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15 ways to make your office a flexible workspace for employees

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 — July 6th, 2022

15 ways to make your office a flexible workspace for employees

A flexible workspace is an office space that can be designed, tweaked and adapted to suit a more dynamic work environment. Sometimes called flexi workspace or flex workspace, it has a more fluid design and layout than traditional office spaces.

A flexible workspace features everything you’d expect to see in a typical office - chairs, desks, computers - but these will all be mobile, or moveable. In this flexible work environment standard office desks and chairs may sit side by side with more adaptable furniture like standing desks, work benches, lounges, modular sofas, comfortable chairs, even bean bags.. All of these pieces can easily be rearranged to adapt to different requirements such as a group brainstorming session, break-out meetings or a project presentation.

The Ultimate Guide to Employee Retention — It's all About the Communications Experience

Reinventing the modern workspace

In this environment, workers aren’t assigned to a dedicated seat or desk. Instead, they have the flexibility to work in an area that suits what they’re doing at any given time. Do they need a quiet space for detailed work? Or perhaps a casual area for some brainstorming? Or a private area for a video conference? Being able to modify the work space quickly lends itself to these different needs, and allows for a more collaborative, dynamic work environment. By creating a more flexible workspace, organizations can take full advantage of their real estate and make it work for them.

What are the key features of effective flexible workspace design?

  1. Open plan layout: an open plan workspace is most conducive to flexible working. This layout facilitates employee collaboration as workers can move easily around the space. As they try to balance collaboration and productivity organizations should focus on open plan layout but with workstations that cater for up to four or five people. This will help to minimize noise and distractions.
  2. Furniture that can be easily moved: a dynamic workspace needs clever office space solutions including furniture that is easy to move around and reorganize. Modular furniture that can be grouped together or taken apart, lightweight desks and stools, yoga balls and bean bags are all examples of flexible furniture that lends itself to diverse layouts.
  3. Flexible workstations: a flexible workspace encourages flexibility in all areas. To ensure employee comfort workstations should be easily adjustable. Some employees will favor standard desks with ergonomic chairs, while others will prefer standing workstations. Organizations should make sure there are adequate choices available for employees. Maybe consider asking employees what their preferences are via a pulse survey.
  4. Accessible connectivity and power: for enhanced productivity, employees need seamless connectivity in all work areas. Wi-Fi connectivity needs to reach all corners of the workspace so that, even as they move around, employees never lose connection. Organizations should also ensure that power outlets and sockets are readily available throughout the space, so that wherever they are, employees can charge their devices.
  5. Quiet areas: while an open plan meets the needs of a flexible workspace, organizations should make sure the space also includes some breakout areas. Places where workers can go if they need to focus on detailed work, or they need to have a quiet conversation.
  6. Designated call rooms: in an open, flexible workspace finding the right time for a phone call can be difficult. Adding small rooms specifically for making and receiving calls means employees have an ideal space where they won’t be disturbed, and they won’t disturb their colleagues.
  7. Areas that can be reserved: people are creatures of habit and some employees will favor certain spaces or areas of the flexible workspace. Consider allowing some spaces to be reserved to allow for this. An easy-to-use booking system should be supplemented with clear signs to indicate when a space has been reserved. Organizations should be careful to allow only a limited number of spaces to be reserved so that employees won’t feel like they need to book a space every time they use the office.
  8. Multi-functional, communal areas: in a flexible workspace it’s important to have spaces that are for everyone to use - for eating, relaxing and taking time out. These multi-functional communal areas could feature long tables that can have different uses, and comfortable, mobile furniture.
  9. Do not disturb notices: while networking and collaboration are key benefits of open space coworking, it can also be helpful for employees to be able to indicate when they don’t want to be disturbed. Simple flags or stickers are a good way for workers to show when they are busy, or maybe even a ‘traffic light’ system where red means busy and green means workers or management are happy to network.
  10. Wire-free environment: too many wires will not work in a flexible workspace, where employees can move and reorganize the furniture. To remove this mess, safety hazard organizations should make sure there are plentiful power outlets throughout the space, even consider in-furniture sockets which move with the employee.
  11. Separate workspace from high-traffic areas: when designing flexible spaces organizations need to think carefully about how people use and move around the space. High-traffic areas such as bathrooms, stairways, elevators, eating areas should be kept away from actual workspace. An open plan layout can be noisy enough without employees having to contend with doors opening and closing, footsteps up and down stairs, and the busy sounds of an eating environment.
  12. Small outdoor spaces: burnout has become a real issue in the modern workplace. Allowing employees to take timeouts, particularly in a well-maintained outdoor space with dedicated seating is a nice way for organizations to acknowledge that they are considering their workers' wellbeing. These spaces could also double up as breakout or brainstorming spaces where employees are inspired by the outdoor setting.
  13. Natural lighting: harsh artificial lighting can have a negative effect on employee productivity and wellbeing. In a newly designed flexible workspace organizations have an opportunity to introduce more natural lighting, and if not possible, lighting that does not negatively impact worker comfort and productivity. Aim for cool or neutral color temperatures (between 3000 K and 4000 K). These cooler colors aid productivity and don’t tire the eyes of employees.
  14. Employee ownership of the space: employees feel happier, more engaged, and more productive when they feel they have a certain amount of control. If organizations are embracing flexible working, it’s important to allow employees to feel that extra level of flexibility. Create a flexible working policy that lays out your approach to hybrid working - where they can work, how often they need to come to the office. Allow management and employees to take charge of rearranging the workspace to suit their needs. This will give them more ownership of the space. It also means they feel empowered to modify the space so that they can be most productive.
  15. Function over trends: for a flexible workspace to work, it needs to be functional. Of course, it needs to look appealing - not crowded, light, spacious, not messy - but above all, the space needs to be effective. On-trend or faddy furniture may look cool, but it may not be adaptable or suitable for the space. Organizations should instead invest in classic, neutral furniture that meets the needs of the flexible workspace.
The Ultimate Guide to Employee Retention — It's all About the Communications Experience

The most effective flexible workspaces combine clever design with sensible policies, and employee involvement. An organization’s flexibility ethos needs to permeate throughout the workspace, from the furniture, design, and lighting, to common sense ‘neighborhood agreements’, and simple technology systems that facilitate flexibility.

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