Tuesday 31st January 2017

There’s no denying that flexible working is here to stay and is now a fundamental part of the modern workplace environment. Throughout my career at Condeco, I have witnessed the deployment of multiple ‘new ways’ of working.

Within this blog, I’m going to explore the three main types of office environments I have encountered and the relationship between the user and their desk.

The traditional office – everyone has a desk

The majority of employees like the concept of having a fixed desk. A home from home, where they come every day, with family photos on display and spare shoes in the pedestal. While many organisations still embrace this concept of the traditional office, occupancy studies carried out by Condeco continuously show desk utilisation to be around 40 per cent in the UK. With the cost per desk in London estimated to be up to £20k per year, this under-utilisation of space holds huge cost implications for businesses.

While certainly most employees would be happy to have a fixed desk, is the traditional office the most efficient way for companies to manage their space? An office that is half empty any given day doesn’t lend itself to a buzzing, productive and cost effective environment.

The semi agile office – Combination of fixed and flexible desks

This is the most popular category, where businesses utilise a combination of fixed and flexible workspaces. Permanent office based workers will have their own fixed desk, with a percentage of employees (usually field or customer facing employees), using shared space or hot desks when they require. With cloud applications becoming more and more common, a mobile worker can access corporate platforms remotely.

This semi-flexible model accommodates each type of user, but is also not without its challenges. For me personally as a mobile worker, I like knowing that when I come into the office there is a space for me to put my head down and catch up on emails, calls or collaborate with my colleagues. Utilising workplace technology, allows me to locate a colleague that I need to work with on a project and sit next to them.

The fully flexible office

There are fewer examples of offices that embrace a fully flexible environment but it is beginning to increase in popularity due to the increase levels in the mobile workforce. Within these offices everyone from the CEO to the intern sits in an open plan seating area with no assigned desks. On occasion this may be deployed with some form of “zoning” where departments may be encouraged to sit near each other to interact. While other companies will encourage the opposite, creating an environment where staff are sitting next to someone in a completely different department which encourages collaboration and the flow of new ideas. My experience lends me to believe that employees generally enjoy this environment as it gives them the sense of freedom and flexibility to work where and when they choose.

So why are organisations moving away from traditional offices and incorporating agile working?

The two greatest financial expenses to any organisation are their people and space. When organisations need to reduce costings, the obvious focus is to review their largest assets. Workplace management technologies enable companies to review and optimise the utilisation of their space. Embracing the flexible work environment by implementing desk booking systems extends employees the freedom to be mobile in their activities whilst still giving them the security of knowing that they can access a space in the office to work when require.

Recently Inc. magazine stated that “traditional office space designs will become extinct” as millennials move into leadership roles. As they are moving towards spaces that encourages broader communication and encourage collaboration (Dukes, 2016).

In the UK, we are way past the early adopter phase for ‘new ways’ of working. Flexible working in the business world is now the norm. How it is deployed varies across organisations and sectors but the trend is only moving in one direction. Technology in its various forms, whether its Office 365, Salesforce.com, video integrated meetings or desk booking technology, enables this change, and if deployed correctly will ensure there is no drop-in productivity as flexibility increases.

*This article was compiled by Simon Cohen, Head of UK Partners and Alliances at Condeco

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