Flexible workstations are economical

Flexible working is the latest trend in the business world. Basically it means that employees no longer have fixed workstations. Each employee can flexibly decide each day which desk to use to carry out his task. The concept comes from Sweden and is frequently used in the Scandinavian countries. In Belgium too, more and more companies are considering working flexibly. One of the main reasons for this: major economic savings.

How it used to be

Many companies have been arranging their office space as open plan offices for years. The employees work together in groups at desk-islands, but everyone still has their own permanent workstation. Middle and senior management generally have offices of their own. The advantage of a private office is that the employees’ concentration is greatly enhanced, but it inhibits communication. In order to exchange knowledge and information, yet another meeting has to be organised. An open plan office encourages team spirit, but has a negative effect on productivity.

(Not) everybody happy?

A flexible workplace combines the advantages of an individual office with those of an open plan office. But it requires a major shift in mentality for the staff. And that’s the problem. Not every employee can relate to the idea of trading a permanent workstation for sitting in a different office chair every day. That makes personalising the office space with your own little touches no longer possible. For senior or middle management, having a private office signifies a confirmation of their status. These managers can be reluctant to give up their office and the status it confers. Yet they are in fact the ones who are frequently in meetings or out visiting clients. Nevertheless, most employees of companies who have introduced a new flexible system of working are very satisfied. This is demonstrated by numerous satisfaction surveys carried out among companies that have made the switch.

How does it work exactly?

In the morning, the employee picks up a number of personal materials at the storage location set aside for this purpose. Then he looks for a suitable workstation for the day at one of the desk-islands. If his task for the day requires being able to work without interruption, then he might choose an individual office. In any case, each evening he needs to leave the workstation clean and empty.

And then there are the lounge offices. These are offices where employees can work in pairs or in groups. These lounge offices are separated from one another with soundproof walls. They are the ideal workspaces for brief meetings or brainstorming sessions. Large groups who need to have longer meetings can always use a traditional conference room.

Flexible working means that you need to invest in an intelligent ICT-infrastructure. For example, employees need to be able to easily log into the system, from wherever they are working, at the office, on the road, on a client visit or at home.

The digital archiving system also needs to be developed further. By making clear agreements about how files should be saved, all of the employees will be able to consult the right files.

The main advantages:

  • With flexible workspaces, companies can save a lot of money because they need to provide less office space. Commercial staff are often on the road but also in the administrative department, the staff may not always be constantly at the office. There are people who take leaves of absence, people on maternity leave or parental leave, who are working part-time or are simply on holiday.
  • The companies also save on computers and hardware equipment.
  • Because they’re able to save on renting space, the companies can invest in attractive and functional office furniture which can improve the working atmosphere. For example, they may choose to install adjustable and ergonomic furniture.
  • The new method of flexible working is also experienced positively by the employees because they are able to work more efficiently and productively. And because this way of working fits well with the trend towards allowing people to do their own time management.
  • The staff also often work for longer continuous periods of time because the offices have become so comfortable that they forget that they are ‘at the office’.
  • One consequence of flexible working can also be that people work from home more often. They only come to the office if the task requires them to interact with colleagues, clients, or suppliers. That benefits the environment and mobility issues.