Woolworths Flexible Workplace

“We create places where people love to work”
Audrey Briel, Workplace Program Director.

Woolworths developed a flexible workplace pilot that grew to a national accommodation strategy where space is optimally utilised, technology is integrated, and the culture supports flexible working.

2020 recap: Many organisations deal with the continuing demand for more capacity in existing footprints by infilling space with more seats. Woolworths had reached the limit of this approach in Bella Vista and wanted to explore the potential of a shared model with fewer work points working harder. By aligning new work settings with a number of evolving operational policies and technology roll-outs that all supported greater flexibility, Woolworths increased the workplace capacity by 30% and delivered a new order of organisational resilience. In the COVID-19 shutdown, Woolworths staff were locked out of the Norwest office for months, and yet the supermarkets continued to trade and experienced weekly Christmas-turnover volumes. People who can work flexibly dont miss a beat when everyone must work remotely.

ProjectWoolworths Flexible Workplace 2013-2017
ClientWoolworths Limited
Core Pilot TeamAudrey Briel, Gail Woodgate, Alon Olstein, Abby Krause (Woolworths) Emma Davenport (Davenport Campbell) Warwick Smith (Sandrick)
ServicesFlexible Workplace Strategy; Change Planning, Post Occupancy Evaluation

In 2014 a pilot activity-based workspace was created on East 1 for 480 people from BTS, Property, Customer Engagement, Multi Option Retail, Loyalty, Quantum, Retail Services and Business Review Teams. The cultural brief from the CEO was to eliminate any physical symbols of status and to drive a more open environment. As Director of AECOM Strategy Plus, Sue was part of the core Woolworths pilot planning team and responsible for benchmarking, strategic briefing and change planning. The workplace strategy was informed by a program of user research that included:

  •  Interviews with Group Leadership and Group representatives to understand the objectives of each group, changing work patterns and work profiles, productivity drivers and the broader impact of more flexible work practices;
  • An online survey open to all staff to establish a baseline of workplace performance and readiness for more flexible work practices;
  • A space observation study which will involve trained observers walking through the Division’s offices at hourly intervals, recording the utilisation and activities taking place at each nominated point, and
  • Focus groups to explore the different working requirements and operations, as well as any cultural changes required.

The flexible workplace model was developed in consultation with the user groups, and a change management program was developed to ensure a successful transition to new ways of working.  The change process brought together interactive engagement forums, individual training modules and team planning templates to support the transition to the new way of working.

The trial tested the implementation of an integrated solution with changes to workspace, the optimisation of investment in the new technology delivered by the LEAP (Google) program, the roll-out of mobile devices, integration with the HR WORKFLEX options, and changes in work practices, processes and document management.A post occupancy evaluation of the pilot floor revisited the initial user research to track the impact of the pilot. 92% of respondents did not want to go back to the old way of working:

I find that often time out of the office is more productive as there are less distractions.”

“Job satisfaction is vastly improved. Travel times are extreme and at least this way I have some of my life back under control. “

“I can complete focused work in less amount of time and with better quality.”

“Less interruptions at home, therefore I am more productive.  I save the work where I have to really concentrate to this day, which helps me plan the rest of my week.”

Following the East 1 pilot, the Workplace Flexibility Team led by Audrey Briel delivered new workplaces for 6250 team members across Sydney, Melbourne & Brisbane across multiple brands, buildings & functions, and with a 30-50% improvement in space utilisation.The new way of working delivered rental savings of $9m per annum and an additional $18m saving every 5 years from exited leases. Employee satisfaction with the informal working environment improved dramatically according to annual surveys. Flexible working as a Policy has now been rolled out across Woolworths and endorsed by the Management Board.

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