Space experiments

Frequently asked questions about moving office space tend to fall into four categories: the IT implications, flexible working, 'results only work environment' (if you're changing traditional performance measures) and a list on the workspace itself. In the work that I'm doing at the moment it's the final list – on workspace – that we're focused on. Below are some of the questions I've collected in the various pieces of work I've done on recently that people are now asking in the current work.

1. Where will I sit? Will everyone have a workspace?
2. How much space will I have to work in?
3. Will there be space for various types of meeting
4. How much storage space will I have? Is it private and lockable? What about my pedestal?
5. Where will I hang my coat?
6. Will the noise and light levels be different?
7. What do I do if I need to have a private conversation?
8. Exactly when will we move?
9. Do contractors get the same amount of space as employees?
10.How frequently can the floor layout be changed and how easy is it to do?
11.What is the document storage available? (Beyond personal storage)
12.What about confidential information?

I've found that by working with people who are moving offices or moving to a new space within the existing office or generally re-locating it's a whole lot easier for them if they help answer the questions they're asking.

One way of doing this is through space experiments i.e. trying out stuff in their current set-up, learning from this, and feeding the info to the workplace designers. We're about to start this activity in a part of an organization I'm working with. We've come up with eleven experiments for teams to try out in the weeks leading up to their move. The general idea is that each team chooses one experiment per week. Each week they will report back to all on how they got on, what they learned that they can feed to the workplace designers, and whether or not they will change their current ways of working and adopt the new ways or a variation. They then choose another experiment. At the end of the experiment period we'll re-group and come up with the way of working in the new space. Here's the list:

1. Instead of having meetings sitting down in a meeting room try standing up round a high table or try walking meetings.
2. Push all the under desktop pedestals against a wall and practice working without your pedestal to hand. (In the new design people will have lockers not their own pedestals).
3. Each day for a week swap desks with a different person in your team or in the district of your work to see what it feels like if we move into completely flexible desking.
4. Give up email and communicate by some other method. (Twitter, Yammer, Huddle, phone, face to face, text, IM, etc). We will provide training on those that you don't know.
5. Collectively agree to make some of the current space a 'quiet train coach' space where no talking is allowed and people cannot be disturbed if they are in it.
6. Have a day in the week when you run a team effort to clear out your desks and surrounding areas. Make it fun – prizes for the oldest object found, the most dustbin/trash sacks filled by one person of their stuff, etc.
7. Move some of the furniture in the existing configuration to a different configuration e.g. filing cabinets, shelving, etc to create a new space layout.
8. Find some small round tables and suitable chairs to place at the end of/between the current rows of desks so people can informally meet around them.
9. Set up some standing desks to try standing as you work.
10. Remove the items that personalize your current desk and have a display wall in the kitchen or in a common area that shows something about you.
11. Set up a photo wall of everyone who works in the space with their names. Go and talk to someone you haven't met before. See if you each have something that you're working on that is relevant to the other.
12. Post the organizational values and as a team consciously live them for a week thinking how they will show up positively in the new office layout.
13. Try out a clear desk policy.
14. Re-organize yourselves into districts and neighborhoods according to work flow not reporting line.
15. Add one thing to this list and try it out.

The way I've done this in the past is to have an eight week run up to the move where these activities are promoted, tracked and co-ordinated and there is someone in each team who is working with people to iron out (and note) all the stuff that happens in the course of the week.

What space experiments have you tried out as you redesign your physical offices. Let me know.

NOTES: An article about an office layout is here.
Related blogs: Plants in the office, Hotdesking experiment week 1

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