify how teams are connecting throughout the organization by mapping flows of information between teams, computers, URLs, and other sources. These network patterns can give us valuable insight into how a company is operating, how employees are working together, and how these relationships correlate to business objectives like productivity and employee engagement. They can show the strength of connections between teams, and to the organization over time.
Why Does It Matter?
Uncovering network patterns can help identify several factors impacting your teams such as how well teams are able to work within certain environments, how strong the connections are between teams, and which teams need to be positioned near each other in order to be productive and collaborative. In today’s workspace this is more important than ever; having the right teams together means you are able to stay competitive while improving the employee experience. You’d be hard-pressed to find a millennial who plans on retiring at their first job; the average tenure is down to less than two years, and competition to attract and retain top talent is at an all-time high. Low engagement means high turnover, which any manager knows crushes productivity and morale, while significantly increasing cost. Company leaders need to identify how employees are working and connecting with their teams in order to create an environment that is engaging and productive.
Does this Actually Work?
Yes. We can all agree that an engaged, happy team is much more likely to be a high producing team. So how exactly have we seen this play out?
European Bank Branch Disparities:
A large European Bank wanted to understand what was causing one of their branches to outperform another by over 300%, despite having similar customer bases. By uncovering social networks they revealed a pattern; employees at the strongest performing branches had significantly more face-to-face interactions throughout the day. Meanwhile, the lower performing offices had distinct gaps in employee engagement and collaboration.
Office Layout Impacting Collaboration
After analyzing communication patterns and work schedules, it was shown that the underperforming branches were being given less time to collaborate as a team and build trust. While employees at the high performing branches were consistently interacting with each other, increasing the potential for knowledge sharing and teamwork, the lower performing branches were missing out on these key conversations. Analysis of office layout data from both branches showed that poor office design was restricting communication patterns and limiting opportunities for collaboration throughout the day in the low performing branches.
Redesigning Office Space to Increase Sales by 11%
With this data, the bank was able to take several approaches to improving employee collaboration. First, the low performing branches redesigned their office space to increase employee interactions throughout the day, including restructuring and implementing a rotating desk system that allowed previously separated employees to interact with each other. Both low performing and high performing branches also implemented group bonus structures to encourage group performance and knowledge sharing and allocated funds for team building activities. As a result of the new initiatives, the under-performing branches saw sales increase by 11% to $1 billion over the next year.