A few years ago, the new Chief Executive of the organisation I was working for had a bright idea to change the way we used the space in our office to get more from it. The way things were set out at the time meant that we had desks spread out across the office and often not all in use. We were told we were going to reduce the number of desks which would give us space that we could use for commercial work. We would all become ‘huggers’ or ‘hoppers’ and those in the latter category would have no use the desks or other areas flexibly.
If I’m honest, I wasn’t keen to give up my desk. It was my bit of personal space in the place I spend much of my time. Almost a home from home if you like. I’m not one for family photos in the workplace but I did have some personal things around my desk that I wasn’t keen to give up.
Although I was forced into it to start with, I’m now a complete convert. Once you have become used to working in this way and enjoyed the benefits, it’s hard to go back. I’ve now moved organisations and whilst I thought I would be pleased to have a desk of my own once again, I’m missing the ability to have fresh conversations with a wide range of people.
As a result, I am now looking to clear my desk and work more flexibly again. One of the great things about being free to work in different spaces is the ability to share updates and ideas across teams and departments. As I am looking to support colleagues across the whole organisation, this seems like a great way to achieve success by getting to know the people, their work and their environment. It’s also a good way to encourage people to think and work outside of their silos. Those informal conversations are what build relationships and make people want to work together.
Being flexible in terms of space also allows greater efficiency because it empowers the individual to be where they need to be at that time to best get the job done instead of feeling pulled into a set place.
Personally, I like to work where I feel my ‘flow’. Variety inspires me but also I like to choose my space according to how I feel or the task in hand. If I need to be creative, I might look for a bright open space or if I need to do some quiet reading, you’re more likely to find me settled on a sofa somewhere.
Aside from getting to know people and priorities better, levels of trust can increase by developing a sense of a wider team. It’s also a great way to reduce the use of paper! When you don’t have a place to keep documents, you stop wanting to print them.
There have been some challenges to consider in adopting a new way of working in an organisation where this isn’t the norm. The key to success is really around communication and getting support from those it affects. People need to know how you intend to work and why, where you are and how they can get hold of you. I make sure I keep my calendars to date and my phone number is shared so people can get hold of me easily.
Ultimately, it’s the 21st Century, teams are working differently and it’s time to push forward with the way we work to get the best results.