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Different Work Practices Accommodated Through Mobile Office Neighborhoods

by Keith Fentress / May 7, 2015

In my last post, The Design of Mobile Offices Influenced by Work Practices, I presented three predominant characteristics of work practices that drive the design of mobile and flexible office layouts; work location, interaction with others, and time spent in each situation. I also presented the Work Practice Matrix that I use to categorize work practice styles and the Facilities Matrix that I use to determine the most appropriate facilities for accommodating an employee’s predominant work practice. Today, I review my process for identifying and quantifying these work practice styles and related facilities when developing a program of requirements followed by several examples from a typical program. (A program of requirements is a document that details the types and sizes of spaces and is used as the basis for developing an architectural design.)

Identification and Quantification of Work Practices

Admittedly, it is possible to obtain a breakdown of the work practices used by the employees of a particular organization through interviews with management level personnel. However, I have found that a survey of all employees yields a more accurate and finely nuanced picture of work practices. In particular, the surveys I have conducted are more effective in expanding the horizon beyond current work practices to consider potential new work practices.

Such surveys typically include 20 to 30 questions. The responses to each question are run through a set of algorithms that classify each employee within a predominant work practice.

With a quantified list of work practice styles for all employees, I can then move on to quantifying the furniture and facilities needed to accommodate the various work practice styles. Based on the responses to the questions addressing the percentage of time spent in a particular activity, ratios denoting the degree of sharing of furniture and facilities between employees can be used to establish total facility and furniture quantities for each work practice. These combined results produce a quantified program of facility requirements that serve as the basis for all further architectural planning and design.

Program of Requirements Examples

The following paragraphs depict examples of typical furniture and facility groups needed to accommodate the predominant work practice types identified and quantified in a program of requirements.

Let’s begin with a furniture and facilities group or “neighborhood” for employees that predominantly work individually in an enclosed office or open workstation or work in an enclosed office or open workstation with other staff. As listed in the Facilities Matrix in the first article in this series, the principal furniture and facility elements needed for this type of work practice include assigned and shared enclosed offices or open workstations and touchdown stations. The typical neighborhood shown below would include these elements as well as several get away booths, huddle rooms, and some open lounge seating for additional support.

Work Practices 1 - Fentress Inc.

Now let’s look at a furniture and facilities neighborhood for employees that predominantly work in small groups or larger teams in multiple locations within the organization. Again, as listed in the Facilities Matrix, the principal furniture and facility elements needed for this type of work practice include shared enclosed offices or open workstations and touchdown stations. The typical neighborhood shown below would include these elements as well as several get away booths, huddle rooms, and a conference room for additional support.

Work Practices 2 - Fentress Inc

Finally, let’s look at a furniture and facilities neighborhood for employees that predominantly work individually or with other staff from home or in the field. As listed in the Facilities Matrix, the principal furniture and facility elements needed for this type of work practice include touchdown stations and shared enclosed offices or open workstations. The typical neighborhood shown below would include these elements as well as several get away booths for additional support.

Work Practices 3 - Fentress Inc

In the past, much of the planning for mobile offices had been a “top down” process, with management directing the outcome in order to decrease space usage costs. However, as new studies suggest that productivity can be enhanced when the employees are an integral part of the planning process, I become more and more convinced that the process for accommodating an employee’s predominant work practices, as presented in this and in my previous article, helps to ensure an atmosphere of participation that encourages employee “buy-in” to the resultant work environment.

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Keith Fentress

Keith Fentress

Keith Fentress is the founder and president of Fentress Incorporated. He has an extensive history of consulting to real property organizations. His skills include organizational development, program evaluation, and business process improvement. He enjoys outdoor pursuits like backpacking, canoeing, and snorkeling.