Flex office: an incremental process for controlled change10 January 2022
The increase of teleworking over the last two years has expanded interest in the concept of flex office. With fewer employees on site, companies are increasingly seeking to optimise the square metres that have become available.
Meanwhile, a large proportion of employees worldwide work in a home office and thus have the necessary equipment at home to perform their tasks. This practice seems to be catching on in the long run. In 2021 nearly 86% of employees say they would like to continue working from home after the health crisis and 66% of managers are convinced that home office working will continue to grow in the future.¹
With these new forms of collaboration, it no longer makes sense for a company to have as many desks as employees. It becomes tempting to reduce the number of permanently assigned offices and to think of common rather than individual work spaces.
The challenge now is to implement these new organisational forms in companies and to do so in the right way. In this transition phase, which is also about achieving acceptance, flexible and integrative change management should take place in several stages. A transition can thus be designed that is understood and accepted by the employees.
1. Integrate a test phase
As before any major project in a company, and considering the challenges, it is highly recommended to start with a test phase. This involves implementing a representative pilot project of the solution.
The idea is to integrate flex office in just a small part of the team (5 to 10 %), only in one department or on a voluntary basis. Educate, test and above all, listen. How is the concept perceived? What are the expectations? What fears arise?
There are many measurement methods for this A/B testing phase: questionnaires, individual interviews, QR codes placed in the spaces so that employees can give direct feedback on their feelings and suggest improvements… Based on the feedback, the design is then adjusted and technological solutions defined to best suit the internal organisation, the key word being: integration.
Thus, during this phase, it is also advisable to communicate with the other teams about the project, even if the project is just at the beginning. Explain that this working method is currently in the beta-testing phase with an eye towards integrating all employees and departments in the process from the very beginning and to prepare them in advance for a wider deployment.
Taking time to explain the reasons for this change is also crucial. Why is the trend moving towards providing fewer offices? If everyone works in a home office at least two days a week, what is the advantage of keeping one office per employee? Would it not make more sense to transform these spaces into places of collaboration for an even better experience?
2. Sensors: an easy way to get started with flex office
Once you are comfortable with the idea of no longer having your own office and know what kind of flex office you are aiming for, integrating sensors is a moderate way to get started with flex office. By simply positioning occupancy sensors under desks, such as the ROOMZ Desk Sensor, and digitising workspaces on a screen placed in a high-traffic location, employees can find available space in the area where they want to work within seconds.
This type of flex office does not require an administrative platform for booking workspaces to which everyone would need access. This therefore interferes little with employees’ everyday working lives. You simply come into the office, look at the floor plan on the screen to find a free space, and sit down at that space to work. As soon as the space is occupied, it is shown in red on the floor plan and is no longer available to other employees.
However, this method of “parking” a workstation, so to speak, has its limitations. This is because it is not possible to reserve a workplace in advance in order to plan office work. This method resembles the principle of “first come, first serve” and can therefore only work with a low flex office rate, usually between 80 to 90%.
3. Integration of a booking platform
Integration of a workspace booking platform is required to drive optimisation even further, and especially to enable true collaboration between and within departments.
Tools like myROOMZ allow workers to have a more personalised experience, as they can fully organise their work between home office and presence in the office using several key features:
- Find and reserve available space on the spot
- Reserve a space in advance for a future presence in the office
- Find a colleague to work with in the office on the same day
- Reserve an office for a colleague / visitor
- Bookmark your closest collaborators to find them more easily, etc…
All these approaches made possible by the tools offer users real flexibility, enabling them to take charge of their own scheduling. They can thus organise their week according to their tasks and according to the presence of the different team members.
In conjunction with sensors, this final phase of flex office integration will provide decision-makers with valuable data on the utilisation of the spaces so that they can make the right optimisation decisions and continuously adapt the spaces to meet demand. The privacy of employees is preserved through the use of completely anonymised data. When a booking platform is integrated, the flex office rate in a company can reach up to 50%.
And to take it even further?
Beyond Big Data and analysable data, it is important to focus on people and to maintain or develop a strong corporate culture. Thanks to the shared synergy made possible in particular by the creation of hybrid spaces and real living spaces, employees will start thinking in terms of the community rather than individually. Ultimately, by sharing the environment and furniture, the company becomes a place of learning and exchange where competences are centralised to enhance the group’s performance.