How To Make Unassigned Seating Work For You

There’s a new trend making its way into the office.  It’s called Work Anywhere, Hoteling Stations, Flexible Work or simply Unassigned Seating and it’s growing in popularity, at least among the folks working in Space Planning, Facilities and Accounting.  In fact, 52% of corporate executives are planning on some variation of unassigned seating in the next three years for space efficiency and work flexibility.   And of course that translates into massive cost savings.

The verdict, however, among employees remains to be seen since this is so new.

Wait! That Means I won’t Have an Assigned Desk?

Well, yes, but no.  Well, maybe. The concept behind Work Anywhere programs, (also known as Non-Territorial, Flex Desks, Collective Use Spaces), was born out of the evolution of employees working offsite, telecommuting part or full time and as a result, having empty desks even though each employee was assigned a desk.

The early wave of non-assigned seating was optional.  If you worked fewer than a certain amount of hours per week onsite at the office, you could volunteer to give up your assigned seating and use a temporary or “hotel” space when you were in the office.  For many companies, this is successfully in play.

Then the concept progressed to include a mixture of choice-based work (elective to have an assigned seat), open floor collaborative space (non-assigned seating), soft seating (think couches, bean bag chairs) and private meeting rooms and phone booths (in some cases, literally, phone booths.)

Now, the plan of having fewer desks than employees, no assigned seating and lockers to store your personal belongings for the day is catching on and spreading like wild fire.

But Is This a Good Idea?

It depends.  If executed well, then the benefits are numerous.  Unassigned seating can promote more collaboration and networking among teams and employees.   Providing a variety of work spaces means that no one is “chained” to their desk and free to move around during the day.  It can give people a sense of freedom and an appreciation for options. For people who thrive in a social and varied work environment, this can be extremely stimulating and boost productivity.

However, and this is a big however, if the non-assigned or “hot” desks aren’t set up well, or if employees “save” seats, are more of an introvert vs an extrovert, sensitive to noise or just need and want a personal space to call their own, then this concept can cause more stress then intended and actually diminish productivity.

What About Ergonomics?

With careful planning and provisions for special needs, there are ways to make unassigned seating plans work.

If you are an employer, it is critical that your flexible work plan include the following elements:

  • Adjustable desks (Sit/stand is ideal and should be 3 Stage Sit/Stand Desks ranging from 22″ – 50″
  • Depth of desk should be at least 30″ (especially if monitors are 27″ or greater)
  • Adjustable chairs (Ideal height range – 15″ – 23″) with height and width adjustable arm rests.
  • Monitor crms
  • Laptop risers & docking stations
  • Anti-Fatigue mats
  • A choice of keyboards (standard, split and mini)
  • Acoustics to minimize noise
  • Soft seating areas
  • Private / Quiet rooms for meetings, phone calls and personal space
  • Accommodations for anyone with ergonomic needs

If you are an employee, the above list may or may not be in place.  If so, then it is up to you to avail yourself of the adjustable furniture.  If not, here’s some things you can do to make yourself as comfortable as possible.

  1. Chair: Adjust your chair before hunkering down to do a stretch of work.  (Ideally feet on floor, hip and knees level and keyboard at elbow level.)
  2. Sit/Stand: If there’s a sit/stand desk available, use it!  And alternate between sitting and standing.  Recommended pace:  Sit 60 – 90 minutes / Stand 60 – 90 minutes.  Rinse. Lather. Repeat.
  3. Monitor: If there is an external monitor provided, use it!  Looking straight ahead and avoiding bending your neck forward or turning to one side is critical to keep your posture intact.
  4. Laptop: Avoid using your laptop on the desk without external plug ins.  A laptop used on desk as is is a posture crusher.  At a minimum, carry a portable laptop riser (Roost Laptop  is one of my favorites), a portable keyboard and mouse and take control of your situation.
  5. Get Ergo Help: If you simply can’t find comfort at the unassigned desk, let your company know and ask for help!

If you work at a non-assigned area, please let us know what you think and what is working and what isn’t.  We really want to hear from you!

Until the next time!




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