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Changing the culture of possession through office space sharing

For a business looking to get the most out of office floorspace, an element of sharing can make perfect sense. After all, why pay to accommodate workstations that are empty for much of the time? But employees can sometimes be less enthusiastic, and the culture of possession (“This is my seat and my desk”) can be hard to shake off.

You want flexibility, but equally, you don’t want hotdesking and other forms of space sharing to turn your workforce into an army of disgruntled nomads. So here’s how your choice of office and working practices can prevent that from happening…

Make out the business case for office space sharing

We tend to be territorial by nature. Whether it’s a case of personalising the desk with family photos, keeping hold of a stapler or claiming a particular seat in the canteen, employees can come to regard all manner of office-related stuff as ‘theirs’.

So is there anything wrong with this culture of possession from a business point of view? Not, perhaps, if your entire team spend their entire working day in a fixed location. For most organisations though, it’s rare to find the entire workforce on-site and at their seats at any given time.

As an illustration of this, when the Treasury looked to find ways to make better use of its properties, it found that most of its premises had an occupancy rate of just 45%. This meant that on any given day, local authorities across England were wasting space and money on 300,000 empty desks. The numbers may be a lot smaller, but an audit of your own firm’s premises usage patterns may show a similar pattern. If so, it may be time to make rationalise your property footprint.

A combination of time on the road, in the boardroom or visiting clients, along with a more fluid approach to working hours just doesn’t sit right with a culture of possession. Keeping the culture going can make little sense from a business point of view. If you intend to make it your mission to change it, it’s worth explaining to your staff the sound commercial reasons why you’re doing it.

Offer an enticing alternative to desk-hogging

When companies move away from the culture of possession to a shared environment, the model of choice tends to be a managed flexible workspace – i.e. a serviced office. This method of occupancy has grown hugely in popularity in recent years; in 2015 for instance, the take-up rate on this type of office in the capital increased by 36%.

In this type of setup, it almost certainly isn’t going to be feasible for employees to colonise workstations. So how do handle any resentment that this might lead to?

The solution lies with the location itself. Designers of London’s serviced workplace offerings don’t build to enable desk-hogging, but what they do focus on is creating the type of environment where employees can thrive. If the office itself is based in an enviable location, if there’s the opportunity to take time out in the roof garden, and perhaps to arrange for an afternoon massage, these are major plus points.

Experiencing life in a great serviced office is very often enough to outweigh disgruntlement about not being able to earmark a particular desk.

Make it democratic

Getting team members involved in the process of choosing your new office can be a useful way of allaying fears concerning the new way of working. This is especially the case for senior employees, for whom the thought of giving up exclusive use of a personal office might be perceived as a regressive step.

What location (or perhaps even what iconic building) would they most like to work in? What kind of space do they think would most impress their clients? For inspiration, a glimpse at some of London’s most exciting serviced office spaces is a great starting point.

Why flexibility trumps possession

Flexible workspaces and flexible working practices are a natural fit.

A move to a shared office space provides the ideal opportunity to roll out or to extend flexible working arrangements. The modern serviced office is completely geared up for this, with 24/7 access to facilities usually coming as standard, along with handy touchdown spaces which are ideal for employees who work mostly from home but who pop in from time to time for specific tasks.

By twinning increased flexibility on working hours with office space sharing, you can present your employees with a highly attractive proposition. It goes like this: while you might not be able to ‘own’ areas of the office in the same way as before, we’re giving you greater control over where and when you work.

Are you ready to make the culture of possession a thing of the past? Begin your London serviced office space search and find the ideal location for both you and your team.