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Report finds mobility key to engagement

For organizations challenged with navigating rapidly evolving global markets, a report released today by Steelcase Global reveals some of the critical factors on which success depends.

“Today’s workplace is global, competitive and 24/7,” says Katie Pace, manager of media communications at Steelcase, a global workplace design and furniture manufacturer.

“Organizations have to be extremely resilient. To survive, they need engaged employees who want to come to work and are looking ahead, thinking about the best way to do their job.”

One of the report’s key findings is that engagement increases with mobility inside and outside of the office. “The data shows that it really comes down to the notion of control, of having the ability to choose where to work based on the task,” says Ms. Pace. “For example, about 88 per cent of highly engaged workers report that their work environment makes it possible to concentrate easily, while this is true of only 14 per cent of highly disengaged workers.”

Leading companies are also creating workplaces that allow for effective distance collaboration, she notes. “With work being so global and distributed, you need to design for people to work face-to-face and also to connect across great distances. If I’m Skyping from an open-plan office, there may be too much noise. A formal boardroom with a big camera may not be the best environment to build trust when getting to know a new colleague.”

She notes that the study, conducted in partnership with global market research company Ipsos, reinforces years of qualitative and quantitative Steelcase research that shows that leading companies are those that consider employees’ physical, cognitive and emotional well-being.

“They recognize what humans need and help us to feel connected to each other and our work. That makes us more productive and helps our organizations get ahead.”  

According to Angela Workman-Stark, the RCMP’s director general of Partnerships & External Relations and chief inclusion officer, Federal Policing, a parallel and perhaps even more profound shift has occurred in workplace culture. “When I began my career, there was much less tolerance for differences and a greater organizational tolerance for behaviours that would now be described as discriminatory and harassing.

“Today’s workplace is much more multicultural, and organizations are increasingly held to account when instances of workplace incivility surface.”

Ms. Workman-Stark advises organizations on strategies for creating more inclusive teams and organizations. “For the most part, this means embracing a more inclusive leadership style, making changes to workplace policies and practices, and training employees at all levels,” she explains.

Ms. Workman-Stark’s 25-year career trajectory from young RCMP constable to internationally recognized workplace adviser began when she completed an Athabasca University MBA. “I was becoming more and more curious about leadership and the internal dynamics of organizations.

As the courses were largely online, I had the opportunity to engage with leaders from various sectors who were far more experienced than me, from the safety of my home office and while I continued to work full-time. Some of the faculty members had an incredible impact on me.”

Now an academic coach in organizational systems and behaviour at Athabasca University, she says that role has been equally fulfilling. “When students can apply the concepts discussed in the online classroom to their workplace and make a positive difference, I know that we are influencing change across many sectors.”

Success in today’s workplace requires both organizational and personal leadership, she notes. “I strongly encourage individuals to continue to learn, engage and constructively challenge the status quo, as this is how progress is made.

“Given our changing communities and by default the changing workplace, we must also be open to differences and to the ideas and suggestions of others. Although this may require confronting our own conscious or unconscious biases, it is an important step in achieving a more inclusive workplace.”  

At the top, there must be awareness that “organizations are made up of people,” she says. “From motivational theory, we know that all people strive for meaning, significance and purpose.

“The challenge for leaders is to recognize and determine how to fulfill these needs, and at the same time leverage the best from people.”

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