Working environments are radically shifting to satisfy the needs of both employers and employees.
Once upon a time, companies had a very straightforward approach of giving each employee his or her own office space, desk, computer and other required work supplies. Times have changed, however, and this simplified strategy may no longer define the ideal workspace.
There are several factors that have influenced this shift in strategy. One is the economy. We no longer find ourselves in a time of comfort and confidence in the financial landscape. As a result, companies continue to seek lower expenses in managing all realms of their business. As workspace typically represents the second highest operating cost right behind payroll, many are looking to real estate as an area to target savings.
Another force affecting this shift are widespread corporate objectives to “go green.” Many organizations feel it is their corporate duty to reduce their overall energy footprint and create more sustainable environments. It is also a critical factor in attracting talent. A significant percentage of the modern workforce expects the organization they work for to be a good corporate citizen contributing to the enhancement of our natural surroundings.
In addition to a green work environment, young talent in the workforce does not want to be held in by walls or tethered to specific physical locations. Employees want to work anywhere, anytime so that they can enjoy more balanced lives. Evolving technologies have made this possible. Perhaps in a previous era employees needed to be in the office to access all of their important files, but that is no longer necessary. Today’s workforce is storing information online and accessing it remotely. Staffers are using laptops, tablets and smartphones. They are checking in from work, home and the road.
So, what does the ideal workspace look like? The ideal workspace should be flexible, mobile and managed by the latest digital tools. The workspace should be balanced and designed to satisfy the needs of the company and the employee. For some organizations, this may mean that working in the office is critical but within the workspace they can be mobile and flexible—having varying types of spaces to work in, from quiet to collaborative. For other organizations, giving employees the flexibility to work remotely or from the field makes sense.
Four strategies have risen to prominence over the last few years thanks to this rise in mobility: hoteling, telecommuting, hot-desking and flex space. All four are helping companies organize their workforce in a more sensible manner that fits with the changing times.
Hoteling is a basic way of accommodating a mobile workforce. Rather than automatically guaranteeing every employee a desk, an employer offers space to workers only on an as-needed basis. Companies can be flexible, playing each day by ear; some days a large portion of the workforce shows up and needs space, while other days not so much.
According to Facility Innovations, it is important that companies plan for peak demand, not just average levels. The same way an airline does not necessarily expect to sell every seat, it still uses a big plane, and while a car rental company might not expect to rent out every car, they still keep vehicles on the lot just in case. Companies should have plenty of space available, just on the off chance that a large number of employees come in one morning, ready to work.
A strategy similar to hoteling, hot-desking is the act of making workers extremely portable so that they can relocate at a moment’s notice. Cubicles are obsolete in this system, and so are desks, computers and pretty much anything else that requires construction or wiring. The objective is to make it easy as possible for facilities managers to reshuffle their employees.
According to Inc. magazine, facilities overseers at a lot of the hottest startups in America are adopting this approach. Maja Henderson, Office Manager at Square in San Francisco, is one of them.
“We have a completely open floor plan,” Henderson said. “It creates this really open, comfortable environment where people can just walk up and engage one another in a way that wouldn’t happen with a typical office. There are so many environments that the day ends up flying because you’re constantly moving.”
This term has been defined differently, with many groups defining it based on how the concept best fits within their organization. The official terminology refers to an individual who is employed by a company, working not only from an office provided by that business but also through a computer at a location of their choosing. Most of these employees have a direct link to the organization’s computer system, allowing them to communicate directly with coworkers and managers.
Frequently these “teleworkers” work from home most or some of the time, occasionally doing so from their company’s primary office to balance the work-from-home strategy. To keep track of what space is needed for the employees who come to the office on an as-needed basis, many companies are implementing room reservation systems to ensure all employees have the space they need when they need it. This approach is very similar to hoteling, explained above.
As the cost of real estate continues to rise, telecommuting is becoming quite a popular solution. The number of regular telecommuters grew almost 80 percent between 2005 and 2012, compared to only a 1.8 percent decline of the overall workforce, according to the Global Workplace Analysis.
Companies are beginning to adopt the idea that work may not always be defined as a place, but as an action and the result.
Similarly, using flexible workspaces is a strategy that can help ensure workers have the freedom to use their offices however they please. Sometimes they want to sit at a desk alone and be quietly productive; sometimes they want to get together in a meeting room and collaborate. Of course, sometimes, they would rather not be in the building at all.
Companies are moving away from their reliance on conventional desks, according to Workforce Magazine. A recent survey from Citrix has suggested that by 2020, the average workplace will only have seven desks for every 10 office workers.
That is the reality we are moving toward: Workers are not using their offices the same way they used to. Companies and their facilities managers need to plan accordingly.
Don Traweek and Elizabeth Dukes are cofounders of iOffice, one of the fastest growing facility management software providers and consulting companies in the country. iOffice technology works proactively to reduce and eliminate information roadblocks and daily problems that occur in facility management. Our integrated workplace management systems are tailored to meet the unique office needs of our more than 1,800 clients, 20% of whom are among the Fortune 1,000.