4 key ingredients for an officeless office
The officeless office — a living room-style office space — is a growing trend. As a recent USA Today article pointed out, younger generations entering the workforce place less emphasis on the stature of offices, the need to hang pictures on cubicle walls, and the need for personal space. Instead, younger workers value flexibility. The many benefits of the officeless office include cost savings, collaborative environments, increased flexibility for employees, and in some cases, spillover benefits for nearby businesses — employees’ increased freedom grants them the ability to work at the café down the street.
I agree with the concept of the officeless office, but it will only work if your company culture promotes this kind of open space concept from top to bottom. Otherwise it could alienate more employees than it pleases.
About two months ago, I got a call from an employee of mine working on a long-term contract with a software company. She was clearly upset. The employee informed me that her desk had been taken away from her, and she was asked to “just float.” Unfortunately, this was an office where almost everyone else had a desk or office space, and there weren’t enough places to which she could float. The employee could set up her computer in a conference room and hope she didn’t have to move, or perhaps she could sit in the lobby and ignore the deliveries and visitors passing through. It made her feel like a second-class citizen.
Companies can easily avoid this type of situation when shifting to the officeless office. If a company provides employees with ample space, as well as the flexibility to telecommute or work off-site, then employees will benefit as well. The worker that I mentioned above was told that she could not work from home or off-site. She was expected to float around 40 hours a week, on-site, without enough space to do this comfortably. In addition, she was not being treated the same as everyone else, since the majority of her colleagues still had their own desks.
There are four key ingredients to creating an officeless office that is beneficial to the company and employees.
- Flextime. Flextime is very common in the Pacific Northwest, but there are still some offices that command an 8 a.m. arrival. Employers should not expect workers to have their “butt in seat” by 8 a.m. if there is no designated seat.
- Telecommuting options. It’s important that employees do not think that the company is just being cheap by cutting workspaces. Very few employees complain about working from home occasionally or regularly. An officeless office promotes a culture of trust and flexibility. Companies should exercise these values to the fullest extent and trust employees, both on- and off-site.
- Ample space. Employees don’t want to feel like they are sitting on top of each other. Companies should have several lounges, cafeterias, or cafés where employees can settle in and be comfortable while they work.
- Private rooms. With any company, there are sensitive issues that should be discussed in private. Certain employees, such as lawyers, need privacy to conduct their work. And HR directors need privacy for employee reviews and compensation discussions.