The Evolution of the Modern Office in Recent Years
Understanding the Workforce: A Shift to Tech-Savvy Millennials
If you watch an old sitcom or a film about the corporate environment, you will likely see the traditional office format that reigned supreme over the last 50 years: employees assigned to cubicles or individual offices only to leave for lunch or designated meetings, and a standard office layout.
Over the past few years, though, that format has become inefficient, expensive and overall obsolete as the face and priorities of the workforce have changed. This shift largely has to do with the technological revolution of the last two decades. With smartphones, tablets, laptops and a whole array of useful software applications and cloud capabilities, workers no longer have to rely on hardware or a confined desktop computer to do their job.
And today’s workforce, heavily influenced by millennial preferences, does not want to. For one, studies have shown that millennials do not want to be assigned to a particular seat, and they feel more productive if they can flow between spaces and choose their hours, their focus and their space.
What is more, they are the first generation of “digital natives,” meaning they grew up using the latest technology, and they are not only used to working with a variety of advanced, mobile-friendly technology – they expect it.
They also expect and search for companies that can offer them these things and more as part of a more positive, motivating employee experience.
A More Relaxed Office Space and a Multi-Use Layout Fits Younger Expectations
That, in large part, is why many workplaces have shifted their office design and their scheduling practices over the past few years.
Rather than the traditional office layout with assigned desks and designated meeting areas, these new, more collaborative workplaces feature open, multi-use spaces with a variety of furniture – like lounge chairs, farm-style tables and traditional desks – that individuals can move between throughout the day. They also frequently offer a mix of environments, including open spaces, cubicles, designated areas for presentations, a co-working café, conference rooms and meeting rooms.
The concept does not just suit millennial tastes – it also makes financial and logical sense for many companies. On one hand, it is largely grounded by data that says as much as 40% of a traditional office's dedicated desk space sits unused on a given day, an issue which greatly contributes to inflated real estate overhead (the largest cost, after people, for most businesses).
Additionally, single-use spaces just do not make as much sense from a productivity perspective. As Jacob Morgan points out, maximizing productivity in a modern workplace is all about allowing employees to engage in multiple modes of work so they can feel better and work more effectively.
That is why such spaces are now prevalent in the US and around the world. In 2015, 58% of companies said they had increased the number of people working in “unassigned” or “collective use” spaces, according to a survey of companies by the International Facility Management Association. About half of companies also reported increases over the past two years in the number of employees working off-site, whether in a co-working space, a satellite office or from home. Now, of course, that number is even higher – and it will remain so for the foreseeable future.
A Deep Dive into Desk Hoteling
With the changes to create the “modern office” also came a number of important shifts in employee behavior, especially as companies began to green light practices like “hoteling,” “hot desking” and “free address” workspaces. The concepts are all fairly similar, as they all allow workers to choose a space for a particular day, or even a portion of a day.
Hoteling is a system of unassigned seating with designated areas that employees can call in and reserve. Similarly, hot desking can be considered a quasi-form of hoteling where desks are available on a first come, first served basis.
A desk hoteling system works most obviously for companies that have a high degree of employee travel and mobility, but it can work for a variety of business models when implemented correctly (you can read more about how to do so in Accruent’s 7 best practices to getting desk hoteling right).
When executed correctly, desk hoteling:
Allows for More Office Networking & Collaboration
If you are sitting in the same desk and interacting with the same, scheduled people on a daily basis, your chances for unexpected connection, collaboration and networking are low. A desk hoteling system, though, allows employees to interact with new people, converse with other departments, and find new inspiration and collaboration. This can allow for more effective employees and greater company cohesion.
Real estate is often in the top 3 expenses for a business and decreasing the amount of assigned space can allow companies to reduce their real estate footprint and overhead. Firms on the leading edge of this strategy have pushed the ratio of employees-to-workspaces increasingly high, pushing past 2.5 employees per desk in some cases.
Increases Employee Productivity
When employees can select their own space, they are more likely to choose a space that truly meets their needs and allows them to be more productive. Have a day full of conference calls or video meetings? Choose a small meeting room or an uncrowded space. Need to brainstorm with your team? Choose a larger room with presentation software or larger tables.
Makes for Happier Employees
Employee well-being is strongly linked to productivity and performance. Perhaps one of the largest factors of well-being is the physical workspace. As Jacob Morgan notes, employees who enjoy and like the environments they are a part of will be more engaged, productive, happy and healthy.
That said, improper implementation can come with significant drawbacks, such as:
On the other hand, there is a possibility for increased employee discomfort. This is especially true in a hot desking environment, where desks are available on a first come, first served basis. The uncertainty can be stressful for some employees and the system can be counter-productive, particularly if employees cannot find a suitable space to meet their needs and their safety concerns. Plus, the collaborative nature of a desk hoteling environment can be disagreeable for more introverted, shy employees.
Lack of Personalization and Creating “Your Space”
Human beings are largely territorial by nature, which is why people like to make their space comfortable and mark it with personal belongings. This can be difficult to do in a desk hoteling environment, but making it happen is one of Accruent’s office hoteling best practices.
It Can Take Longer to Settle
These systems can often be inefficient, and it can take employees time to find a suitable space, plug in, connect to the network and start working. This decreases productivity and largely defeats the purpose of the system. If the employee has to move again later in the day – due to changing needs, noise complaints, etc. – this can make things even worse.
Shared spaces spread germs, and especially now, this is a vital and inescapable concern to take into account when considering a desk hoteling system.
Understanding Desk Hoteling Software in a Post-COVID Office
The final point – hygiene – brings us squarely into the present moment: a post-COVID world where businesses must prioritize employee safety and hygiene as they move into “the new normal” of operations.
In this new normal, it is the role of leadership teams to continuously ensure that the workplace is a safe place to be and that employees benefit from a shared sense of safety in the workplace. It is also the role of leaders to ensure continue preparedness as their businesses work through the implications of this and possible future events.
This requires flexibility and agility as the situation continues to develop. Here, there are three areas of importance:
- Creating space in your office
- Ensuring data-driven visibility
- Most importantly, keeping people at the forefront
A robust desk booking software can help businesses effectively address these three areas of importance.
In general, successful office hoteling is more than just altering your space to meet employee expectations and allow for collaboration. It is a comprehensive strategy for the modern workplace and must be executed effectively if it is to truly optimize spaces and provide employees with a productive experience.
This is simply not possible without a robust desk booking software. As mentioned, if an employee does not know where they are sitting or if there will even be a spot available for them, it can create confusion and a frustration – not to mention lower productivity and efficiency.
In a post-coronavirus office, the implications are even more serious. The reality is that the free-for-all version of desk hoteling, where people blindly choose a space that best suits them, is gone for the foreseeable future.
Now, that is not to say that businesses must reconfigure their spaces once more and return to the traditional office layout. But moving forward, better controlling these open spaces to accommodate for increased space, increased visibility and increased safety will be essential.
How do you do that? For starters, you need a way for your spaces to be controlled by technology.
To this end, booking a space will be essential. To have a booking is very much like an airline seat. There is comfort in knowing exactly where you are going to be and when.
Similarly, implementing some version of hoteling powered by a robust desk booking software gives you data to reference so you have the relevant information you need on who, when and where space is being used. Having a single source of truth for how spaces are utilized will be critical for social distancing, sanitation and monitoring.
When implemented effectively, this will give you visibility of cleaning and utilization. It will also help you and your employees answer important questions like:
- What spaces have been used today?
- Where has an infected individual been within the facility?
- How long has a particular desk been unused?
- Which conference rooms are safe?
- Should I go to the office today?
- What PPE is available?
This, of course, adds to the “normal” benefits of an effective, full-featured reservation software platform which include the ability to:
- Locate and reserve a desk or office based on user permissions
- Select from favorites or filter by availability, type and location
- Book workspaces immediately – or schedule in advance – via web, mobile, calendar and on-the-spot access points
- View details, photos, floor maps and any resources tied to each space
- Create frictionless access to meeting spaces to support group collaboration regardless of individual desk location
- Filter spaces based on capacity, in-room technology and geographic location
You should also look for a software that allows for certain features like notifications for missed check-ins, up-to-date utilization reports and safety-related reports like a daily seat occupancy report or an external visitor security report.
The notifications can reduce wasted space by preventing employees from booking spaces “just in case” without actually looking to use them. Similarly, accurate utilization reports can help your business continuously understand how your employees are utilizing space so you can increase occupancy, optimize your space and increase productivity. Finally, safety reports can be a vital part of increasing visibility and ensuring peace of mind in your office space.
Accruent Desk Hoteling Software
Accruent’s EMS software offers a desk hoteling software solution that is well-suited for the unique needs of your employees and your business. This tool can help you effectively implement a desk hoteling solution by allowing you to:
- Develop different areas of your office around the specific needs of different groups, including some permanent workstations, some daily hoteling spaces, some weekly or monthly spaces and more.
- Allow teams to reserve desks in “neighborhoods” so they are always close to their teammates.
- Implement web and mobile workstation booking and set check-in requirements so that free spaces actually get used.
- Download utilization reports so you know how much of your space is being used over time, which spaces are the most popular and which spaces have been used recently. (This is particularly important for informing cleaning staff where to sanitize to keep employee health and wellness the top priority.)
- Eliminate the most prevalent meeting and scheduling problems that most businesses deal with.
- Stay on top of safety and hygiene concerns.
You can learn more about how Accruent's EMS Room and Resource Scheduling Software can help you support a flexible hoteling initiatives in your workspace.
See Desk Hoteling and Desk Hoteling Software in Action
Bond Street, a startup that lends money to small businesses, offers a fairly simple desk hoteling solution. The company designed its New York office with balance in mind. Much of the furniture is on wheels, and it can all move to accommodate changing requirements as the company grows. That is more, while everyone has an assigned desk, each employee is also supplied with a company-issued laptop that they can move at will throughout the day. It is basic and easy to coordinate.
On the other end of the spectrum is Deloitte. For its Amsterdam location, Deloitte constructed a building called The Edge which is largely recognized as “the smartest building in the world.” Employees are directly connected to the building’s network via an app on their smartphones. When an employee is assigned a desk based on their daily schedule – this can be a sitting desk, standing desk, work booth, meeting room, balcony seat or a space in a “concentration room” – the building automatically switches the lighting and temperature at that desk to suit his or her preferences.
And it does not stop there: the building’s coffee machines know when to brew and how people like their coffee, and even cleaning is smartly scheduled and automated.
Finally, there are Mars drinks. Before deciding on an office design, the company used sensors on employee desks to figure out exactly how those spaces were being utilized. Over time, they realized that employees were hardly at their desks at all, so they strategically redesigned here, their spaces based on how their employees prefer to work.
If each example proves one point, it’s that the modern workspace looks very different than the offices of old, and there is no one-size-fits all solution when it comes to designing and implementing an effective workspace.
In any case, the right desk hoteling software can help. Learn more about the changing workplace and important trends by downloading our new eBook.