Unassigned desks and new trends in company offices

white collar workers

The world is changing as more workers prefer to be mobile, and companies are adjusting by radically changing the layout of office workplaces.

More companies are shedding square feet by shifting workers into unassigned desks. Being untethered suits increasingly mobile employees, but it can be a hard sell for people who feel like they’re losing status or privacy. For employers, the rationale is simple: saving money, attracting young employees and popping personal bubbles to push collaboration.

Nowhere is that more evident than the Ernst & Young Tower in downtown Cleveland, the city’s first new multitenant high-rise building since 1991.

Accounting firm Ernst & Young, which moved into the tower last month, placed more than 60 percent of its employees into a “hoteling” pool — a group that flits in and out of the office and uses an online system to reserve desks. Even the partners share offices.

The cost savings and improved flexibility are huge advantages with this movement, though it will be interesting to see over time how these changes affect worker productivity, recruiting and retention. One aspect that seems cool is the ability to reserve spots electronically. This can also apply to premium conference rooms, or just hanging out and using the room when it isn’t reserved for specific business.

Telecommuting issues emerge at Yahoo!

There are may significant advantages for a company letting workers telecommute and work remotely. Productivity often increases as this flexibility makes workers happier. In today’s world, it’s important for a company to offer this option for some jobs.

Yet there are disadvantages when you don’t have workers together on a consistent basis. It’s impossible to replicate the casual environment of workers being together at lunch and around the office. Much gets done when people are together.

Every company needs to strike the right balance, and that’s what Marissa Mayer is trying to do at Yahoo!, but her recent announcement has sparked a backlash.

Here’s a clip:

“To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.”

Just reading this, it seems like this could have been handled better by bring up the issue and looking at specific jobs. As stated above, balance is best.

But I suspect the problem may have gotten out of control at Yahoo! and that has prompted Mayer to take a hard line. Workers can be very productive at home in terms of how much they work, but it’s harder to keep workers focused on what’s best for the company if they are always at home.

It will be fascinating to see how this story develops.

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