An inside look at how activity based companies like Microsoft and Deloitte are hot-desking around the world.
It’s 2018 and the working world is a different animal than we once knew. Cubicle farms, private offices, and fax machines are all things of the past. And they’re being replaced by open offices, hot-desking, and activity based work.
Not everyone is hot for hot-desking and unassigned seats yet. But the companies that are have made great strides to boost employee productivity and make the most of their real estate.
Don’t believe us? Here’s a list of well-known companies around the world who have shifted to an open office with no intention of turning back.
Deloitte hopped on the hot-desking train when they moved into the Edge, a futuristic and ‘green’ building, in Amsterdam. The consulting company added hot-desking with 1,000 desks for about 2,500 workers. Goodbye to private offices and assigned seats, they said, and hello to workspaces based on schedules. Instead of permanent seats, the office is separated by neighborhoods for hot-desking and hoteling.
“A quarter of this building is not allocated desk space, it’s a place to meet. We’re starting to notice that office space is not so much about the workspace itself; it’s really about making a working community, and for people to have a place that they want to come to, where ideas are nurtured and the future is determined.”
– Ron Bakker, Partner of PLP Architecture
Faced with a struggling collaborative environment, Microsoft shifted to an activity based workplace. The goal was to help Microsoft customers and employees communicate better. And it worked. The traditional Microsoft office model turned into a communal, flexible, and progressive workspace, much like the products it represents.
Each year, Microsoft sends out a work health index survey and since the open office transition, the results have been consistently positive.
“If you asked people what they love, it’s the flexible environment. People are accountable for their jobs, it’s up to them how and where and when they do that. The key difference is that we’re empowering people and making them more creative.”
– Steven Miller, Microsoft Office Division Business Group Director
3. Credit Suisse
Credit Suisse joined the “smart working” trend in several of their offices around the world including Zurich and Singapore. They called on architectural firm Camenzind Evolution to help attract and motivate employees in an open office environment. Hot-desking was added for a majority of the 200 employees, regardless of job title or description, to use freely.
A touchdown area combines three small working spaces for the ultimate hot-desking experience, available for a short stay of one hour max. Now that’s hot!
With a growing team, Gensler La Crosse was outgrowing their old space and decided it was time to move offices. Management didn’t have to go far to figure out what design would work best. In their 2016 Workplace Survey and Observe Activity Analysis, they found that a ratio of collab spaces to heads-down workstations, lots of natural light, and a centrally-located cafe was best to keep teams moving throughout the day.
The move was intentional and Managing Director Joan Meyers is confident that the activity based work environment is the future.
“Most companies benefit from spontaneous collaboration—when you share information with colleagues on the fly and integrate as a team. The high-walled cubicle—your home-away-from-home—hinders this integration.”
– Joan Meyers, Managing Director at Gensler La Crosse
In a completely open floor plan, employees at Square’s San Francisco office have a variety of environments to choose from. With an activity based layout, entry-level employees get a chance to interact with their CEO at high-top tables, and people across departments find themselves collaborating way more often.
“I love how flexible it is, and that there are always different people sitting at my desk. It makes me feel more in touch with my co-workers and what’s going on in the company.”
– Maja Henderson, Office Manager at Square
Employees have their choice of desks every morning at Citigroup in the company’s open office plan. The bank made the switch to boost communication and employee energy and save costs. To play fair, even CEO Michael Corbat gave up his office.
When management brought on the change in 2015, they were confident they made the right decision, despite some overall hesitation.
“There probably is the occasional person who says, ‘I’ve spent most of my career in an office and I don’t want to change that now. But weighing that against the benefits to the rest of the organization, that’s a risk we’re comfortable taking.”
– Michael Corbat, Citigroup CEO
Walk into LEGO’s London offices and you’ll be greeted with flexible work zones with no specific seat assignments. Employees choose whatever setting best supports the activity or task at hand. With a mix of central, open booths and areas, small huddle rooms, private meeting rooms, and plenty of wall space to write on, no one has to leave the office for a change of scenery.
“Momentum is key and we’re using that momentum to change anything from ownership of desks to better meetings to clearer lines of communication.”
– Sophie Patrikios, Former Project Leader at LEGO
8. Macquarie Group
A staff survey at the Macquarie Group’s Sydney headquarters showed that most of its 2,500 employees had no desire to go back to traditional seat assignments or work styles.
The office was designed to handle 2,500 people on any given day. But with an activity based and hot-desking environment, 3,500 people called the building home.
“About three-quarters of the way through the design process…[the language] had become quite prescriptive – like ‘You must change’ and ‘You must rotate’. No, no, no, no. That’s what we are moving away from. This is much more about: ‘We’ll create the freedom for you to use the space in a way that works for you. So, we’ll create a variety of flexible work spaces and there are no rules.’”
– Peter Maher, Former CEO at Macquarie Group
9. GPT Group
GPT Group, a real estate investment trust company in Australia, shows that older buildings, too, can be redesigned with an open plan and flexible working approach.
“The building is 42 years old. GPT wanted to show how they could reinvigorate an asset and show how an old building can support a more modern, agile way of working.”
– Colin Devereaux, Workplace Designer at Woods Bagot
10. National Australia Bank
National Australia Bank’s headquarters houses 6,000 people and works on a ratio of 1.3 people per desk. With an open floor office plan, even clients in the area have the option of using one of the building’s many workspaces.
“NAB is also very much about community. They welcome the community on the ground floor. Everyone can walk through the lobby. The idea is to integrate family and the community into the workplace and not have that corporate hard line that people can’t cross.”
– Sarah Kay, Principal and Workplace Leader at Woods Bagot
So, do you believe us now? These are just some of the many companies reaping the benefits of an open office layout.
Who knows, maybe you’ll be next. And if that’s the case, check out how desking software can make booking a desk as easy as a click of a button.
sources: Slate Magazine, Stamford Advocate, ThinkFWD, Kare Products, Inc., Gensler, Inc., The Atlantic, The Age, The Australian, ArchDaily, Office Snapshots, Glassdoor, GenslerOn, CNBC, Legosaurus, DISTRO, Indesignlive, Officelovin’, Minimalistgranny.com, Daily Mail, dedece, A As Architecture