Our company is looking at implementing an "Agile Workspace" initiative whereby:

1) You do not have an assigned desk. You simply "book" one each day and you sit anywhere in your department

2) You work from home at least once a week

The idea, if not obvious, is that this cuts down on the amount of real estate we need to take up, thus reducing costs. I hear all sorts of positives about this idea--staff get freedom to chose where they sit, staff are more collaborative, staff can concentrate on work better at home, rather than being interrupted, etc.

However, I am concerned about how this affects relationships. I often hear Mark talk about the study where being on another floor affects the relationship as much as being in another state. I am worried that the relationships with my directs will suffer. If they end up being further away from me because either the seats around me are taken up by the time they get in or the seats around them are taken up when I get in, I feel workflow/productivity will suffer (e.g. it's easier for me to communicate with someone next to me rather than him/her being across the room).

Has anyone tried this type of initiative and what was the result as far as staff relationships go and productivity? And, where can I find that study about how a relationship is affected by being on another floor?

cim44's picture
Training Badge

Couple of ideas:

You could suggest that people are only first allowed to book space on their "home" floor/area before looking at other floors.

This only reinforces the need for scheduled touchpoints such as one-on-ones, team meetings, and emphasizing virtual connections.

ITA that being on a different floor does affect the relationship - I have lived it - not just a study.

Unless you are truly in a position to influence the decision I'd focus more on how to live in the new world rather than trying to stop what appears to be a no-brainer cost reduction scheme (unless there is some truly unique characteristic in your work).

jib88's picture

The open plan you are describing will probably drive better relationships. I've worked in a plan like you've described, and it's brighter and feels more connected than a traditional office setting. You get to see a lot more people more often (partly because you can just plain see further without all the cube walls), and you can move around to work with different teams/workgroups as needed.

tokyotony's picture

We are already in an open cubicles. The only difference is that there will be no assigned seats and there will be something around either recommending or requiring people to work 1 day a week at home.

My guess is what will happen is people will sit next to people they "like" rather than sit next to people they need to become more effective. While that makes for a more pleasant work environment, I don't think it is necessarily more effective.

jbancroftconnors's picture


What you describe sounds innovative and "new." However what you describe is not "Agile." It sounds like a blatent attempt to save money, while masking it under the new, hot buzz word.

Agile is about tight team integration, where the most ideal working environment is the team (which is 7-9 people) sitting in a single location that is big enough to hold them but not so big you can't carry on conversations with most of the room. While it is pragmatic about virtual teams and there are whole concepts on how to run a distributed Agile team, the first recomentation of co-location still stands.

In addition, Agile is all about making the team more effective and better working. Stripping away a person's personal workspace is very much outside of the Agile philosophy. Strip away the walls, yes, but you don't tell someone they can't have their own desk with their own supplies and personal touches.

I'll defer to Mark and other relationship experts, but from a strict Agile POV and my own gut, this move it going to hinder team relationships and even basic employee morale signifigantly.


Joel BC

glenaplummer's picture

What you are proposing is best undertaken as the final phase of a business optimisation.  You need to start with your business process, work with your IT and HR departments to determine how business process can be restructured and refined to enable effective work in unassigned workspace - i.e work around process that requires you to physically 'find' someone for a sign off for example.

You need to rework your management practices away from any input measures (are they at their desking working now?) towards outcomes and output management measures.  It's a mindset paradigm shift, but absolutely necessary as a precursor to unassigned workspace.

Next step is to do your homework on which integrated workplace management system (IWMS) you will be using.  It's not an 'option' if you want your workplace to sing with effectiveness, it's a prerequisite.

After all that's done and agreed, then you are ready and equipped to commence looking at whether unassigned workspace, activity based planning and alternative workplace strategies will actually fit your busines process (or not) and within which parts of the organisation you might wish to target a pilot program.

Remember, that the golden rule in change management is 'do no harm'.  Jumping straight into unassigned work space without change management is 'planning to fail'.