Organizations are taking a new look at utilizing a flexible workplace strategy
Workplace Strategy is the dynamic alignment of an organization’s work patterns with the work environment to enable peak performance and reduce costs. to organize their office floors because hybrid and agile offices require flexibility. Flexible Workplace Strategies eliminate assigned seating and allow employees the flexibility and autonomy to choose where they work in a given workspace. They are a convenient way to optimize space utilization, accommodate employees, and foster productivity. Additionally, Flexible Workplace Strategies offers other benefits, including:
With Flexible Workplace Strategies, like any new concept tested within a business, it has pros and cons.
Some companies may have business practices that are confidential and cannot be shared throughout the office. As flexible desking and shared workstations are the heart of the flexible workplace, confidentiality is difficult to ensure. Therefore, part of your Workplace Strategy should include how you’ll keep documents secure.
Specific office spaces lend themselves more to flexible seating than others. Mockup your current office design to see if a Flexible Workplace Strategy would make sense. Keep technology logistics in mind as these new workstations will create unique needs. One example, since employees will switch desks, you’ll need additional storage space, such as personnel lockers, for their personal belongings while at work.
Workstations should be as standard as possible — with the same chairs, electrical, data, and cable connections. Every desk is practically identical for anyone to sit down and work on their laptop. To make the workspace comfortable for employees, it’s a good idea to provide multi-point adjustable chairs and height-adjustable desks.
People are creatures of habit. A flexible seating arrangement can be a significant adjustment for some people. Some people will have valid concerns, while others will embrace the new seating immediately. Survey your employees to understand and address those concerns. As an example, for people worried about privacy, the uncertainty of finding a desk, or having a quiet place for phone calls, make sure they have options for sitting in private or reserved areas. Jefferson Group can perform the employee survey as part of our Workplace Strategy program
Flexible Workplaces aim to maximize space efficiency and lessen real estate risk by reducing redundant office space. One of the critical concepts in flexible seating is that there is no 1:1 seating ratio. Once data shows how many employees are in the office daily on average, they can adjust that ratio accordingly and remove excess desks. Unused space is either relinquished entirely or repurposed into a meeting or collaborative area.
“As the role of the office evolves to favor teamwork over individual work, [office] design will likely follow suit,” CBRE says. “70% [of surveyed companies] are planning to operate in a significantly ‘free address’ [or flexible desking] environment to support a more mobile workforce.”*
Many companies will suddenly find excess, redundant or unused floor space under hybrid or remote working arrangements. A Flexible Workplace Strategy enables companies to make more efficient, multi-use of their floor space, offer enough workstations to meet average demand in the office, install dividers or add social distancing between areas, moving tables and desks around and shed excess working areas if the need arises.
Companies desire to encourage collision between their employees to help foster collaboration, creativity, and innovation. And, by its very nature, Flexible Desking forces employees to walk around the office to find a workspace — and often results in interactions with people they might not connect with typically.
Flexible workspaces typically include power outlets and a WiFi connection. Some users, however, need more than their laptops to work effectively. For this reason, some desks come with a monitor and an HDMI connection, allowing users to plug in and use a second screen temporarily. In addition, some workspaces may have dedicated PCs or a hard-line data connection. Finally, particularly in sales companies, there also may have a permanent phone attached to the desk for different employees to use for outgoing calls as needed. Due to these needs, it is often good to speak with a Flexible Workplace Strategist during the initial floor plan design, before the electrical and data drops are planned.
One popular strategy is hot-desking – a flexible workplace strategy that allows employees to find and work at any office open seat, desk, or workstation. For instance, an employee who needs a place for focused, individual work can locate in a private office or at a workstation. Alternatively, an employee who needs to collaborate with colleagues can use a meeting room or communal area.
Hot-Desking’s flexible working solution is best-known with shared coworking spaces, but Hot-Desking is becoming prevalent in most workplaces with the rise of agile, remote, and hybrid work. The initial concept originated from the 16th-century navy’s “hot racking,” where shipmates used bunk beds on a rotating schedule to save resources. Like the practice of “hot racking,” hot-desking helps companies save resources — and limit costs by up to 30% — in the workplace. Under a traditional workplace model, anytime an employee isn’t in the office, their workstation goes unused. With hot-desking, companies can make more efficient use of a given workspace and downsize their office floor plan, if necessary. Hot Desking does have some challenges, which has lead to the rise in Desk Hoteling.
Hot-Desking does have some drawbacks, including:
Where to work confusion: If improperly implemented, Hot-Desking can confuse employees on where to work, so they spend too much time looking for a workspace instead of working. Often the best workspaces closest to natural light or in quiet areas are already taken by the start of the workday.
As an example, each morning, you get a workstation based on that old standby, first-come-first-served. So if you show up at 7:00 a.m., then you’ll likely have your pick. Arrive at 9 a.m., and you’ll probably get what’s left even if that means working apart from your colleagues.
Impromptu communications: Brief impromptu meetings are a vital part of efficient office work. For example, the team leader might take two minutes to tell everyone sitting nearby some important things as the day kicks off. When team members can swivel their chairs around, these micro-events don’t interrupt much of the workflow. However, with hot-desking, your team could be anywhere in the building. Thus, having impromptu meetings will be next to impossible.
Alternatively, hot-deskers have the opportunity to be near colleagues they would not see otherwise, strengthening relationships, promoting better teamwork, and improving inter-departmental rapport.
Before implementing hot-desking, companies should survey employees to discern their most common workplace needs and incorporate them into suitable working environments.
Personal Lockers: Security, or lack thereof, is another challenge businesses encounter with hot-desking. Due to the transient design of hot-desking, poor implementations can make it hard for individual employees to store their personal belongings securely. Be sure to provide secure employee storage areas near the desks for the employees’ personal belongings. In addition, some employees don’t like having to lug laptops or other items from one place to another every day. Having a secure central place to store their work papers and technology overnight could help relieve this concern.
Health Concerns: With continued concerns about coronavirus, many employees are understandably reluctant to share desks. With Hot-Desking, employees choose where they sit — and swap desks as needed. Unfortunately, this inherently causes health-related complications in the coronavirus pandemic. To stop your hot-desking team members from breeding too much bacteria, provide plenty of hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes. Next, ask employees to wipe down their work area surfaces before they leave. Subsequently, be sure that the cleaning products don’t cause harm to the following hot desk user. One advantage of flexible furniture is that shared desks are easier to clean due to the absence of folds, creases, hard-to-reach areas, and clutter-free of personal belongings. Finally, utilization software allows you to see the spaces used each day to schedule proper sanitization before the next person uses them.
Developing company culture is challenging for employees when they are not physically close to their teams and colleagues. So put some restrictions on where people can work, thereby creating work zones or office neighborhoods. Work zones and neighborhoods are an attempt to design specific spaces for specific needs. Neighborhoods recognize that everyone has a different working style — some prefer quiet while others prefer active areas, for example — and various workday tasks call for different environments.
Getting help from colleagues: If you need help from a department, it is helpful if they are all in the same area so you can walk to their neighborhood and ask your question. If the person you know is not at their workstation, then it is more than likely that the people in the work zone will be able to help you.
Specialty zones: If there was a zone dedicated to collaboration, hot-desking leads to better collaboration. For example, if multiple departments are involved in a project, having a flexible work environment with a hot-desking model increases efficiency. Therefore, hot-desking allows projects to ramped up and down much more quickly as the business needs change.
There also could be a “quiet zone” for anyone in any business group who needs to do focused, heads-down work.
When properly implemented, hot desking can also improve company culture by encouraging people from different teams to interact and break down silos across an organization.
The key is understanding how your employees work and what kinds of space they need to work well. Then, you can make hot-desking feel less like being lost in a forest and more like following a well-marked trail by implementing these strategies.
For learning on the job, the best place to sit is next to the boss and the existing work team. However, that training cannot happen if the only desk available for you is in a different area from your workgroup.
Another essential consideration is external communication. Without the traditional office phone extension, how can cross-department workers and clients reach the hot desker?
Often, people will use the terms “hot desking” and “hoteling” interchangeably. Unfortunately, this can lead to confusion.
Desk-hoteling is somewhat synonymous with hot-desking but with one crucial difference — employees reserve work areas in advance, similar to booking a hotel room.
Desk Hoteling requires staff to reserve a space, typically through utilization software, before employees use it. Desk Hoteling usually refers to booking desks for a full day or longer. Alternatively, “Activity-Based Working (ABW)” usually governs the short-term reservation of various spaces depending on the work needs. For example, if employees have an afternoon meeting with a group, they can reserve a conference room. If they need privacy or to concentrate on individual work, they can secure a quiet space.
Since employees pre-book their work area, businesses gain more insight into workspace utilization rates. A hoteling model also ensures that employees will have a dedicated workspace for the day.
Desk-hoteling, instead of just opening up the entire office, better meets the needs of their employees and has some financial benefit for the company (namely, savings in real estate expenses).
Office management software can help end users can immediately find desk spaces with visual maps to see what desks are available, then reserve or check into the work area. The ability to secure desk areas can reduce the occupancy territory wars that may plague offices, such as when a worker leaves a personal item at a desk to save the desk for the next day. Furthermore, the software can let clients & employees know where to find others quickly and easily. Finally, if working environments are more structured, with an admin or manager reserving spaces, the software can let the admin book or vacate a desk for the employees.
Ideally, a mobile app makes it easy for employees to find a space, reserve it, and request sanitization after using it.
If you are considering a Flexible Workplace Strategy that includes Hot Desking or Desk Hoteling, spend 15 minutes with our Workplace Specialist to determine which is the best solution for your needs. There’s no cost or obligation, so give us a call.