The workplace strategy we have is really exciting. We call it “New Way of Working” at the Siemens office. The key element here is that it's not just something we're doing as Siemens Real Estate. This is a joint effort. You need to have the right IT [and] to have HR on board to do this.
When we started out we implemented this with a desk-sharing ratio of 1 to 1.3; now we're doing 1 to 1.5. But we've also learned that one size does not fit all. There are some jobs where you need to have your [own] assigned desk to go to as there are certain requirements of screens, or server, or whatever. But then there are other jobs, like sales jobs, where you can have a desk-sharing ratio of 1 to 3 because sometimes they’re not in the office more than once or twice a week--so we've implemented that.
I think the key thing to success when you do these kinds of things is to start at the top. I don't personally have an office anymore; I haven't had one in 10 or 20 years with my name on it. I think you have to “live it” as well to show people this mode of working is possible.
When you switch from a traditional office to a new way of working, that's a change management process. You have to explain to people why this is, let them talk [about it], and see other sites where this has done successfully. When we go from a traditional to a new set-up, we often start a year in advance with informing, communicating, showing samples and so forth to make people part of the process. When we go from a traditional to a new set-up, we often start a year in advance with informing, communicating, showing samples and so forth to make people part of the process.
Dynamic Space Design Explained
“Dynamic space design” is [a term] I have started to use. This is a long process; it takes time to implement.
You define [business needs and design], then you look for a site, sign the lease, do the fit out. A year has passed. Oftentimes in this period the space needs already have changed: The business has grown, the business has shrunk, the business has other requirements there. So once we go live for the site, the idea is also to measure it with “sensors”; to measure how the space is being used [and ask questions]. Is the space overutilized or underutilized; how are people utilizing it? What kind of furniture are they using? Do we have enough large and small meeting rooms? We can measure all that, and then make adjustments as we go. So that's what I mean by “dynamic space design.”
Analyzing Dynamic Space Design: Any Surprises?
The biggest surprises are seeing what people gravitate to in the space. A lot of people like the high-top [desks]; they gravitate to height-adjustable desks. It's almost a “must” now to let people have the option to sit or stand.
We’ve had a lot of discussions with management on if we can do desk sharing. Oh no, we were told, 1 to 1.3 or whatever is too much. Then we go live, measure, look at the utilization rate--and see we could have gone with a much higher desk-sharing rate. I think that is the surprise; that’s the advantage. In the past we would go around on multiple days and count who's sitting where, and now to have data like this makes a big difference.
How Coworking Impacts a Portfolio
Coworking is the next evolution for us; a lot of companies out there do this. It becomes relevant for us as it's the next step of our “New Way of Working”. For the business it turns fixed costs into variable costs; not exactly, but instead of signing up for a five-year lease, you’re now signing up for a one-year membership so there’s a lot more flexibility…and a more modern design, even.
If we do our own coworking, it brings the advantage, too, of protection of intellectual property. You still have the proprietary network. You still have a lot of other advantages versus going to someone else’s coworking space. I see it as the next evolution, but it will not fit for everybody. We're looking at big cities where we have a concentration of people, or where people travel to, so there’s a need for a membership there to try to implement this. We’re going to open the first site in Boston. We're looking at Chicago, then maybe in the next phase, Atlanta or New York.
Company Coworking Sites vs. Third-Party Coworking Centers
We have our own coworking spaces now. We’ve designed them, really, like those “in the real world.” We will pick locations we feel are attractive for as many businesses as possible, and for employees, where you might have a train station or subway station close by….It might be interesting if we have to go to third party and sell memberships to them, or go through a third-party seat. We’ll be looking at all this from a coworking perspective just like what’s in the real world. We will also have real community managers to manage the site--not your traditional receptionists.
If we do our own coworking, it brings the advantage, too, of protection of intellectual property. You still have the proprietary network. You still have a lot of other advantages versus going to someone else’s coworking space. Lessons Learned From Coworking Journey.
When we started with our “New Way of Working”, we started with a certain set of standards, certain furniture, a certain setup, a certain desk-sharing ratio. We had some pushback there because at the beginning we tried too much, maybe, this “one size fits all” [model]. We had to learn our lessons; the biggest one is that you have to be flexible. You do start with one concept. But over time we have learned, for example, to look at desk sharing by “job families”; different job families have different needs and requirements. So we need to make adjustments to the program. And we need to involve the user; that’s why we do a lot of surveys to find out what worked and what didn’t work.
Determining Different Strategies for Different Work Families
The different kinds of desk sharing [plans implemented] sometimes depends upon the type of job family. For example, I may have a developer who needs a certain type of high-speed line that’s not interrupted, or there’s somebody who needs to have four screens; obviously you need an assigned desk there. But oftentimes the [strategy chosen] really has to do with the group leader.
We've seen legal departments that had to be locked up like Fort Knox, and we’ve seen legal departments that were operating in the open where it wasn’t a problem at all. And we’ve had cases where someone was working in a locked area, but anybody had access. The only reason a keypad was on the outside was because they just wanted to know who was “badged” in and “badged” out in case they had an incident. Then they’d know who was in the legal department space that day. Sometimes when you have certain classified jobs or developments, obviously, they have to be separated or in special secured areas if there is a requirement from the government to do that.