Proworking: 4 Ways Office Space Can Increase Employee Productivity and Retention

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By: Rob Roe, Managing Director of Jones Lang LaSalle, Great Lakes Region

ProworkingToday’s leading businesses are rethinking their workplace strategies. Companies are looking to design and occupy spaces that better reflect and serve end goals. This post is the third in a series based on Workplace Strategy. This post features JLL’s newly released white paper —The Proworking Roadmap: The Enterprise Guide to Workplace Strategy.

Digital technology has changed the way we work. With Wi-Fi and mobile devices, we don’t always have to be at a desk, or in the office, to be productive. In fact, “only 50 to 60 percent of desks are occupied on any given work day,” according to JLL research. To remain profitable, businesses need to evolve their commercial real estate strategies to align with the evolving employee needs.

Here at JLL, we refer to workforce productivity as “proworking”—in other words, shifting current corporate real estate strategies to most efficiently serve a more connected workforce. This four-step approach encourages and drives a highly efficient workplace with enhanced employee retention through flexibility, connectivity and innovation.

According to Bernice Boucher, managing director of JLL’s workplace strategy team in the Americas, the corporate world is looking at real estate from a new perspective. Businesses are  “…using their corporate real estate assets to drive both people and asset productivity.”

Has your business evolved with the changing workforce? Below, I’ve outlined the four steps to implement the new approach (proworking) in your office.

4 Steps to Enhance Overall Business Performance Through Proworking

Step 1. Align the Workforce.

I advise my clients to ensure that business objectives are clear. All employees should have a working knowledge of what they are, and how they’re aligned to performance.

To facilitate impactful decision-making surrounding commercial real estate assets, employees need to have a clear understanding of internal culture and how space is best utilized.

Step 2. Match People to Place.

How is your workforce utilizing office space? What amenities or technologies fuel production?

All businesses are unique, and must be treated so during occupancy planning. Examine where your employees perform best, and look for patterns that might give you clues to what’s working (and what’s not) in your space. According to JLL research:

“Ideally, data aggregation and usage studies will enable the corporate real estate team to determine where and when employees need to interact.”

For example, casual meetings in small cubicles might indicate the need for a more collaborative addition, like a lounge area. We also suggest that you stay informed of the latest technological advancements and trends to identify opportunities to enhance employee performance. Technology will continue to redefine the way in which we utilize office space to conduct business.

Step 3. Foster an Engaging Atmosphere.

Workplace culture, flexibility and connectivity are key to a productive and efficient office environment. Creating a collaborative space where workers can connect and generate innovative solutions is critical to maintaining a productive atmosphere. According to JLL, “In the proworking mindset, an engaging environment involves membership rather than ownership.”

When deciding on an office space, or renovating your current office space, keep in mind that maintaining a variety of zones within your space is beneficial to both employees and clients. Individual cubes are no longer the preferred setup. Consider making space to foster both collaborative and individual work, like brainstorming zones or IT stations. The most engaged employees are the ones who are given freedom to choose their work environments.

Step 4. Push Beyond Your Boundaries.

Digital technology gives employees the flexibility to work from a variety of locations. This evolving structure is forcing companies to update operations, including the way we view the traditional utilization of space.

Expand your view of the office to include those remote locations, beyond your corporate address. Incorporating this idea into your real estate strategy will help you to maximize use of corporate office space. According to JLL, “Forty percent of workers report coming to the office regardless of telecommuting options because of the tools and technology available in the corporate facility.” With proworking, we suggest that you look for new ways to provide necessary tools to remote workers.

The idea of proworking originated from a Scandinavian research project that found that companies seeking to maximize employee efficiency should evolve the traditional concept of the workspace—which also includes expanding the definition of workspace to be wherever employees are most productive. Given how today’s technologically driven world is fueling the demand for flexibility, companies must rethink the role of their workspaces, as well as the critical role of corporate real estate assets.

According JLL’s, The Proworking Roadmap:

“Companies applying the proworking approach recognize its potential for increasing productivity–and the very way corporations and their employees relate to one another. From a business perspective, proworking has the potential to improve space utilization and flexibility while possibly reducing overall real estate costs.”

Have questions on how to make the transition proworking in your office? Contact me for more information at

Download JLL’s Proworking Roadmap for a full guide to enterprise workplace strategy, or visit the full series for more insight on how to upgrade your workplace strategy. 

About the Author 


As managing director, Rob’s responsibilities include real estate transaction representation and consulting services for Jones Lang LaSalle. View Rob’s full bio to read up on his experience and recent transactions, or connect with him on LinkedIn.