New trends in workplace organization – advantages and drawbacks
1. Open space
The open space is a collective workspace in which the offices are not separated by partitions. The concept of this workplace organization was born in the 1950s in the United States and became popular in Europe in the 1980s. Today, the adoption of open spaces as a workplace organization is more or less important in European countries: 70% of employees work in open spaces in Great Britain, while only 20% in France.
Advantages such as space saving and cost reduction are put forward by companies to justify this choice of organization. Open space offices can accommodate a larger number of employees compared to traditional offices with partitions. The advantages for the employees are better communication, teamwork – often more efficient – and increased reactivity.
Noise generated by discussions between colleagues, phone calls, keyboards and poor soundproofing are the main drawbacks of open spaces. Noise often leads to a decrease in productivity, a lack of concentration on tasks, and increased tiredness. In addition, the constant presence of colleagues and superiors can lead to a perception of lack of privacy, especially for personal phone calls. The lack of personal independence can also be a drawback for employees, especially when it comes to the control of their surroundings and environment: lights or temperature. (source)
To reduce noise pollution, acoustic partitions can be installed. Signs can also be set up to encourage volume reduction during conversations or phone calls. Signage pockets or display systems can be used to highlight these signs. To address the perceived lack of privacy for employees, individual soundproof booths can be installed. In addition, allowing employees to personalise their space will give them a sense of independence and control over their workspace: desk organizers, magazine racks, memo pads, pencil holders or file boxes, can help employees customise their space.
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2. Flex office
What is flex office?
A Flex office is a flexible workspace for employees. Employees do not have a dedicated workstation. In this configuration, the company’s offices are often made up of several distinct workspaces, such as open spaces, relaxation areas, soundproof booths and meeting rooms. The employee is nomadic, he moves around these workspaces according to his needs.
Flex office is highly valued by employees because of the autonomy it gives them. Employees have the possibility to choose different working environments. In addition, since departments are decompartmentalized in a space point of view, employees can more easily build relationships with colleagues from other departments.
Moreover, from the companies’ point of view, a flex office represents real financial gains. Companies who have flex office generally plan less workstations than the number of employees, because of the vacancy of workstations linked to home office, vacations and travels. Real savings are made, especially in locations where real estate prices are high.
Although the flex office offers many advantages, there are also drawbacks to this system. There is no possibility to personalize a workspace, which can be a problem for some employees. Moreover, flex office enables to be in contact with more colleagues than traditional workplace organizations, but the contact with the same colleagues is less frequent. Thus, developing real relationships between colleagues is also a difficulty of flex office.
Finally, not all locations within the office are equal in terms of comfort, especially near doors, windows or heaters. On the one hand, this ensures there are rotations between employees sitting in less comfortable places, and there are no privileged employees. On the other hand, the daily search for the best seat can be time consuming and a reason for conflict between employees.
Photos or decorative objects can be used to personalize the office, but the size of the objects and their quantity should be reduced to facilitate their transport from one station to the next. Employees can be assigned a storage chest on wheels or a Flex Box case to help them move their belongs around the office. A solution to help employees develop real relationships with colleagues could be to establish common group habits, such as meetings at lunchtime or coffee breaks.
Moreover, one of the challenges of a flex office is employees’ knowledge of the specific features of each space (use of certain equipment, different rules from one workspace to another…), so that the system is optimized. To provide information on the specificities of the flex office system, display systems can be used around the office. Another solution would be the implementation of a signage system adapted to flexible workspaces. Display frame pockets are ideal for this purpose, as the documents inside can be easily replaced. In addition, L-folders and signage pockets allow for quick and easy transport and storage of documents.
Display systems and flexible signage go hand in hand with a mobile workspace.
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3. Home office
What is home office ?
Home office is the practice of working outside the company’s premises. Home office can be done from home or from a coworking space for example.
For employers, home office can offer a reduction in overhead costs (workstations to be provided, lighting, heating…). Employees, less distracted or interrupted by their colleagues, can benefit from greater productivity.
The main benefit for employees is the removal of the daily commute. Employees who commute 1, 2, 3 or more hours each day benefit from significant time savings.
Whereas in some cases employee productivity increase, in others productivity may decrease, due to the discipline required for working at home. A healthy work-life balance can also be difficult to implement. Some employees, working from home in a living room, may find it difficult to distinguish between work time and personal time. In addition, employee isolation is a concern for companies, particularly because of the reduced contact between colleagues. Some managers may also find “long distance” management more complex.
To stimulate the motivation of home office workers and thus improve their productivity, clearly defined to-do lists can be used. There are many types of to-do list notebooks available, with/without time frame or organized by work week. In addition, having a clear organised home office space can help employees get into the right frame of mind to get to work. Sorting and storing documents and other work-related items are essential. This can be achieved with desk-top drawer filing systems and file folders. Similarly, envelopes and Zip pockets are a real help in the daily management of paper documents. Finally, a solution to help fight employee isolation could be to set aside dedicated chat times in the week between department colleagues or project team members to exchange, small talk and “mingle” outside of official meetings.