Although the “open office” layout sounds great in theory (facilitating collaboration and creative teamwork while saving the company money on real estate costs), office workers tend to not love them in practice. Many of their complaints about the open office—the noise, the lack of privacy, the uncertainty about where you’ll sit each day—can be mitigated with better policies and change management.
Plus, we’re starting to see a swing back from that extreme. Instead of just opening up the entire office, companies are implementing hybrid or activity-based workplaces (ABW) that better meet the needs of their employees and have some financial benefit for the company (namely, savings in real estate expenses).
One of the key concepts in ABW is that you don’t have a 1:1 seating ratio. Once a company gets data showing how many employees, on average, are actually in the office each day, they can adjust that ratio accordingly and give up desks. That space is either relinquished entirely or repurposed (turned into meeting or collaborative space, for example).
Offer Choices with Flexible Working
When a company embraces flexible working or a flexible environment—meaning a workplace that doesn’t have fixed seating and/or gives employees some element of choice in when and where they work—they often introduce the concepts of hot desking or hoteling. Let’s dive deeper into these strategies and look at how they work (or don’t work) and how you can use tools like Serraview to set your employees up for success.
Hot Desking Can Be a Jungle
What is hot desking? Generally, hot desking means any employee can find and work at any open seat (desk or workstation) when they get to the office each day. This strategy is a large part of why workers tend to dislike open office layouts: you never know where you’ll be working each day or who you’ll be working next to—or if you can even find a desk.
For example, in this scenario, someone in Accounting who needs to focus on putting together a big report could end up sitting next to someone in Sales who spends the entire day making calls. It’s not hard to imagine the Accounting employee getting more and more frustrated every passing minute.
One way companies can mitigate this is by putting some restrictions on who can work where and creating “neighborhoods.” Perhaps the fourth floor is reserved for Marketing and Sales employees (or any two groups that work together frequently). This is one way to apply flexible working principles—by introducing some governance around the “hot desks.”
A company could also designate a certain floor or section a “quiet zone” for anyone, in any business group, who needs to do focused, heads-down work. The key is understanding how your employees work and what kinds of space they need to work well. By implementing these strategies, you can make hot desking feel less like fighting your way through a jungle and more like following a well-marked trail.
Hoteling: Check In, Work, Check Out
Another way to manage the flexible work environment is with hoteling. This means employees can reserve a specific desk/workstation or any other type of space: meeting/conference rooms, collaborative spaces, phone banks—whatever’s available in the office. With hoteling, workstations still aren’t assigned to specific employees, but they have some more choice and control over where they work.
Employees can use an app or software to find a desk before they come into the office or as they arrive, so there’s some comfort of knowing in advance that they’ll have a place to sit. Depending on the software and technology you use, they can even search for certain colleagues and make sure they reserve a desk nearby for easy collaboration.
Companies can choose how to best manage these reservations and check-ins: How far in advance can someone reserve a spot, and for how long can they keep the reservation? If their to-do list changes and they no longer need the meeting room they booked this morning, how long will that 1:00 reservation be “held” before the room is shown as available?
To make these decisions, you again need a thorough understanding of how people use your space as well as some knowledge about the company’s flexible work policy. You can also use technology, like IoT sensors and beacons, to allow people to book soft seating or lounge areas, if that will make it easier for teams to work together.
Time to start measuring your space differently: Discover the new space utilization metrics
Winning Employees Over
Well before you start the transition to ABW or a hybrid workplace, you need a strong change management plan to help employees understand and embrace a new style of working. Implementing strategies like establishing neighborhoods or quiet zones and using reservation/check-in tools for hoteling go a long way to helping employees feel like they have some control and choice in their work environment. This goes a long way towards engagement and productivity.