The space to harness change

Organisations that embrace change gain competitive advantage. The work environment can play an important role.

Reading time: Less than 4 minutes

Dec 05, 2023

An illustration representing change on a green background.

The ability to navigate change is a characteristic of all successful organisations. Finding newer, better and more effective ways of operating can grow revenues, expand markets, drive progress and achieve efficiencies. In other words: Embracing change leads to success.

The other side of change

On the other hand, change can also feel extremely disruptive and unsettling.

The World Uncertainty Index (WUI) has charted the acceleration of uncertainty over time since 1990. Organisations not only face higher uncertainty than ever, but they also have little control over its contributing factors.*

Things like COVID, supply chain disruption, technological competition and political unrest have overwhelmed organisations. The uncertainty is increasing and becoming more erratic, with a more global reach.

The effects of this uncertainty have driven the constant re-evaluation and reinvention of businesses – like shifting business goals to shorter, faster project cycles – and fuelled the rise of new technologies, such as AI.

Organisations today not only face higher uncertainty than ever, but they also have little control over its contributing factors.

Managing change together

As organisations try to keep pace in a more complex business environment, they need new ways to spark innovation, build camaraderie and support the ever-changing needs of their global workforce.

The physical workplace offers a logical starting point.

A work environment designed to support people, aid the flow of information, promote creativity and enhance culture can help a company solve challenging business problems and remain competitive. In such an environment, people get comfortable taking risks and asking for the things they need. Once they reach this level of psychological safety, people stop being afraid of change. And they realise they can thrive through it.

Global management consulting firm McKinsey reports that among today’s most productive organisations, 16% continually iterate or tweak processes in response to changing external factors. None of the least productive organisations exhibit these behaviours.*

A woman adjusting the height of a Passport Work Table and rolling it to a different location.
Rockwell Unscripted Steps

Flexibility in the built environment

Flexibility for individuals
Helping people adapt to change by giving them control of their environment and designing spaces to adapt to employees – not the other way around.

Why is this important? Being comfortable with change is a key factor in psychological safety, which affects engagement, performance and results.

Flexibility for teams
Helping teams adapt more easily to change through the ability to reconfigure the team neighbourhood to reduce disruption and build resiliency.

Why is this important? Employee turnover and teams changing out or shifting focus happen at a far greater rate than ever before. Supportive team environments make a difference. When team members participate in the design of their space, the experience itself builds camaraderie even beyond the shared sense of ownership.

Flexibility for organisations
Helping organisations embrace change through multipurpose, connected, flexible spaces that adapt to support people where and when they work.

Why is this important? The need for flexibility extends beyond physical space. Decision-makers must plan for a future in which dynamic and distributed ways of working are the norm.***

Instead of being unsettled by the uncertainty, let’s focus on navigating and embracing change and design for flexibility.

Change is here to stay

There will always be change. That’s just a fact. Instead of being unsettled by the uncertainty, let’s focus on navigating and embracing change and design for flexibility.

At MillerKnoll, we help organisations embrace change by connecting them with furnishings and tools that give people control over their environment. Designs from our collective of brands empower people, teams and organisations to adapt space to meet their needs by the minute, the hour or the day.

A woman moving a gray OE1 Agile Wall with a man sitting on a checkerboard Nelson Coconut Lounge Chair in the background.

Test, learn, then change some more

Because personal needs change so often, we advocate for organisations to practise inclusive design. This participatory approach to design requires engagement with end-users throughout the process to ensure a space that accommodates the widest range of needs on Day One and stays effective over time.

– Provide change management practices to help people get comfortable with change and instil psychological safety.

– Test the effectiveness of a space with pilot projects to engage employees and make sure that it meets everyone’s unique needs.

– Continue to learn, adapt and improve how well your workspace functions for the people who use it by designing it with them, not for them.

We all have a choice. We can muddle through change, or we can embrace it and manage it to our competitive advantage.

Choose wisely.

If you need help knowing where to begin, let’s talk.


Sources:
* Ahir, Bloom, Furceri, “World Uncertainty Index,” National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper 29763.
** “Future of Work: Managing Risks of the Hybrid Workplace,” McKinsey, July 2021.
*** “The Future of Work Survey 2022,” Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), July 2022.

3-point recap

  • Change can feel disruptive and cause uncertainty, but it also holds enormous potential to drive organisational success.

  • A workplace that can adapt to the needs of individuals, teams and the organisation helps people get more comfortable with change and build resiliency.

  • Optimising workplace flexibility is also an ever-changing process. By practising inclusive design, organisations continue to learn and adapt based on people’s changing needs.

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