By Maria Valdez Haubrich
Unassigned workspace is a rapidly growing concept in which employees don’t have permanent offices, workstations or even desks, but simply come in to work and sit wherever space is available. Also called hoteling or nonterritorial space, the concept saves you on construction, office furnishings and square footage. Sounds good, but how does it work in real life? And would it work for your business?
The Wall Street Journal recently took a look at this trend and some of the challenges that can arise. With big companies like Pricewaterhouse Coopers, GlaxoSmithKline and American Express warming to the idea, unassigned workspace is clearly an idea whose time has come. Companies that participate in the trend generally cite substantial financial savings and other benefits. Here are some issues you’ll need to consider before you implement unassigned workspace in your business.
Noise: You’ll need to set some type of noise policy to keep employees from being constantly distracted. PWC has signs throughout the offices asking employees to use quiet voices and headphones, for example.
Storage: Some companies provide lockers for employees to leave their equipment overnight and store their jackets and other personal belongings during the day. When it comes to paper files, you’ll need to consider whether workspaces will have storage, whether employees will carry documents with them or whether you’ll “go paperless” (as most officeless companies try to do).
Reservations: Some companies allow employees to reserve spaces ahead of time. At others, it’s catch as catch can. If you have prime space such as areas close to windows, you’ll need to set some type of policy for who can use it.
Etiquette: To avoid arguments, set policies for basics such as leaving work areas free of food, crumbs and trash, and replacing any office supplies you use.
Collaboration: Employees in open offices tend to collaborate more, but this can create noise, so you may want to set aside enclosed conference rooms or common areas where workers can chat or hold meetings.
One interesting benefit GlaxoSmithKline found is that employees without offices interacted more informally, which cut down on email by 50 percent. Employees simply walked over and talked to each other instead of sending emails. At the same time, decision-making accelerated 25 percent, making the officeless office more efficient and more effective.
Image by Flickr user damo 1977 (Creative Commons)