The Facility Management Journal covers every conceivable aspect of office design from air conditioning and ergonomics to sustainability and lighting. It’s not surprising that you’ll find great information on how to arrange office furniture at FMlink.com as well. The case study for GlaxoSmithKline is particularly interesting. This employer was looking for ways to increase productivity and profitability while reducing overhead.
GSK used a very simple method to assess how their current office space was being used. They did a walk through 10 times per day for 2 weeks and recorded the types of activity taking place and where these areas were located. Based on this information, they found that employee workstations were only occupied an average of 41% of the time. This was actually pretty consistent across 7 different work sites (the numbers ranged from 36-45%). The rest of the time, the workstations were temporarily unoccupied or just sitting empty.
The Missing Pieces
Where were these employees when they weren’t at their stations? Some of the time, they were trying to get work done in groups. However, they didn’t have the right facilities for this kind of team effort. GSK chose to address this problem by adding multiple conference rooms to accommodate group work throughout the day. They reduced the number of workstations and increased the number of chairs available – moving to a hot-desking system.
This is actually a configuration that can benefit greatly from the addition of panel extenders. When individuals don’t know where they will be sitting from one day to the next, they need additional protection from audible and visible interruptions. When a person works at the same station every day, they may learn to ignore things in their peripheral vision or sounds they are used to hearing. With a hoteling system where everyone is playing musical desks, that doesn’t happen. Any change or novelty in a worker’s surroundings is a distraction in itself. Having some extra height on the cubicle walls or adding privacy panels to desks in open areas is a quick, affordable way to help reduce the disruption caused by switching to a different office configuration.