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Where’s My Desk? Alternative Workplace Strategies

Companies have begun experimenting with alternative workplace strategies (AWS). A design and workplace management strategy, alternative workplace strategies are a complete or partial reworking of the usual model of assigned desks and offices. In AWS workplaces, office space is redesigned for functionality. Also called hotelling or hot desking, the practice conserves space by not have unused desks and workspaces when staff are on vacation and out sick. The practice is also designed to facilitate collaboration, communication, and team building.

Hotelling allows employees to reserve a particular workspace, conference room or desk, and was the way this practice began in many workplaces. Hot desking means employees choose a workspace when they arrive for work. Alternative workplace strategies is the new term for various methods of workspace management. Design elements are used to suggest types of working space- benches and couches grouped for informal brainstorming, standing workstations on wheels designed for shorter work sessions, or small offices or conference rooms for client meetings. Color and design elements such as carpet or wall color can be used to delineate space without walls.

A benefit of unassigned desks is the ability to move around in the workplace. After several hours of sitting at a desk, a staff member can switch to a standing desk or a treadmill desk for a break. Staff can gather quickly to exchange ideas and information.

With paperless offices becoming the norm, the need for file cabinets and bookcases for storage is disappearing. Without needing inbaskets for routine paperwork, or mailrooms for managing incoming paper, paper storage areas are also gone. This allows a clean, modern look to the workspace.

Areas for staff personal belongings are being reworked into lockerspace or locker rooms, and staff cafeterias or break rooms keep food and drink out of the main work areas. Telephones and other communication gear are being replaced by mobile headsets, so there is no need to allocate desk space for communications equipment.

The traditional of keeping personal items in an office or cube is disappearing, and for some in the workplace, is the biggest issue with alternative workplace strategies. Many staff tend to gravitate to the same workspace every day, arriving early enough to claim their favored space. Other issues are quiet and privacy. Conference rooms or offices that allow staff to make telephone calls that require privacy should address these concerns. But a large space with mobile workstations has the potential to be quite noisy. Design considerations for these new office systems will be to allow small areas for quiet and privacy without interfering with office workflow or communication.


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