The Onward Journey

Taking your employees back to the office? Going hybrid, full-time or flexible? Let’s go on a tour with Simone and Ali.

Meeting of minds

We both met late 2020 via Tom and Alex. It was an instant hit! We had to find a way to fuse our purposes. What we most needed was a survey solution that moved from the employees in the facilities to the employees themselves. Time and again facilities management (FM) clients asked for us to move beyond just workplace solutions. Despite the prominence of the world’s foremost employee workplace experience survey and index, it lacks a number of elements. As I went on to discover, SHAPE has (almost) everything the FM surveys cover, and then everything else they don’t. But the real kicker is they serve everyone in the business: employees and managers too, not just executives, and not just FM but the golden triangle of HR, IT and FM to drive employee experience. This is the switch we need.

Coming back from where?

Let’s begin our tour. The media is fuelled with talk of ‘the return’. First, let’s ask where your employees are coming back from. Have they been flourishing in social isolation, focused and felt supported? Or were they affected by ill-health, burned out or the death of a loved-one? Or have they spent over a year on furlough and feel like their brain is in hibernation? Do you know what baggage and challenges your people are bringing back to work with them? It’s a good time to benchmark.

Worlds apart

FM, IT and HR are not the only departments that operate in silos. And that’s putting it mildly. Our experience has been they come from entirely different backgrounds and speak different languages. Literally! If ever they want data to support their analysis, they rush to spin up another survey and solve the puzzle from their world view. It’s simper to work alone than collaborate. It’s even easier to tell the survey company to tell them what they need most. Success comes from breaking these internal barriers and unconscious bias. That’s the journey we’re on.

New entry

Continuing our tour… it’s no longer as simple as just working from home or turning up to the office. You’ll need to book ahead, wanting to know who else will be there and have a clear reason why you’re about to make the journey. We’re now dealing with unprecedented levels of scheduling challenges. Just booking a chair, let alone a room, needs the best workplace booking and visitor management system that schedules multiple people’s demands in an equitable way. Can you book a space more than twice or three times a week? Who’s intelligently monitoring this? Beyond this, FM have the challenge of looking at what people’s intentions are, and what the actual reality is.

Great, you made it to the office! You might be greeted by a screen in the reception area. This digital led approach will help meet the challenge of minimising human contact while still delivering a personal touch. The data of who enters when and why will power new learnings and inform decisions that will further transform the meaning of ‘hybrid working’. We’re just at the very beginning.

Both hard and soft

You won’t be able to miss the sometimes subtle and mostly obvious changes to the office layout. While one hopes we avoid going back to Perspex cubes (yes, some companies think this is the solution to safe return), done right hybrid will afford more space per person, an increase in variety of spaces to work from, improved use of colour, acoustics, lighting and temperature control. But the new world is much more than the physical work environment. The soft work environment you carry from home to work matters just as much. The hygiene factors – seamless connectivity, distraction management, communication systems… SHAPE measures all these essential factors to build a picture of just how effective workplace investments are proving.

Gone green

If you’re lucky, you may also notice your enhanced office space is making you more focussed and efficient. Smart FM teams have used the events of 2020 to resize or redefine the office experience and demonstrate their green credentials. A 2016 (1) study found average cognitive scores of employees were 61% higher in Green building conditions (low concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and 101% higher in Green+ building conditions (high outdoor air ventilation rate) than conventional buildings (high concentrations of VOCs). This comes with a P value of < 0.0001, in case you’re wondering. The chance to revise the workplace now means we need to link heavily to employee performance, not just employee experience.


It’s what we’ve missed the most, apparently. And it’s what management want to bring back. Those impromptu exchanges, apparently at the water cooler, that spark the best ideas. Or implicit conversations that create the links to higher order innovation. We’ll be paying close attention to how office layout and design (2) avail the significant positive relationship between accessibility among employees and productivity.

Culture and safety

Organisations are embracing the concept of ‘teaming’ (3). The workplace of the future is about embracing this concept and you may find the new layout is inviting you to team-up. Teaming is about flexibly working together (mostly on the fly) to solve problems in an open and collaborative environment. Not only does this require a physical space to encourage this face-to-face behaviour (4), it requires a strong psychologically safe climate that supports risk taking. To accommodate this kind of practice also requires a culture that underpins successful teaming. This includes corporate culture aspects such as adaptation, support, respect, oppositional, groups, avoidance, communication and much more. SHAPE measures all this and empowers never before seen correlations simply because of centralised employee data.


Another key observation of survey solutions is that not many of the claims are based on actual science. Not many of the claims are measured. Not many of the claimants even understand how their tools can improve productivity. Challenging the “tick the box” mentality, it really showed that SHAPE had spent over four years in R&D linking every question back to powerful substantiation of factor evaluation and measurement. Extensive reporting presented in a super simple way encourages understanding and action. And for the decision makers, the science supports them in confidently making a purchase without feeling the need to get a Masters in Science. All helpful to the cause of successfully connecting disparate departments. 

Coming together

 HR, IT, FM, leadership, well-being, and finance, it doesn’t matter where we are, we all need the intelligence to appreciate and communicate with each other’s worlds and make informed decisions together. It is the coming together and the small changes in each of our areas, whether it be management of teams, culture, workplaces, layouts, policies, development, etc… are all interlinked. This is what will drive the future of work well beyond employee experience. These silos must be connected to inform better decisioning without subjecting your employees with multiple and conflicting surveys, unnecessary experiments, and assuming and guessing what really works.

Together we’re on a mission to connect departments through data. You have an open invitation to join us. The solution is here. Are you?

Take Care,

Ali and Simone.

Ali Khan is COO at SHAPE Global Ltd, which helps employees measure and improve workplace performance. He is Founder/CIO at SensusDx, Inc and Wellbeing Science Design Expert at AXA Health.

Simone Fenton-Jarvis is a workplace thought leader with human-centricity at the heart of everything she does.






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