WeWork and the role of co-working as AN enabler of work — Marketplace

It’s hard to believe it is already mid-August!  One thing is for sure, the ever-evolving world of work isn’t taking a vacation.

Last week I had the opportunity to reinforce an important point as part of this Marketplace segment about what’s going on with WeWork specifically, co-working more broadly, and workspace in general: “We are coming out of what was a crisis-driven execution of flexibility…And we are still reimagining how, when, and where we’re going to work.”

This reimagining will include how, when, and where we utilize all types of spaces and places as AN (not THE) enabler of work—employer headquarters, satellite office “hubs”, client sites, independent co-working spaces, home offices, restaurants, coffee shops, libraries, etc.

Because there are many “wheres” in which to work flexibly beyond the duality of home or office, I continue to encourage the move beyond the limits of “hybrid” which by definition is “a thing made by combining two different elements”.

We will be in this state of flux for a while because every organization is still figuring out how their people will work flexibly, which has to come first. Then the alignment with spaces of all types an organization or individual needs, will become clearer.  Listen or read the story here.

How are workspaces in your organization enabling the evolving, flexible way teams and individuals work?  What types of workspaces, both onsite and remote, are part of the enablement infrastructure?  Let me know cali@flexstrategygroup.com


Open Office Spaces May Be “the Worst,” Now What?

Thank you CBS Sunday Morning’s Faith Salie for your commentary, “An Open Secret: Open Office Plans Are the Worst.” The segment was important because it reported the results of a Harvard Business School study that, because it was released over the summer, didn’t get as much coverage as it should have given what it found–open office workspaces (as currently implemented) don’t achieve the promised gains in collaboration and interaction. 

In fact, according to the research, going to an open office configuration has just the opposite effect, “open office triggered the human response to socially withdraw and interact over email and IM.” Over the years, in addition to the tendency to use technology to communicate, I’ve seen people do the following when there are fewer walls at work: 

  • Setting alarms to get up an hour or two earlier in order to get focused work done before going into the office. 
  • Engaging in an ongoing complex, and often unsuccessful, rule-setting process that tried to clarify norms of behavior that would satisfy everyone’s preferred work style. For example, if you want to discuss an issue with more than one person for longer than 15 minutes, take it to a “collaborative workspace” (which was either booked by another group, or occupied by someone who didn’t want to hear your discussion). 
  • Milling hoards in the elevator banks or hallways quietly talking into their phones often with their hands cupped over their mouths. 
  • Even standing up and sharing in a meeting that because they are more introverted and could get nothing done in the new open office they were considering filing an Americans with Disabilities Act claim (true story!). 

Not particularly positive, collaborative behavior.  

However, as the segment also points out, open offices allow organizations to put more people in the same or less space. It saves money. Which is why, while I agree open workspaces are not optimal the way they are currently implemented, they aren’t going away. So, what do we do now, especially since early indications are that the newest members of the workforce, Gen-Z, may prefer more privacy at work than their supposedly open office-friendly Millennial colleagues? 

Start by agreeing that organizations aren’t completely off-base to rethink workspace. We often hear from clients that their space utilization analysis finds a large percentage of desks unoccupied on a given day.  Recently, in one case, it was 30%. 

It makes sense to optimize those unused offices and desks; however, the challenge is how to optimize that space without the unintended productivity and employee engagement loses offset cost savings. 

Answer: Instead of open workspaces, build flexible work cultures, where the type of workspace—onsite, remote, open, collaborative, private—is chosen based the task at hand. The focus is on the work, and how, when and where it is done most productively, not the space. 

For example, we’ve worked with companies that have retained a large portion of onsite open space but made that space just one location which people could choose to do their work. Depending upon the type of job they have and the specific task they need to complete at a particular time, people flexibly pick the optimal space within which to do it. It could be from a spot in the open office, or at another space onsite (e.g. bookable shared office or conference room or cafeteria), space in another corporate location, remotely from home, or remotely from the library or coffeeshop. What’s really popular are little onsite, phone-booth-like rooms which are essentially tiny, mobile private offices. 

With that extra degree of control and flexibility, the challenges of an open office are less daunting, and the collegial aspects can be appreciated and used.  If private phone calls need to be made or reports completed that require unbroken attention, the employee may choose to work remotely or book a private space (assuming there are enough, which there often aren’t). However, if there’s a project that would be completed more efficiently if everyone is in the same place, a team may choose to be onsite and together in the open office. 

The key to success is training everyone—supervisors, teams, and individual employees—how to plan, leverage and coordinate where and when they will work most effectively.  And give them to tools to support that sharing, booking and coordination. This is where most organizations fall short. 

In contrast, in the Harvard study, employees went from assigned cubicles to assigned seats onsite in a large open room of desks and monitors that they were expected to work in every day. This is the way many organizations transition their people to open workspaces and the result can be all of the negative outcomes listed above.

Yes, open offices, as currently implemented, can be the worst; however, they probably aren’t going away. Smart employers incorporate them into a broader culture of flexibility that allows people to choose where they work best based on what they need to accomplish.

Click HERE to be added to the Flex Strategy Group Newsletter and receive periodic updates and insights from Cali Williams Yost.

Strategizing the Flexible Workplace

Traditionally, work flexibility has been the sole domain of HR.  But, increasingly, I see Facilities teams in organizations, and the vendors that serve them, initiate the flexible work culture change process because transforming the workspace can be a great opportunity to rethink how, when and where work is done more broadly. Check out the insightful questions OfficeSpace Software asked when they interviewed me for this terrific article (below).

Flex+Strategy Group CEO and Founder Cali Yost breaks down the importance of a strategic approach to flexible working.

When you hear “work-life balance” do you just hear “work less?” What does it really mean to have a flexible workplace?

Cali Yost, CEO and Founder of Flex+Strategy Group, has dedicated her career to helping organizations find success in flexible working. She knows the value of having a strategic plan in place and how important it is to be able to communicate that value to the C-Suite.

How were you first introduced to flexible work cultures and why did you become interested in helping build them?

Cali: Believe it or not, I actually first became aware of the need for flexible work cultures in the early 1990s when I was the young, newly-minted manager of a bank. A number of bankers that worked with me, including a dad, were having trouble fitting work and life together. I saw that it was hurting my business and it just made sense to me that if I gave them a little flexibility, they would be able to deal with the challenges of having newborn children and still be able to remain productive and contribute to the work we had to do.

I started exploring what that could look like and realized other people were starting to have these conversations as well. I decided to dive into this newly emerging recognition that there needed to be flexibility in how, when, and where work is done for business reasons.

I have always come at this from a strategic business perspective because I could see from my front row seat as a manager that people who got flexibility were able to continue to contribute and they often contributed more. It was a win-win. The problem was I was only one lone junior manager in a much larger organization and realized that this needed to be a full organizational business strategy for managers like me and individuals who worked for managers like me.

How do you think flexible work culture has evolved in recent years? Why do you think it has become such a prevalent way of working?

Cali: It’s evolved from a policy and a perk that lived outside of the daily operating model of the business in HR. That’s where it still lives in a lot of organizations, it’s something you sort of sign up for like any kind of program or policy. It has to be an active, intentional, strategic way of getting work done. That’s going to depend on the changing realities of the business and its people.

I’ll use workspace as an example because it really is one of the key drivers of this way of working. Leaders at organizations have figured out that if they put more people in the same amount of space, they’re going to save a lot of money. Yes, to a degree, you get more collaboration from that densification of space, but for a lot of people it’s tough on day-to-day productivity.

What I’m seeing with my clients is a recognition that you need to expand the definition of workspace to onsite and off and give people the flexibility to determine where they’re going to work best based on what they’re trying to get done. You’re still able to retain all the benefits of growth within the same real estate footprint, but you’re allowing people the flexibility to utilize that space in a way that allows them to get their jobs done most effectively.

What are some of the key elements to keep in mind for an organization that is in the process of introducing a flexible work culture or struggling to properly manage one?

Cali: First and foremost, understand what a flexible work culture is and what it is not. It is an active, strategic way of working based on the ever-changing needs of the business and people.

People (individuals, teams, and managers) need to have the right mindset and skill to be able to leverage how they’re using technology, when they’re optimizing time, what workspaces they’re using, and where they are working. When you know what that looks like and have that picture in your mind, then you’re able to say “how do we get there?”

The technology department can’t just roll out different software and hardware that’s not contextualized or that people aren’t trained on. They need to sit those people down and say “here are all the tools we have available to you. How do you use them to get your job done flexibly? Let us train you on that.”

There also has to be coordination with the facilities group because in that flexible work culture, facilities is not limiting the onsite options for people, they’re encouraging people to consider the offsite workspaces they could be using as well. Facilities is taking a much more holistic role in helping people see the options for themselves.

Then you have HR and it isn’t just about writing one-size-fits-all rules. They’re helping give a manger, for example, the skills to partner with people to make sure they know what’s expected of them and getting updates on where people are in terms of their performance on a regular basis. From that place of knowing that people are doing their job, you’re able to then give those people the freedom to be flexible in how, when, and where they’re doing that job.

How do you think the physical workplace should be set up in order to better facilitate flexible workers? What strategies can be put in place to ensure everyone is still a cohesive team?

Cali: I think workspaces should be developed around the general rule that, for the most part, most people like the ability to work remotely but also want to be in the office on most days.

I’ve seen this play out over and over. When people are given complete freedom to choose how, where, and when they work best, they will generally choose to work remotely maybe one or two days a week. Maybe three, but the sweet spot is one or two days.

Workspaces, both onsite and remote, should be developed around the particular type of work that a person would do. Let’s say you have a group that is graphic design heavy and they tend to be very desktop-driven. You have to make sure the graphics people in that department are able to have access to a desk that has the right equipment they need at all times, but also access to the software they need to work remotely as needed.

You’ve used the term “work-life fit” as an alternative for “work-life balance.” Could you break down what that term means and why you prefer using it?

Cali: I know when this happened because I was pregnant with my oldest daughter and she is now 20 years old. I was at a large multinational bank doing a flexible work strategy project and I was talking to an executive. I was very passionately describing all the benefits that he would get if he supported the work-life balance of his people.

He stopped me and said “I’m going to be honest with you: every time you say ‘work-life balance,’ all I hear is work less.” I told him it’s not about working less, it’s about fitting work and life together in a way that allows people to bring their best to work but also to other parts of life. That “work-life fit” is different for everybody and it’s always changing. Your goal is to create flexibility that allows for all those different workplace realities to live together.

All of a sudden, it was like a lightbulb went off in this guy’s head. He totally got it and started telling me about his work-life fit and how he plays squash. Honestly, I didn’t even know what I said, but something very major just happened here. I almost had to replay the tape in my head and thought “oh my gosh, it was that ‘work-life fit’ term. That just changed this entire conversation.”

I started using it over and over again and realized it was a basic, fundamental, powerful thing. Everyone has a work-life fit, that senior executive could talk to me about his work-life fit as well as all the other realities of people who worked for him. Nobody was right and nobody was wrong, so it suddenly removes the judgment of who’s doing it the right way. Work-life balance is just this big deficit model where you can never achieve “balance.” Work-life fit is a verb, it is not a noun. It is always changing and you are managing it which gives people a sense of power.

Click HERE to be added to the Flex Strategy Group Newsletter and receive periodic updates and insights from Cali Williams Yost.


2015 Research Finds Employees Feel Surprisingly Trusted but Inefficiencies Abound in How We Work

A surprising 9 out of 10 full-time U.S. employees believe their boss trusts them to get their job done regardless of where and when they do their work. And, while additional data indicates employees have become upbeat about their increasingly flexible workplaces, inefficiencies abound in how workers use technology and communicate, and there is a lack of training and infrastructure available to support flexible work.

These are among the key findings from a national probability telephone survey commissioned by Flex+Strategy Group/Work+Life Fit, Inc. (FSG/WLF), co-sponsored by Citrix, and conducted by ORC International (+/- 4 percent margin of error). Other findings include:

  • One-third of full time workers telecommute—mostly men, but women are gaining ground
  • We turn to technology more than each other; young people like to meet more than boomers
  • Technology aids working flexibly and in teams, but backlash is noted especially among men
  • Almost everyone has work life flexibility, but most don’t receive training or guidance to use it effectively

With the growth of telework and open office environments combined with the ongoing introduction of new technology, work life flexibility is naturally embedded in today’s workplaces.  But we’re stuck in the 1990s with outdated work and management practices that, along with lack of training and infrastructure, put recent investments in workplace innovation at risk and could erode the current reservoir of employee goodwill.

PressReleaseSurvey2015 FINAL


NEW Research: Employees Feel Surprisingly Trusted but Inefficiencies Abound in How We Work

A surprising 9 out of 10 full-time U.S. employees believe their boss trusts them to get their job done regardless of where and when they do their work. And, while additional data indicates employees have become upbeat about their increasingly flexible workplaces, inefficiencies abound in how workers use technology and communicate, and there is a lack of training and infrastructure available to support flexible work.

These are among the key findings from a national probability telephone survey of 617 full-time employed adults commissioned by Flex+Strategy Group/Work+Life Fit, Inc (FSG/WLF) and co-sponsored by Citrix.

“With the growth of telework and open office environments combined with the ongoing introduction of new technology, work life flexibility is naturally embedded in today’s workplaces,” said flexible workplace strategist Cali Williams Yost, CEO, Flex+Strategy Group. “But we’re stuck in the 1990s with outdated work and management practices that, along with lack of training and infrastructure, put recent investments in workplace innovation at risk and could erode the current reservoir of employee goodwill.”

One-Third Telecommute — Mostly Men, but Women Gaining Ground
Employees were pretty evenly split between where they said they do most of their work. One-third work from a remote location off site, a slight increase from 2013, while 34 percent work in a cube/open office environment and 28 percent in a private office. Men continue to represent the majority of teleworkers—3 out of 5 in 2015, but the percentage of women increased significantly (39%) from (29%) 2013.

We Turn to Technology More than Each Other; Young People Like to Meet More than Boomers
Nearly 60 percent of respondents use email, word documents or spread sheets “frequently” to update colleagues about work progress and performance. That compares to 55 percent who meet in person and 43 percent who use the phone. Surprisingly, younger people prefer more face-to-face contact. Gen-Y (59%) and Gen-X (58%) were significantly more likely than Boomers (46%) to frequently meet in person to keep others informed. And, in a finding that helps to dispel the notion that teleworkers disconnect from the workplace, those who work remotely were more likely than those who work in a cube/open office to use the phone. Meanwhile, those onsite were more likely to use email, word documents or spread sheets.

Despite widespread availability of video/web conferencing and project management technologies, frequent use of these tools was in the single digits. Conversely, 8 out of 10 employees have never used project management software and two- thirds have never used video/web conferencing. The survey also found employees were inconsistent in where they saved and stored work across company and personal platforms.

“Businesses have barely tapped what is possible when it comes to leveraging technology to increase productivity, collaboration and work life flexibility,” said Natalie Lambert, Senior Director of Workspace Strategy, Citrix. “We comfortably use collaborative technologies in our personal lives to communicate with family and friends and manage personal information from anywhere.

“But, unfortunately at work we struggle to apply the latest innovations to accomplish the same objectives,” Lambert continued. “This often stems from rigid IT infrastructures that require businesses to put control policies in place whenever they want to securely roll out consumer-like apps on any device. With today’s flexible digital workspace solutions, employees can use technology to stay connected and productive wherever they are, while the employer is ensured that their information is safe. Organizations can transform their business with infrastructure, training and a strategy designed with people and experience in mind.”

Technology Aids Working Flexibly and in Teams but Backlash Noted, Especially Among Men
Almost 7 out 10 employees feel the increase in workplace technology has made it easier to collaborate and communicate with colleagues, and more than half of respondents said it has made it easier to work flexibly. But that enthusiasm was tempered by the 28 percent who said the increase in technology has created more work and the nearly one-fourth that noted it feels a “bit like ‘big brother’ is watching you,” with men significantly more likely than women to voice that view.

Training Lacking for Most
In 2015, almost all full-time U.S. employees had some type of work life flexibility, unchanged from 2013 and 2011. Most of that flexibility is “informal” with 6 out of 10 making occasional changes in how, when and where they work, an increase from 2013. Employees feel increasingly positive with a majority (56%) that noted their employer still has a strong commitment to work life flexibility, up from 46% in 2013. A higher percentage (47%) also received training or guidance to help manage their work life flexibility in 2015, but more than half (52%) remained on their own with no instruction. Further, even though they comprise the majority, those who use flexibility informally received less training than those with formal flexible work arrangements.

“Modernizing the workplace is about more than new floorplans, shiny devices and mobility. Clearly we have an unmet need and a huge opportunity for more widespread training and infrastructure that supports flexible work,” Yost said. “Leaders need to capitalize on the current wave of employee optimism and manage to the good that exists in their organizations in order to truly unlock the potential of their business and people.”

This research is the most recent installment in a biennial series of FSG/WLF studies that have monitored the national progress of issues related to work life flexibility from the individual’s point of view since 2006. The 2015 survey was conducted by ORC International July 9-12 and 16-19 with a margin of error of +/- 4percent.

Fix Top Open-Office Productivity Drains


I think it’s important to note when you see a trend.

At this moment, every corporate client we’re working with has at least one group transitioning from high-walled private cubicles and closed-door offices to open, collaborative work configurations.

While the business case for this open office shift is well-defined—increased employee density equals lower overhead costs—the more subtle impacts on productivity are less clear.

What I don’t see are honest discussions about open offices and productivity. These conversations aren’t happening for two reasons. Either people assume they’re the only one struggling to focus, or they aren’t aware of small, simple changes that can make a big difference.

Here are five common open-office productivity drains and quick, flexible work tweaks you can make the fix the problem.

1. Problem: Distractions from conversations at neighboring desks.
Flexible Fix: Wear a set of noise-canceling headphones that cover both ears.

2. Problem: Interruptions when you’re in the middle of a call or thought.
Flexible Fix: Establish a clear “rule of engagement.” For example: “When I have my headphones on or when you see a Do Not Disturb note on my computer, please come back later.”

3. Problem: Noise from groups meeting in close proximity.
Flexible Fix: Even when no one says anything, assume noisy group meetings bother others. Find breakout spaces to hold spontaneous group meetings or reserve a meeting room in advance.

4. Problem: Lack of focus for work that requires deep, unbroken concentration.
Flexible Fix: Work from a remote office (home, library, coffee shop where you don’t know anyone) as needed.

5. Problem: Inability to have private phone conversations.
Flexible Fix: Plan calls in advance as much as possible, and reserve a breakout room or use an empty office. If you have a number of calls, work from a more private remote location as needed.

How do you stay productive in an open office space? I’d love to hear your tips in either the comments section or on our Facebook page.

2013 New Research Reveals Major Myths in Telework Debate and a Growing Struggle in Open Offices / More Women Put in Hours at the Office and in Cubes While More Men Telework

Our latest national research shatters myths about who is working where and reveals new realities along with new struggles facing full-time employees and how they work.  Using a national probability survey of 556 full-time employed adults, we looked at both telework and the growing open office trend and found the way employees work today has changed dramatically.  Our concern is organizations have been slow to acknowledge and adapt to this fundamentally new and different work reality and as such may compromise the performance and wellbeing of both their business and employees.  This research was made possible with the support of Quest Diagnostics and is based on a December 2013 telephone survey conducted by ORC International with a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.  Findings and analysis are solely FSG/WLF’s.

WLFitWhereWorkReleaseFINAL PDF



Telework Week Myth Busters in Pictures (Infographic)

Download or print infographic, HERE.

View complete survey report upon which the infographic is based, “It’s 10 a.m. Do You Know Where and How Your Employees are Working?

Listen to WSJ MarketWatch Radio interview, “The average telecommuter isn’t who you think it is,” where FSG/WLF CEO, Cali Yost, talks about the research.

NEW RESEARCH: Reveals Major Telework Myths and Growing Open Office Struggle

As we approach Telework Week 2014 (March 3-7), new national research from the Flex+Strategy Group / Work+Life Fit, Inc. shatters common myths about who is working where and reveals new realities along with new struggles about how full-time employees get their work done.

Key findings from the research, which looks both at telework and the growing open office trend, are outlined in the press release below.

More Women Put in Hours at the Office and in Cubes While More Men Telework

Men outpace women by a wide margin when it comes to telework – doing work from home, business center or another location – while women are more likely putting their hours in at their employer’s office according to new research that dispels long-standing telework myths and explores the increasing struggles of the open office trend.

The Flex+Strategy Group/Work+Life Fit, Inc. (FSG/WLF) found that among a national probability survey of 556 full-time employed adults nearly one-third (31%) do most of their work away from their employer’s location, and nearly three out of four of those remote workers are men.

“Failure to understand how and where work gets done and by whom, and failure to support these operational strategies with the attention and resources warranted – including training and guidance — can compromise the optimal performance and wellbeing of both organizations and employees,” explains flexible workplace strategist and author Cali Williams Yost, CEO, Flex+Strategy Group.

Telework Stereotypes Don’t Match Reality

FSG/WLF’s research dispelled several telework stereotypes. The typical full-time remote worker is:

  • NOT a woman: Among those that telework, 71 percent were men.
  • NOT a parent: There is no significant difference between remote workers with or without kids.
  • NOT a millennial: There is no significant difference in the age groups of remote workers.

“Almost one-third of the work that gets done today gets done from home, coffee shops and other locations, yet too many corporate leaders treat telework as a disposable option, as in the case of Yahoo,” Yost explains. “Telework is not a perk and it’s certainly not just for moms and Gen Y. Rather, it’s an operational strategy. Think of it as anything less and organizations ignore what has become a vital part of their business and the way their people actually work.”

Open Office Spaces Take Toll on Work Life Flexibility

Back at the employer site, respondents reported doing most of their work either in a private office (30%) or a cube or open office space (33%) with women (43%) significantly more likely than men (27%) to work in cubes/open spaces. Overall, cube/open office workers struggle the most.

  • They were the largest group reporting less work life flexibility now than at this time last year (42%) when compared to their remote and private office colleagues, and of those who feel they have the least control over their work life flexibility, cube/open office workers were the largest percentage.
  • They were significantly more likely to say they didn’t use or improve their work life flexibility because “it might hurt your career/others think you don’t work as hard” when compared to remote workers. Yost believes worries about a “mommy track” stigma may be one reason why fewer women work remotely.
  • They received the least amount of training to help them manage their work life flexibility. Remote workers (47%) were significantly more likely to receive such guidance compared to those in cubes/open spaces (35%).

“As organizations continue to squeeze more people into less square footage, they will be increasingly confronted with the limitations of open office plans and forced to accept that work life flexibility is a solution to where, when and how employees can get their work done with greater focus and performance,” Yost says. “Whether they work remotely or together on site, we need to help employees develop the critical skill set needed to manage their work life fit so they can successfully capture the best of collaborative and remote work environments.”

More about the survey:

FSG/WLF’s latest biennial research was made possible with support from Quest Diagnostics, the world’s leading provider of diagnostic information services, a premier provider of lab-based employer wellness services, and an award-winning healthy employer of more than 40,000 people.

Findings and analysis are solely FSG/WLF’s and are based upon a survey conducted by ORC International with a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

LIVE WEBINAR: Cali Yost and experts from Quest Diagnostics and Citrix will discuss these findings in a 30-minute webinar Thursday, February 27th at 2 p.m. EST. Register HERE.

Media Contact: Pam Kassner, pam@superpear.com, 414-510-1838

Open Office Spaces and Telework: Marriage Made in Heaven, That No One Talks About

There’s a growing awareness that if an organization wants to realize the full potential of its open office space, then there are some real challenges that have to addressed related to uninterrupted focus, and quiet.  

Yes, when you substitute long tables and plug-and-play spaces for office walls and dedicated cubicles, you can fit more people into the same area which saves money.  And, when individuals encounter each other more easily throughout the day, it can encourage collaboration and creativity that might not happen otherwise.

But what do you do when you need uninterrupted time to focus deeply on a project?  Where do you go to have a private conversation with a colleague or a client?

Currently, the answer is to offer a certain number of quiet rooms that can be reserved in advance for a specific period of time or to provide areas/alcoves that provide some freedom from disturbances.

Unfortunately, what we’re hearing from employees and leaders is that these dedicated private spaces oftentimes don’t match the need. Here are some common experiences:

  • A person will reserve a room for an hour to give their undivided attention to a project, but finds that sixty minutes isn’t enough time. However someone else needs the room. They have to pick up in the middle of their work and lose momentum.
  • An individual spins his wheels struggling to complete a report by the end of the day because colleagues decide to hold an impromptu meeting in the space next to where he is working. He tries to find an alcove that’s quieter but all are taken.

People have found ways to adapt and work around the challenges. They are using headphones even though the music can be a distraction, albeit a lesser one. Others extend their workday to complete the tasks that require the most concentration. They wake up earlier and work from home before they leave or in the evening when they return.

But there’s alternative solution that doesn’t get enough attention. What if organizations promote the periodic use of telework as a alternative option when undistracted attention and quiet are needed to get the job done, well and efficiently? It’s a win-win for both the organization and its people.  The cost-saving/innovation benefits of the open office space are coupled with the productivity boost from periodic, strategic and targeted telework. If done correctly, it can be a marriage made in heaven.

Instead of losing focus and productivity:

  • A person who needs to give undivided attention to a complex project can telework that day from a location that allows her to think deeply.
  • An individual who finds the impromptu meeting of his colleagues too distracting, can leave and find a location more conducive to concentration.

After her group transitioned to an open office space plan, the General Counsel of a global pharmaceutical company quickly realized the power of telework to address the concentration struggles of her team.

She encouraged her staff attorneys to pick the place where they did their best thinking when they needed to prepare for a case and get through a complicated document.

Some attorneys chose to work in the office, some at home and others from a coffee shop where no one knew them. One attorney even chose to work from a library close to the office.

The trick is that the General Counsel couldn’t determine where each person who reports to her would be the most productive on a given day.  For the open office space/telework marriage to thrive, each individual employee has to be taught, as part of their everyday work+life fit management practice, to think through “where” they will do their job most effectively.

The open office space trend will continue as organizations look for ways to cut overhead and save money. However CFOs and facilities management should partner upfront with Human Resources, the IT group, managers and employees and explore how telework can make the transition successful for the business and its people.

For more on the topic, check out Katherine Lewis’ recent article on Fortune.com  “The slow death of the private office.”

What do you think?  Are open office spaces and telework destined to be together?