What is Alternative Officing?
Content Marketing Strategist
There’s the generally accepted normal way to do things. Then, there’s the alternative. This is true for nearly any decision you’ll make—including how you design your office. Will you opt for the traditional office floor plan or give alternative officing a try?
If you’re not one to explore life’s many alternatives, now might be the time to start—after all, we’re in ‘uncertain times’ and embracing a ‘new normal.’ Sometimes, the alternative offers possibilities and options that the stock, standard, generally-accepted solution can’t. Such is the case with alternative officing today.
Alternative officing defined
To understand why alternative officing may be a better option than traditional desking concepts, it’s worth knowing exactly what alternative officing is. In simplest terms, we’re talking about office hoteling. Instead of employees roaming facilities, hoteling encourages them to book spaces for specific times. A solo desk on the first floor from 9am to noon. A conference space from 1pm to 2pm. A collaborative workspace from 4pm until the end of the day. Alternative officing preserves the flexibility and diversity of the workplace, while adding guardrails to how employees use it. Beyond hoteling, the ethos of this alternative also extends to non-traditional workplace elements. This might include workstations within a coffee bar or breakout spaces near conference rooms, for meeting spillover. It’s a distinct shift away from the classic idea of an office. The alternative office is a dynamic, flexible, comfortable space, built on helping employees do their best work.
Key benefits behind alternative officing
What incentives do employers have to explore alternative officing? When traditional workplace concepts become inefficient, it’s a matter of adapting. In the face of a catalyst like COVID-19, traditional workplaces lack the flexibility of alternative officing solutions. As companies adopt the alternative, they adopt flexibility, which leads to several key benefits:
- Reduce workplace costs through space optimization
- Improve productivity of employees under new workplace guidelines
- Usher in new technologies to improve workplace utilization
- Accommodate the increased mobility of employees, while maintaining order
Above all, alternative officing promotes teamwork, collaboration, and better workplace utilization. It does this by changing the framework of how people interact with the office environment. They’re not tied to their desk all day—they merely occupy a space as they need it, with the ability to change that space with a simple booking.
Where to utilize office hoteling
Alternative officing strategies are best suited in workplaces with dynamic staff. If a majority of your employees use multiple workspaces in the context of a workday, there’s ample opportunity for chaos to arise. Bring a hoteling concept to these environments to restore checks and balances to space utilization. For example, if Desk X is booked, someone can view similar desks to book at the same time or the next available time for Desk X.
Office hoteling is also effective in environments with a mixed workforce. For example, if your workplace has space for 100 desks and you manage 150 employees mixed between in-house and telecommuting, there’s an occupancy balancing act. Hoteling gives everyone a chance to book space that’s right for them, provided there’s a facility manager to coordinate schedules (75 in-house vs. 75 remote, for example).
How to utilize office hoteling
Alternative officing only works if you show employees how to make it work. Without an understanding of how to act in hoteling office space, the system will all but break down. Desks become occupied without reservations. Employees clash over the rights to certain desks or spaces. The system of law and order needs oversight itself, courtesy of a facility manager.
Hoteling software is essential, as well as the integrations that come with it. Desk booking via email. Real-time desk searches via Slack. Push notifications for wayfinding. Make sure there are numerous touchpoints that facilitate employee interaction with hoteling software. More important, make sure it all routes through a cohesive system that relays one employee-facing record of what’s booked vs. what’s available.
Companies also need to structure facilities to accommodate alternative officing. More individual workstations with amenities conducive to the type of work employees need to do. Lack of a home base also means workplaces need areas where employees can work privately, store their belongings, take phone calls, and otherwise exist outside of the hoteling system. Design an alternative office infrastructure that supports employees, not confine them.
The future demands alternative officing
How long before the alternative becomes the new norm? In the current workplace climate and in the face of uncertain CRE trends, space optimization is a lever businesses can pull for cost savings and resource planning. As office hoteling becomes more familiar for more employees, it’s also more likely businesses will continue to leverage these benefits.
Hoteling may be the alternative, but it’s nonetheless effective. It’s a proven approach to desking where traditional workplace concepts aren’t currently viable.
Keep reading: A Quick Guide to Office Hoteling Best Practices