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Evolving workplace strategies and their relevance to Sri Lanka

Gagan Singh, Chairperson – Jones Lang LaSalle Sri Lanka
Gagan Singh, Chairperson – Jones Lang LaSalle Sri Lanka
“Progress is impossible without change and those who
cannot change their minds cannot change anything”
– George Bernard Shaw
One of the key
aspects of planning commercial real estate is to understand how the traditional
workplace has been replaced by new working methods. The era of using desktop
computers, having a permanent workstation, individual landlines, and making
copious print-outs is likely to become out-of-date very soon as new workplace
methods are introduced. It is well-known that technology creates a
decentralised organization but the balance between centralising and
decentralising depends on the organisation concerned and also on its culture.
It is noticeable that the Sri Lankan workplaces that JLL deals with rely on a
plethora of hard and soft technologies such as smart phones, laptops, tabs,
Microsoft links, email, cloud facilities, WebEx and online marketing channels
such as ‘Facebook’, other such websites and software systems that are
Interestingly, Sri
Lanka is in the latent stage of becoming a fully-fledged digitalised economy.
National internet penetration has reached over 25% ( in
the last five years and internet use is higher in the Western Province with the
proliferation of high-quality affordable smart phones. As a result, the use of
smart phones for official purposes is also growing.
Agile working is made possible through technology
Agile working is made possible through technology
Value Creation due to Technology
One of the ways that
workplace space is being revolutionised is through the agile working concept
provided by technology that allows home-based and agile working to slowly
infiltrate the Sri Lankan working environment. This impinges on three value
generation aspects, especially for employees and for end-users. Firstly,
certain employees who work from home, benefit by having a more balanced work
life that gives them more flexibility, time with family and allows them to make
use of time more productively. This, in turn, helps the organisation to reduce
overheads and the employee to save on travelling time and associated expenses.
A publishing company has said that the use of a virtual machine, a technology
provided by Microsoft, creates a server that replicates a real server, is
giving it a 25% cost saving.  A
well-known Sri Lankan financial institution uses only Apple iPads and e-mails
for online board meetings as opposed to using printed documents and this saves
paper. Further, the use of cloud facilities has made certain organisations more
secure on data security with all data consolidated onto one secure platform.
Key aspects of leading workplace standards
Key aspects of leading
workplace standards 
Digitising Workplaces
It is widely known
that, today, decisions are made in real time and this requires real time data
which depends heavily on connectivity, reliability and disaster recovery of
systems and a quick response time frame. For instance, if we look at a
multinational company, we can see that their field staff depends on smart
phones as point of sale to book orders from retailers and wholesalers by using
a customized sales order application and that this makes their work more
effective and efficient. In the event of a natural disaster that affects a
manufacturing facility, the real time data and interconnectivity help its
management make  quick decisions after
consulting the regional / international divisions.
Effective workplace
Technology confers
enhanced productivity. However, it can also create work-related stress and
mechanically driven tasks which can become monotonous over time. Therefore,
certain soft facilities need to be implemented to improve the morale of
employees and the majority of firms approached by us said that they provided
club memberships with facilities such as badminton, fitness centres,
photography groups, holiday bungalows, and so on. Such facilities could not be
provided in-house due to the cost and lack of space.
Leading workplace standards
When considering
leading workplace standards we need to look at three key aspects – Trust (The
people they work for), Delight (In what they do), and Relish (The people they
work with).
Siemens, a global
technology company in Belgium, found out that 16% of its employees experienced
high levels of stress and irregular working hours which impacted their
performance. Hence, the company introduced a health programme that focused on
awareness building and training through the following:
· Making available an
instructional/educational video
· Arranging a two-day
health seminar for managers
· Launching the Siemens
social network platform “Fit@work”
· Introducing its
“Individual development plan” for job security related issues
This resulted in low
absenteeism and 90% of the participants recommending the programme. More than
250 employees joined the social network community and Siemens was awarded the
title of “Employer of the Year 2014”.

  • To
    conclude, Sri Lanka is still at the embryonic stage in developing
    workplace strategies. These are visible in certain organizations,
    especially in call centres, Software developing companies, Business
    centres that have global affiliations and would work on shift basis or
    would share office infrastructure.
  • IT
    infrastructure needs to be adopted more broadly across all sectors not
    just amongst the BPO/KPOs.
  • Work at
    home could be implemented if efficient individual performance measurement
    mechanisms are implemented, along with clear HR policies that are
  • Workplace
    strategies will not only boost the transparency within the firm but also
    the efficiency by reducing human errors.
  • When fair
    and transparent HR policies are set for home or on flexible working hours
    it boosts the confidence level of employees, giving them comfort and
    appreciation. Simultaneously the employer can monitor progress to confer
    benefit to the organisation.

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