The workplace of the present age is evolving and developing with strategies such as hot desking, open office and unassigned seating experiencing more and more adoption by companies. These trends promise to only get bigger and better mainly because of how effective and efficient they are. Their implementation in the workspace help organizations better manage their real estate and satisfy their staff. I have had quite an experience with these trends, and in this article, I will enlighten you on what unassigned seating is and on which would be the best fit for your organization no matter the industry in which you are situated.
Which unassigned seating benchmarks should you use? The unassigned seating benchmark you use will depend on the industry you operate within. This is because the staff you have, and their varied positions will influence the kind of space they require to work. As such, certain benchmarks have been provided within this article which you can work with and tweak to approach something feasible for your company.
Unassigned seating is a workplace strategy whereby an employee does not have a specified desk in the office. Employees will be able to secure working desks in one of two ways (depending on which it is the office adopts); a first come, first served basis (where priority is given to the first to arrive) or a reservation basis (where employees reserve desks beforehand also known as hoteling). This is a trend that has seen increased adoption across organizations with about 25% of employers being on board already and another 52% planning to incorporate and adopt this within the next three years. This is according to a survey conducted by real estate firm CBRE and CoreNet Global.
This change in the traditional assignation of dedicated desks to employees to the use of unassigned seating has been welcomed by some employees and bashed by others. Unassigned seating offers a great deal of flexibility and has been applauded as a welcome development in space management by some employees, some see it as a collapse of their daily routines and an unstable thing.
One of the advantages of unassigned seating is the fact that it allows your employees to be flexible as to where they seat and work. It allows them to choose as to where they want to work. This increase in flexibility can and will lead to their satisfaction, which will, in turn, increase their engagement and the company’s productivity.
Unassigned seating also affords your organization the opportunity of maximizing available real estate. This allows you to fully utilize office space, reduce waste and properly utilize all available space. Employees are assigned personal lockers where they can keep their personal effects every day which allows them to move around freely whenever they want. This strategy has been adopted by some of the major companies since 2012. GlaxoSmithKline, American Express and PricewaterhouseCoopers have successfully implemented this in their office environments. With the world seeing an increase in the number of people that work from home, it is only rational to expect for there to be unused or underused spaces in the workplace. Unassigned seating helps combat this by ensuring that all available is fully and well utilized.
The movement to unassigned seating desks is then supported by the provision of private spaces in the office such as huddle rooms and touchdown spaces.
Helps to save space and money: unassigned seating allows companies to save space and by extension, reduce the amount spent on real estate and increase their bottom line. The use of traditional desks in the normal workspace leads to an organization’s experiencing loss as a lot of work desks are usually unoccupied. This dilemma is gotten rid of when unassigned seating is adopted, however, as it helps reduce the number of vacant desks. It provides employees with different options as to where to work which more or less leads to an increase in productivity.
GlaxoSmithKline reportedly saves $10 million per year that can be attributed with their decision to adopt unassigned seating.
Encourages collaboration: the adoption of unassigned seating means that there will be increased collaboration in the workplace. This is because of the necessity it creates for spaces such as conference rooms and workbenches to be used. This ensures that employees interact more, help themselves more and collaborate more.
Flexibility: the adoption of unassigned seating in the workplace as opposed to the traditional mode of seating provides employees of an organization with the opportunity to be flexible. This is because employees have the option to choose where they feel would be better for them to work at a particular moment. If an employee feels like perfect quiet is required to accomplish a project, he or she only needs to move to one of such rooms provided for privacy. If, on the other hand, there is a need for collaboration and the input of some of the other people is required, the employee can just as easily move to a place where that option is available.
Increased productivity: an employee that has a choice in choosing a location to work is certain to be more satisfied than one with no input in the decision. This can only make an employee more engaged which can only lead to an increase in the productivity of that employee.
These are some of the many benefits that using unassigned seating in the office provides.
A survey conducted by CRBE and CoreNet Global of 138 employers of labor showed that;
- 25% of employers have adopted unassigned seating in their workplace,
- 52% of employers plan to implement unassigned seating in the next three years.
Examples of companies operating unassigned seating include;
Perkins and Will: this is an architectural firm with an office in Minneapolis
GlaxoSmithKline: their corporate office in the Philadelphia Navy Yard. They operate a 100% unassigned seating strategy where even people at the helm of affairs have no assigned seats. There are about 1,350 employees at this company.
American Express: this is yet another top company that has adopted unassigned seating in its office. They provide employees with lockers for their personal belongings which allows them to move freely around. GSK and PricewaterhouseCoopers are two other corporations that provide lockers.
PricewaterhouseCoopers: this American company is one other big corporation that is reaping the benefits of unassigned seating having adopted it as their workplace strategy.
WeWork: a company headquartered in New York City. They offer shared space services for working professionals including entrepreneurs, freelancers, start-ups, entire departments and divisions of large companies. WeWork corporate headquarters are now 100% unassigned seating.
The above results will not be achieved just by a change in the design of the workplace. A means of managing the transition process has to be put in place so that maximum benefits can be derived from adopting unassigned seating. The following are some of the ways by which you can obtain the full benefits of adopting unassigned seating in the office.
Choose the right technology: to ensure that the adoption of unassigned seating benefits your organization and your employees, you should ensure that you use the right technology. This refers to technology that supports your new workplace design. An example is a white noise machine which can minimize and muffle office noise such that much needed quiet can be achieved in the office. You can also give each of your employees a headset for hands-free talking so that they can converse even while on the move.
Make new rules: it is only rational to expect the rules that applied to and governed the traditional workplace to change in the new one. This makes it necessary that new rules and norms are not only developed but also implemented. You should expect the rules to change and evolve as time goes on and people start getting used to and adapting to the new office environment. Until that happens, create a new playbook that levels the playing ground for everyone and makes everybody feel like they are included and welcome in the new environment.
Let people personalize: it is natural to expect people in the same department to occupy certain options in the new workplace. And when these teams want to and attempt to personalize their sector of the new workplace, allow them. This will help them convert the space to a place where they feel very comfortable working in. The joint effort will also foster the camaraderie and collaborative spirit that exists among your employees.
Encourage a solution-oriented outlook: encourage all your employees to pitch in when issues arise that need a solution. This way, everybody feels involved, and nobody is left out. It also helps your organization discover solutions to problems faster when new perspectives are proffered.
The following are the benchmarks available for each industry sector; you can consider which describes your organization based on the services you offer and which industry you fall under.
· The technology industry has 1% of its offices enclosed with the remaining 99% open.
· The call centre industry has 4% of its offices enclosed with the rest 96% open.
· The architecture and engineering industry is third on this list with 8% enclosed offices and 92% open workstations.
· The law enforcement industry has 14% enclosed office space and 86% open workstations.
· The biotechnology and sciences have 29% enclosed office space and 71% open ones.
· The finance sector comes in at number 6 with 42% of its office spaces enclosed and 58% open.
· The legal sector is the industry with the least percentage with open workstations and also the only industry where there is a larger number of enclosed offices than open workstations. This sector has 60% enclosed offices and 40% open workstations.
The following are examples of benchmarks by sector (gotten from some leading firms in each of these sectors) you can implement in your workspace depending on whether it meets with your requirements or not.
This benchmark from an architectural design firm which attributes great importance to sustainable design. Every employee of this firm including the executive, director, manager, supervisor and support staff share an open workspace.
This is the benchmark of one of the world’s largest and most popular telecommunications company. The Corporate Real Estate (CRE) division which handles all its space needs, building security, facility and property management among other things reported that the allocation of space to an employee depends on how highly they rank in the company. The executive and director have their own private space while the other employees such as the manager, supervisor, technical and support staff use cubicles.
This benchmark is from a manufacturing company which designs, produces and provides support for the communication and aviation electronics sector.
The executive, director, manager, supervisor, and technical staff all have private, enclosed workspaces while the support and junior support staff make use of cubicles.
This benchmark used by the security division situated at the headquarters of a U. S. government agency shows preference to senior staff with the executive, director, manager, supervisor and technical staff all having their own private offices while the support staff and clerical staff make use of cubicles.
This benchmark from the facilities management division of an international government agency that deals with public health-related matters. They also allocate space to their employees based on their rank within the company.
The executive, director, and manager all have private office space allocated to them while the supervisor technical and support staff work from within cubicles.
This is the benchmark of an academic institution situated on a particular campus, and it is comparable to three other separate academic institutions reviewed that are about the same size in the Midwest region.
The president, vice president, dean, and department chair all occupy private offices while the administrative manager, support staff and student staff all work either within a cubicle or shared workspaces.
This benchmark is from the headquarter office of a fortune 500 company based in the aerospace and information technology solutions sector. Most of their employees at this location are operations staff, and they are allocated seats based on how high their rank within the company is.
The executive president, senior vice president, vice president, director, and manager are all allocated private offices to work in while the support staff is allocated cubicles.
This is the established benchmark of a fortune 100 media conglomerate that provides a variety of media services ranging from television to the internet.
The senior executives and the executives occupy private workspaces while managers and other staff occupy cubicles.
A management consulting firm that offers strategic and technical solution services to their clients allocates workspace based on the position of the employee in the company.
The senior vice president is allocated an office, and conference space, the vice president and senior associate receive offices to work in while associates and other staff work within shared offices.
What is hoteling?
Hoteling is a sort of space management strategy used by companies where employees reserve a workspace for themselves beforehand. This is especially useful in an organization where the employees do not always have to come to work and can telecommute and work from home. When they do have to be in the office, they can reserve space for themselves to use. Hoteling is the reservation version of unassigned seating. It helps to save real estate and minimize the spending that would otherwise have been spent on acquiring working space for employees.
What is hot desking?
Hot desking is the non-reservation version of hoteling. It is a workplace strategy whereby several employees use physical workstation during a particular period. This means that different staff members of the same organization use the same desks but at different periods. This helps reduce real estate costs by reducing the amount of space used. This particular office organization system is especially useful in cities where the cost of space is high.
This model is well suited to organizations that have flexible working schedules such as time shifts. In such a scenario, employees occupy space that will otherwise be vacant since the erstwhile occupant is done with his/her job for the day. This helps to maximize the use of space.
It does have its disadvantages, however such as an unclear work hierarchy and poor communication by employees.
What is telecommuting?
Telecommuting is an office strategy that allows employees of an organization to work directly from their homes. These employees will only be required to come to the office only when specific tasks and functions require that they do. Telecommuters (also referred to as teleworkers) leverage mobile telecommunication technology which includes their smartphone and laptop to work from wherever they so choose. This helps the company save money on real estate and provides the employees with flexible working periods.
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