Designing for hoteling

This week we've been having a lot of debates on the pros and cons of hoteling which is the office management strategy that considers certain office resources, such as workspaces and equipment, to be shared assets, rather than assets 'owned' by specific individuals within the company. In this case it is cubicles and desk space that by being shared can help optimize the office efficiency, reduce real estate costs by employing more people in the same space, and increase employee satisfaction and retention by giving them access to workspaces and resources whenever and wherever they need them. Hoteling is typically characterized by an on-line reservation and check-in processes, and includes telephone switching functionality.

Hoteling's basic principle is that of optimizing the unused space in office buildings by allowing employees to book cubicles, offices, and conference rooms for short periods of time. In many offices everyone who works full-time, part-time, or mobile works has a desk space which is 'theirs' but studies prove time and again that for many hours a day these spaces are underutilized.

Hoteling can take various forms and we're experimenting with a variety including:

a) People don't have their 'own' workspace or neighborhood but book space anywhere in the building through a booking system on an as needed basis.
Advantages: an intelligent booking system can prompt or push people to book in certain parts of the building enabling other parts to be powered down thus saving energy. Best use can be made of space. People get to meet and interact with workers who they might not come into contact with in a more static space use approach. This interaction promotes a sense of 'whole organization' belonging and potential for collaboration and connectedness.
Disadvantages: people feel 'shunted' and they may not be able to get a booking close to their colleagues. They can begin to feel isolated if they are not building community with a regularly met group of co-workers.

b) People are allocated to a 'neighborhood' but without their 'own' space and book desk space within that.
Advantages: people feel part of a community and can develop a sense of 'home' because they are using the same kitchen area, copy facility, and so on.
Disadvantages: space is used less efficiently. People gravitate to a preferred space. There is less opportunity for casual connection and collaboration.

c) People book space within given neighborhoods which may be 'mixed use'. In this variation some people have their 'own' space and some people book space. Whether you have your own or book depends on personal workstyle preference and on work content.
Advantages: people make a choice (which they can change) about whether they want to have their own space or are happy booking on an as needed basis. Visitors can book space anywhere that's available which proves beneficial as one user remarked:
"On previous trips, I've usually had to ensure I arrive at least an hour earlier than I would like to search around for a vacant desk so that I might "squat" there for the day in hopes that no one arrives… With the new hoteling system I logged in and booked an empty space for four consecutive days. Needless to say, this saved me a lot of stress each morning and assured I could arrive on my own schedule with a suitable place to start my work each day."
Disadvantages: as for b) above

So where does the design aspect come into this arrangement which sounds like a purely practical thing. What we've discovered is that there are issues and opportunities in four aspects: people, place, technology, and process.

People: we are finding that people do not warm to the idea of hoteling. They want space that they feel is 'theirs' where they can store personal items, put up photos, display memorabilia, and generally make it 'homey'. Equally even if they are out of the office a lot they want to return to a space where they feel part of the team or community. Endlessly not knowing who you will be sitting next to is not for them. Rather as most people would not want to spend their life in a real hotel, people who spend a lot of time at the office don't want that hotel feel about it. However, we have to balance real estate costs and carbon footprint management with the social and personal concerns of worker or risk losing motivation and productivity. So we have a real opportunity to design in effective ways of doing this.

Place: we are evaluating neighborhoods where people doing like work, or project teams, or internal business units, are co-located. One of the considerations is how does place layout link to work style. Consultants a variety of disciplines have come up with various typologies of workstyle/workplace – just Google "digital nomads" to get an idea of some of these – and depending on how we think of the workforce we need to make sure that we are designing office space effectively whilst recognizing that they are likely to be working in other locations a lot of the time.

Technology: hoteling requires good technology: phone, computer, booking system, intranet access, document sharing, IT support, etc. People need to have soft phones or have a 'follow me' phone system where they can log in to their number.

Process: Alongside the people, place, technology discussions go the business process discussions. How do we ensure processes are streamlined and that we are tracking and measuring them effectively. It's all too easy to underfocus on the business processes and you struggle to reduce real estate footprint and keep your people happily productive.
So our thinking is now wrapped around these four elements and our organization design work is directed at keeping them in sync and optimized. Not always an easy task but a challenging and worthwhile one.

Useful info
Say goodbye to the office cubicle.

Architecting mobility in the public sector

Workplace mobility: comparing business models of early adopters in traditional businesses with consulting firms.,7,8;journal,2,3;linkingpublicationresults,1:122160,1

Leveraging Mobility, Managing Place

The hoteling experiment: lessons and questions

Managing Smart: Moving ahead with a virtual workforce

How Cisco Designed the Collaborative Connected Workplace Environment

Workers have to call to reserve their desks