Image default

Avoid treating employees as information processing units when introducing flexible working

How difficult can it be? 


Faults in contemporary workplace design and flexible working according to workplace consultant Sam James. 


The receptionist of a large corporate gave me a badge and described where I could locate my appointment. ‘Fourth floor, left end of the corridor, somewhere in the large open space.’ On my way trough the clinically empty building I saw large posters with instructions on how to use the workplace: ‘Appointment longer than 45 minutes? Empty your space and make it available for others. ‘ I arrived in an open plan office and asked someone if he knew where that particular persion could be found. No, that he did not know, because they were working flexible so here everyone sits somewhere else every time. He also did not know how he looked like. But he could look it up in the app, he said.


It is a practical and logical thought to make more efficient use of empty workstations, from people who are working part-time or are away from the office. But should that really be done in a way that makes employees unhappy?


I hear it over and over. Offices that ‘on average’ have enough work stations, but not on the days that people have to come to the office (and have to come because of departmental consultation or meetings), and where everyone always comes as early as possible to get a place. When people find it hard to sit in close proximity of direct colleagues are, allowing to work well together, employees apply the ‘all-in resort-tactics’: the first who enters the office claims the space with bags, scarfs, and jackets.


Huge open spaces where people work with ear plugs in to be able to concentrate. No or too little space for phonecalls, whereby each conversations disturbs forty colleagues. Rolling out flexible working, but with employees who don’t have a laptop, return to home if they do not get a work station.


Welcome to the matrix office. These kind of offices turn employees into information-processing units, not as people who want to work together, having fun with colleagues and who want to make their working environment to more personal with a picture of the team outing.


A small survey amongst some agile working friends delivers a requirement list for flexible working: 

    1. a sufficient workplaces at peak times


    1. some smaller spaces with accoustics (for better concentration)


    1. direct colleagues together for collaboration


    1. ample phone boxes


    1. more than enough meeting and collaboration spaces .

You may end up with slightly less saving on square meters, but you will definately win with huge efficiency and job satisfaction.