- Shift/Workshop - People take a seat for a given time-shift. The seat is then released to another person on the next time-shift.
- Assigned - One and only one person is assigned to one or more workstations. Likewise, the workstations are assigned to be used exclusively by one person.
- Unassigned - A person is not assigned to any particular workstation. Likewise, the workstation is not assigned to any particular person.
"Recent studies of knowledge workers, particularly salespeople, customer representatives, and consultants, indicate they spend only 30% of their time in the office. Teleworking also contributes to less frequent presence in the office. So why have a workstation? Companies are also finding that people may need different kinds of workstations at different times for different tasks (e.g. an enclosed office one day and open space the next and a war room the next - all within the same office.) This means that nomadism is not only inter-office (travellers and teleworkers), but intra-office.
Many companies are beginning to rethink whether Assigned Seating makes the most sense. With the increasing price of commercial real-estate the modern corporation is always looking for ways to maximize office space of an ever growing business. Corporations attempt to divide up their resources in an efficient and effective manner. A new system that companies have begun using is called hotelling. Hotelling is a fairly recent idea which has begun to pop-up in many large corporations with travelling employees. The idea stems from that of a hotel where employees must reserve their spot for a specified period of time.
Although hotelling started in consulting companies this does not mean that it is limited to these companies. According to experts, any company that has knowledge workers is suited for hotelling. Any service-based business can also benefit from hotelling, and more than 50% of the U.S. economy today is service-based.
Some of the companies/products in this market include FlexiDesk™ offered by Datacraft Design Ltd, Resource Scheduler and WebEvent offered by PeopleCube, Resource Central from Add-On Products, Condeco from RNM Systems, Agilquest, Businesssolve's Hotdesk Manager, and the EMS Workplace product from Dean Evans and Associates.
Hotelling has some advantages that make the added effort of setting up a reservations system worth it. Hotelling is generally required if there is a significant probability of over-booking. Hotelling can also provide usage reporting that allows facilities managers to better manage the hotelling seats.
Hot-desking is generally easier to implement. Hot-desking does not provide any usage reporting. Also, Hot-desking has one significant problem in large offices: hot-desking is not self-policing, so squatting can become an issue.
People who move from assigned to unassigned seating must make changes to their workstyle. These changes require a transformation. As such, companies can expect resistance to such changes and must work to help staff make the transformation.
The resistance also implies that in most cases, the employees must have an incentive system to motivate them to make the change (i.e. give up their assigned seat). This can come in the form of a policy, a service approach, or a charge-back incentive, as well as numerous other approaches and governance models. As this will determine how effectively the company is able to capitalize on unassigned seating, overcoming the resistance is a significant consideration.
Companies have to acknowledge that unassigned seating does not fit every job role or every person and thus, somebody must draw the line. Who draws it, where it is drawn and when it is drawn (i.e. upon hire, upon job change, upon office move...) are perhaps the most important decisions in implementing unassigned seating. The policy itself is frequently referred to in the industry as Flexplace and is the workplace equivalent of the workforce policy of Flextime and Flexbenefits. See wordspy for usage and genesis.
In a traditional office, the PBX is based on what is known as Circuit Switched or TDM. This architecture necessarily requires that calls are directed to a specific instrument (telephone). If a person moves to another desk, the PBX must be reprogrammed to direct that person's calls to that new telephone. This can make unassigned seating very problematic. There are generally three solutions:
- Programmatic or Manual Operator Control - Either a human operator or the reservations system can program the PBX on the fly with each reservation. Agilquest's system has this capability for certain makes of PBX. If the reservations system does the reprogramming, then hotelling must be used instead of hot-desking.
- Mobile Phones or Cell Phones - This is an obvious solution so long as it is acceptable to the user and the caller. This will usually cost more money, but more companies are replacing traditional land-line telephones with mobile phones. Do all of the staff have mobile phones? (Note: in a sufficiently small office, Cordless phones may also be used. These combine the mobility of a cell phone with the cost structure and programmability of a class land-line PBX.)
- IP Telephony or IPT- This technology allows the user to "log on" to a phone and thus all calls will be received at that desk until they log out. Also, they can implement IP softphones that allow them to have calls delivered to their PC so long as the PC can have connectivity to the VPN or internet.
People in unassigned seating must adapt their tools to support a nomadic workstyle.
- Do they have a lap-top? If not, can they just work from any PC that has network access?
- Do they really just work from a PDA most of the time and can use any generic PC when in the office?
- Can the servers that they need to reach support dynamic IP address assignment or does it rely on static addressing?
- Can the LAN and VPN support IP Telephony?
- Can each PC support IP Telephony?
- Can the switch support IP hardphones?
- Is WiFi a better in-house solution for PC and telephone connectivity?
People tend to arrange their desk and their files to fit their style of work. If desks have no particular person assigned to them, then the desks must become generically suitable to all potential users. Solutions such as rolling pedestals might be needed for some offices. Also, heavy items such as PC screens and docking stations may need to be standardized and provided. There are also health and safety concerns.
The FM must play new roles that are more common to hotel management.
If people need to be next to a file archive, can you really ensure that they have priority access to the workstations in that area? In a large office, how do you keep teams together. Where should the reservable workstations be in a building? Centralized? Distributed?
Should the system be linked to the access badges? Should it be linked to the telephone system? Should it be linked to the HRIS?