Keeping it real in the workplace

Authenticity might just be the next big trend for South Africa’s future workplace, according to Giant Leap director, Linda Trim.
Work as we know it has changed; from welcoming new workforce generations, to implementing new-age technology, to balancing our career with personal lives, to office designs that provide staff with different areas in order for them to effectively fulfil their work.

The rise of the ‘conscious consumer’ has noted that individuals are constantly looking for that authentic experience; from where they live, where they shop and what labels they buy, to what they eat, and importantly, where they work. Employees no longer just visit the office to complete tasks, they now expect work to feel like a part of their lifestyle, interests and life goals – ultimately creating the essence of an authentic workplace.

Trim says that companies spend huge amounts each year to get their employees to work better together, yet they don’t address the heart of the matter – and that is creating an environment that fosters authenticity. “If you want a workplace where people collaborate, are energised, creative and innovative, provide excellent customer services and bring out their best, then we should start by being authentic.”

“Employees are not just seeking a nine-to-five job, but rather a career that resonates with them, is something that they buy-into and support wholeheartedly, and in turn, supports them. What’s key to an authentic workplace is that an organisation’s space is never a cookie cutter approach, it’s designed to reflect the company’s unique and individual underlying story – encompassing the organisational culture while creating a sense of community.”

Here are five pillars of an authentic workplace:

  1. Combine workplace design with your individual company culture;
  2. Be environmentally friendly;
  3. Recycle, recycle, recycle;
  4. Link office design to your staff needs and requirements by providing a combination of different areas; and
  5. Always use and include individual company brand identity.

According to Trim, the first and most important step to creating an authentic workplace begins with a detailed research strategy that understands the business processes, demographics, business goals, and the needs and requirements of staff. “This is why at Giant Leap we have a research and intelligence arm called Know More. Here we identify problematic areas in order for companies to proactively address concerns and issues, while increasing overall productivity by ultimately giving employees what they need to get the job done.”

Peter Townshend, MD at Know More, adds to the discussion, “We are increasingly seeing how important authenticity is at the workplace, with more and more clients concentrating on staff wants and needs, as well as environmental needs. This translates into spaces that allow staff to be authentic – to be themselves and do the work that is required of them, in the manner that works best for them, and in the environment that supports them. For example, we know that 85% of staff want quiet when they do focus work, while 78% of our output is done in collaboration. We need areas that support both these activities.”

Another area of success for authenticity is the use of co-working spaces that create a sense of community for staff, fosters more sharing of ideas, and helps to break-down communication and hierarchy barriers. By providing ‘variety’ in the workplace it supports employees’ lifestyles and work styles, allowing them to have a choice in how and where they complete their work.

Trim concludes by saying that the workplace is made up of different individuals and personality types. “For the workplace to be successful and achieve the desired results, individuals must work together and that means they must connect with each other. If you aren’t connecting with your co-workers, things aren’t getting done to their fullest potential. And as Helen Keller says, ‘Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much’.”

How will you and your company be authentic while moving forward?

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