Flex office: a new organisation to optimise workspaces
Twenty per cent. This is the percentage decline in the face-to-face meetings of employees at their workplace in recent years. A phenomenon which has accelerated with the health crisis and which raises new questions. How can we best use empty spaces? What are the new needs of employees? How can we now adapt? Companies which are concerned about a more flexible layout of workplaces are now interested in the flex office.
The flex office (“bureau flexible” in French) is an organisational model in which employees do not have an assigned workstation: many offices and spaces are then made available to them in order to optimise the occupancy and profitability of the offices. This plan requires a new layout with more shared spaces, meeting areas, or even private rooms in order to respect the needs of all employees. For this to work well, anticipating days of face-to-face situations and reserving rooms or workstations well in advance is of the utmost importance.
Transition: from the traditional office to the Flex office
Traditional offices follow a conventional layout: each employee has their own workstation, whether in private offices, collaboration spaces, or for the majority of them, in a coworking space.
However, this arrangement has its limitations. Vertical management where the boss summons his employees to his office no longer really suits employees. The most important factor is that unoccupied offices come at a cost. For a workstation this cost on average comes to between 12,000 and 14,000 euros per employee, per year.
Based on these simple observations, companies are thinking about new arrangements for their offices. And today more than ever, for the sake of the well-being of employees, they consider their new needs: a study conducted by JLL in 2020 showed that 85% of employees wanted to continue 2 to 3 days teleworking after the covid-19 pandemic.
To adapt to these new demands for flexibility, companies are now considering:
- Reworking the workspaces to offer a neutral and more flexible environment, where employees have the freedom to choose their position and their equipment;
- Establishing a rhythm that suits employees, by adopting a hybrid teleworking or on-site rhythm, or by adjusting the hours when they are in attendance;
- Approaching management in line with the needs of a flex office, based on trust, flexibility and linked to digital tools;
- Offering innovative services that will be a source of motivation for employees when they are on site (with a restaurant, a concierge, events, etc.).
Pros & cons: what do we need to consider?
Lots of social bonding
Productivity and creativity
Poor flexible desk management
Difficulty keeping in touch
The flex office is tempting more and more companies, driven by the possible cost reductions. Workstations in offices are not used at the same time for different reasons such as teleworking, holidays, sick leave, maternity or paternity leave, etc. By having a smaller number of workstations than the total number of employees, the flex office thus makes it possible to reduce costs and optimise the use of spaces.
For employees too, the flex office has advantages. This new layout breaks up their routine; they can move into a new office every day, enjoy different comforts according to their mood (a table, a desk, a sofa, collaborative or isolated space) and rub shoulders with different colleagues every day. This diversity helps you not to get bored but also helps to create more social links! All these advantages lead to a better quality of life at work (QWL), and we know that this has a direct impact on improving productivity at work. Moreover, a “Bloom at Work” study showed that fulfilled employees are on average 86% more creative.
Finally, taking advantage of the flex office allows you to work in a cleaner place. No wonder, when you notice that the desks are tidied up every evening, no personal effects are left lying around, and therefore no dust is to be seen on the gadgets and paper files.
However, the flex office also requires a good level of adapting on the part of employees. No more family photos placed in a small corner of the desk, and peanuts stored in the 2nd drawer… Working in a flex office can be difficult for an employee who likes to find himself in his little cocoon: the impersonal office does not allow any room for that. Over and above this simple fact, the risk of poorly organising oneself and of ending up at work without a vacant position or far from your team can demotivate employees.
And as the flex office is synonymous with new encounters, it can also easily distract the more curious. Changing the workplace every day is a challenge that is not always easy to meet: setting up, getting connected, filing things, discussions with new colleagues and so on.
This last aspect gives rise to two problems:
- More difficult integration. Having more freedom, new employees are thrown into the deep end, and need to benefit from specific support (finding buddies and being sponsored, for example) or else taking lots of initiatives to integrate. So, reserving a table next to colleagues who are not part of the same team is difficult, but important for successful integration.
- Difficulty in maintaining contact between employees. If HR follow-ups and a digital solution are not put in place, there is nothing to help them to maintain team cohesion, with even the risk of distancing them from the daily life of their team.
A personalised flex office: digital support to optimise this way of working
Companies know it, that the Flex office is a work solution allowing them to optimise the management of spaces by taking into account the hybrid reality of working methods. The drawbacks of this kind of organisation can however quickly appear insurmountable if the directors and management are not adapted to it.
Offering more flexibility and freedom to employees while remaining efficient is possible, as long as they are provided with the appropriate tools. Thus, setting up a digital platform will allow teams to organise their positioning in real time and thus avoid any misunderstanding or disagreement.
The use of an interface or a dedicated application such as Witco is therefore an ingenious strategy. This option is also an all-in-one tool for work environment managers who can now easily manage their spaces and circulate all the necessary information to employees:
- Real-time office reservation,
- Reservation of personal lockers,
- Centralisation of the services offered,
- Forum to facilitate intercommunication between employees, even remotely,
- Incident complaints for a space that is still functional.
In a context where employees are less and less in attendance on site, the flex office responds to their new needs and those of companies by offering a flexible layout that allows the optimisation of costs and space.