For nearly two years now I haven’t had an office or a desk. I have been a nomad, wandering from place to place. I go where the work is or where the opportunity lies. I try to be where I add most value. I get in and back out again before I get too bogged down. I am a Guerrilla Worker.
The world is my office.
After the first few weeks of freedom I haven’t missed them. I have been liberated, free from location, free from the burden of paper and possessions, free to be responsive and reactive. I simply rock up with my laptop, say hi to my new neighbours and get on with what I have to do. I am an evangelist when it comes to more modern and agile ways of working but not everyone buys into the dream. Most people are happy with the way things are and that is understandable. People have worked hard to get where they are and so why would they want to give up their own space? In these more austere times there is a feeling that to own a desk is to have a job.
It is my profound belief, however that single use offices are bad for business and I intend to keep up the good fight. This is why.
Apart from the obvious (to me) benefits that are to be enjoyed there are three principle reasons. Firstly single use offices are a drain upon your work space. If you measure them then you will find that even the seemingly smallest of offices will be twenty or so square metres. This could be occupied by three desk based employees as opposed to one. Releasing offices will give an immediate improvement in floor space usage. It will also release rooms that can be used for meetings at a much higher occupancy rate than before.
The second is that it removes the obvious trappings of hierarchy. We would all see having the key to the executive toilet or separate dining rooms for management and staff as anachronisms yet what is the difference? Many organisations have altered their dress code to make less of a difference between those who do the work and those who manage them. Many organisations have done away with a dress code completely. So why do we cling onto offices? Just like numbered parking spaces they imply privilege. Reward and recognition should be on merit rather than position. Everyone knows who the managers are. They don’t need a constant reminder.
The third and perhaps the most important is that personal, single use offices act as a barrier between management and other employees. When you invite someone into your office they are coming into your territory on your terms and your rules. By implication you hold the upper hand. It is them that are answering to you. We should be looking to remove such barriers and not reinforce them.
None of my team has their own office. We all work in open plan. I have no objection however to people working in offices. If they need to have a meeting then book a room. If they need some quiet space then fine, book a room. What I object to is them moving in and making it their own.
That just doesn’t make good business sense.