Tightsizing the workplace…a blessing in disguise?

Dan Tangherlini is assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury, one of the many government agencies developing new workplace strategies focused on reducing real estate holdings. Not unlike numerous private-sector organizations, the agency is combining a significant reduction in square footage per employee with a structured telework program. In the article, “The Incredible Shrinking Office: Feds Moving to Shared Workspaces,” Tangherlini refers to the approach as “tightsizing.”

The terms downsizing and rightsizing have long conveyed a negative connotation, with benefits to the organization—and sacrifices for the workforce. But don’t assume that tightsizing falls in the same category. The term tightsizing has not yet become mainstream, however I predict you’ll be hearing it used increasingly in the future. Tightsizing goes hand-in-hand with alternative workspace strategies (AWS), which in many cases, are a result of downsizing or rightsizing.

More and more clients contact Stegmeier Consulting Group early in their workplace transformation processes requesting change management support. Regardless of whether they refer to their initiative as alternative workspace strategy, shared space environment, hoteling, mobile work, flex work, web commuting, tightsizing, or other terms, the common thread these corporate real estate professionals share is the goal to balance workplace cost reduction and workforce performance improvement. It indeed is a balancing act, yet one worth pursuing. For every 100 individual workspaces an organization can eliminate when combining tightsizing and an appropriately designed workforce mobility program, that enterprise can conservatively save $1 million annually in rent, operations, depreciation, and churn costs.

Managing resistance to workplace change can seem a daunting task for business leaders. However, identifying and addressing areas of resistance early in the development of the new workplace strategy can ensure the organization maximizes the opportunities for reducing workplace costs:
• Operate more productively with fewer resources
• Reduce energy consumption and the corporation’s aggregate carbon footprint
• Support business continuity strategies
• Accommodate new hires without leasing additional space

Earlier in this blog, I asked readers to refrain from assuming that tightsizing has a negative connotation. An alternative workspace strategy may actually be a blessing in disguise for the organization. Tightsizing individual workspaces, while also granting members of the workforce the autonomy to select where and when they work based on the task at hand, can ensure the enterprise optimizes performance improvement:
• Increase productivity despite the location where work is performed
• Reinforce the corporate value of trust, improving employee morale
• Provide staff more choices and control to balance work-life
• Accommodate the needs of the multigenerational workforce
• Support the company’s attraction and retention efforts

When the term tightsizing becomes mainstream and its benefits well known, perhaps the blessing will no longer be disguised. For now, please refrain from assuming that reducing workplace costs can only result in benefits to the business enterprise, and sacrifices to the workforce.

Diane Stegmeier
Author, Innovations in Office Design: The Critical Influence Approach to Effective Work Environments