Today we work wherever we want: at home, in a hotel, on the train or in a cosy café, on a laptop, tablet or mobile phone.
It is only a logical consequence that our offices adapt to this development. In the past, it was common to equip your own desk in the office with documents, photos, collectible figures, you name it. Today, an entire office landscape is available with a large selection of different workstations, depending on the individual work requirements.
You'll find team areas inviting for cooperative work, meeting rooms for meetings, quieter rooms for phone calls or concentrated work and social meeting points for employees, such as a mixture of canteen and lounge, perfect for informal meetings in a relaxed environment.
A rethink from "My Desk" to "Our Office".
In the projects that I have been contributing so far, there were understandably doubts and tensions in the initial phase. Questions, how such a working environment looks and if it makes sense for the respective client and their employees, came up regularly.
Such a change should be well accompanied by selected representatives of the respective teams in the design process. I like to work with the whole group in the form of workshops, to get a good feeling about their needs as well as for the worries and fears. Throughout the whole process, the team internalizes the ideas and advantages of the new way of working and feel from the beginning as owners of the new office concept.
Flex working only for the big players?
The answer is: No! One of the best-known representatives of the flex working office is Google. Many companies want to emulate Google, as this is a prime example of how the flexible alternative works and could look like. More and more companies follow, as many believe that desk sharing in the office also means creativity and flexibility in the way they work.
But it can also be advantageous for medium-sized companies to say goodbye to the traditional two-person offices and the empty desks of their sales representative in the field.
With creative work, it is important to experience and see something new. Flexible workplaces give workers new neighbours and a different work environment every day. In addition, desks can be adapted to daily needs with desk sharing. You can sit in a standard place or on a couch or a beanbag - whatever suits the job at that time best.
When you arrive at the office in the morning, you don't ask yourself: "Where am I sitting today to work?" Rather, "What do I have on my plan today, what work environment do I need today!"
The free choice of seats certainly has a positive impact on costs. Many companies have employees who travel extensively and are rarely at the office or who work part-time, in their home office and possibly also in flex time. Many desks are regularly vacant, which creates unnecessary costs or, in the worst case, gives the impression that new, larger office space is necessary. Efficient allocation of seats, based on the individual working methods of the company, can result in high cost savings. This also means that fast growth does not necessarily mean an expensive move towards a new, bigger location.
"And what happens to my personal things?"
This is one of the most common questions that I encounter in practice, mostly with a tense undertone.
Most companies are trying to work more and more paperless and to manage all data digitally. Of course, this also means that less and less storage is needed in the office. Nevertheless, people have a natural need to "put things on paper" and to surround themselves with personal things. Sometimes this is just a notebook with a beloved pen, but it can also be your favourite cup, a special keyboard or a snow globe. To avoid having to remove all these items every day, containers are often provided. The most important documents and personal treasures can be stored there. If they have wheels, you can simply roll them to the new desk the next day and always have your own small micro office with you.
Flex working does not mean that there is no structure at all. There are different work areas in every company, and it makes sense to define such areas in a flex working situation. As a result, the teams always find each other automatically, even when switching between other work areas. The team area functions as a kind of home base. If necessary, these areas also contain smaller storage options for the whole team.
The early bird ... gets the best place?
This one place, back there in the corner with the great view is the best in the whole office! And this one colleague is already in at 7 a.m. every morning to secure this desk! Of course, this makes little sense (and would be pretty annoying too!)! Every office structure only works as well as the working methods decided and communicated by the management. In best case, these working methods (you could also call it office rules) have been worked out together with a reference group of different teams. That the choice of seats remains fair and everyone gets the good and the less popular seat a healthy social control within the team works usually very well.
There are also systems to automatically assign desks every day, for example, by hoteling software.
Flex working remains a controversial topic. But if it is carefully implemented it contains many advantages for both, employees and employer. I would love to take you with me in one of my flex office projects in one of next posts. It's exiting, believe me!
Talk to you soon!