The Modern Workplace: People Places and Technology | Making workspaces fit for flexible working (1)

Making workspaces fit for flexible working (1)

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Posted 02 July 2015 10:38:00 BST | By Peter Otto

Part 1 of 3

I’ve come across some recent figures around the cost of office space. The costs of prime office space is falling, but why?

This article cites some of the reasons: exchange rates, market weakness, supply, and, interestingly, more intensive usage. In prime locations, such as London or New York, space is still extremely expensive, so making the best out of existing space is a must.

For many companies that means enabling flexible working; letting their staff work from home, or simply acknowledging that not all staff need a fixed desk as their roles may involve moving around the building, having lots of meetings, traveling, or working part-time.

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Recent stats from the UK

From both an employer and an employee perspective the case for flexible working is clear. This study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) commissioned by Citrix looked into the potential value to the economy of the adoption of a more widespread flexible working culture. It cites that:

94% of UK knowledge workers would opt to work from home on average two days per working week

96% of respondents that do currently have the option to ‘work from anywhere’ utilise this opportunity 

73% of employers observe a positive effect of flexible working on employee retention

62% observe a positive effect on employee recruitment

49% report a positive impact on employee absence.

But not every employee has the same work patterns, so to enable flexible working, different work styles have to be considered. Here is an example: According to Forbes*, American Express uses four categories to guide its flexible workspace assignments:

  • Hub” employees need a fixed desk, and are present in the office every day
  • Club” employees have flexible roles that involve in-person and virtual meetings, so they can share time between the office and other locations
  • "Home” workers are based from home offices on three or more days per week
  • Roam” employees are almost always on the road or at customer sites, and seldom work from the office


Although a simplification, this categorisation is a good starting point to understanding work styles.

So, to enable a meaningful flexible working strategy, considering these different work styles matters, both in terms of desk allocation as much as designing the workspace as a whole. But how do you know what kind of work style a member of staff falls into?

Looking at occupancy data helps here. Condeco Sense are discreet wireless sensors which monitor if someone is on their desk or not. It’s easy to highlight desks that are rarely used, or with patchy usage. This helps you understand what work patterns people are exhibiting and how well the space is used. From there on you can start reconfiguring a space to better serve it its actual usage 

The next post will explain what kind of desking policy fits best to different work styles.

Read part 2 here: Making workspaces fit for flexible working (2)


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