Are you lost in space? You might be if you are on the team tasked with finding and designing new workspace for your company. Whether your organization is leasing a bigger office next door or constructing a brand new campus in a different city, one big decision is how you’ll transform empty space into efficient, productive workspace. Another is how you communicate the new way of working to your team.
In our practice, we help business leaders engage people in working at their best. That often involves how people use the physical space the company has designated for where work gets done. The mobile, digital revolution has forever changed where work happens and the way organizations allocate workspace to office workers.
Facilities and Human Resources experts have different ways of expressing nuances about workspace. Sometimes those terms can be confusing or unintentionally comical. Remember the Dilbert cartoons that illustrated “gophering,” the phenomenon that happens when a loud noise causes cubicle dwellers to pop up and look over the tops of their fabric-padded barriers to see what’s going on?
To help you get a handle on how workspace is described, Vitiello Communications Group (VTLO) has put together this handy workspace glossary:
In companies where workspace is not assigned to specific individuals, people who report to the office may select any workspace they wish on a first-come, first-served basis. Once you put your belongings down, the space is yours, similar to finding a spot on a sandy beach. If you need to leave the workspace you’ve claimed—for example, to attend a meeting—you must gather up your belongings and release the space to someone else.
Companies that permit work-from-home arrangements often rely on desk sharing to save space and reduce expenses. Assigning several sales people—who are expected to be on the road or in the field—to one workspace in the office is another efficient use of desk sharing.
Visit a Pain Quotidian or a We Works and you’ll see a communal table set, not with plates and silverware, but with glowing laptops. The dinner table concept can be found in open office environments to encourage collaboration on the fly or to allow people to work individually in proximity.
In the brave new world of open office environments, some space is designed to serve multiple purposes. Cozy nooks in the lunch room double as tiny meeting rooms where small groups can gather. These spaces are especially useful when they are equipped with electric outlets for computers and phones. Phoneless booths can be set up in lobbies and near elevator banks to provide a private place for employees to make a quick call from their own mobile phones.
This term is the United Kingdom equivalent of “beach toweling.”
When workspace is unassigned, some companies use an online reservation system to reserve desk and conference room space for certain periods of time. Generally conference rooms can be scheduled one hour at a time. It’s considered bad form for one worker to commandeer a conference room for solitary work.
Many companies prefer a mix of open and traditional office space. In choosing this design, be aware that who is assigned open and closed space sends a message to all employees about status and company culture.
If you’ve been assigned to a workspace and find that you’re not reporting for duty five days a week, some companies allow you to “lease” your workspace to others while you are out of the office. It’s an efficient way of accommodating employees who are visiting from other sites or consultants who spend time embedded in your company.
What work arrangements and terminology does your company use? We invite you to add your own terminology in the comment box to help us all communicate clearly about where and how we work.