How Microsoft Redesigned HQ For Productivity

Thinking your workplace isn’t as effective as it could be? You could take a leaf out of Microsoft’s book and let the IT department redesign all the floor plans.

Picture by Life@MicrosoftAustralia

In the locknote speech at TechEd Australia 2012, Dr Joseph Williams, managing director for SaaS partners at Microsoft, discussed how Microsoft had sought to redesign its headquarters throughout the world.

In 2005, the company was managing 33 million square feet of facilities. Redesigning those offices and making more intelligent use of technology allowed the company to cut down on real estate costs while actually adding headcount, Williams said. “We’re leveraging productivity tools in a way that allows us to reinvent the future.”

Those redesign schemes were typically driven by the workplace engineering team and the internal IT department. The role of the latter was important in ensuring that the right systems were in place to let people work in any location, including easy access to wireless networks and software-based communication systems. “We did a lot of ‘imagineering’, driven by IT,” Williams said. “The design principle doesn’t emphasise desks, it emphasises working areas. We don’t have offices anymore; we have workspaces.”

That didn’t mean the change was always easy, Williams noted, citing Microsoft’s Sydney HQ as an example. “Microsoft Sydney was a very traditional workplace; everybody had a seat, and that’s what drove the architecture When we started to talk to Sydney staff about moving to the new way of work, some people were very resistant.”

The transition has ultimately proved successful. “Instead of having a focus on desks, we had focuses on workspaces. The vast majority of Microsoft Sydney does their work in the cafeteria. They sit down and they talk through the day. Employee satisfaction has gone way up. People like working in this environment.”

Visit Lifehacker’s TechEd 2012 Newsroom for all the news from the show.

Disclosure: Angus Kidman is attending TechEd 2012 as a guest of Microsoft.

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