Landing that new job and the excitement that ensues often fades when reality sets in - and you find yourself in a sea of cubicles, working long hours, drinking cold coffee made from an overworked Keurig. This has been the reality of the office job for years. However, some accounting firms and corporations are changing that approach and drastically rethinking their workspace. They are embracing the new concept of hoteling - and it is all the rage. Hoteling is a concept whereby an office is converted to a series of workspaces that no individual person occupies on an ongoing basis. Instead, employees reserve desks or tables to use for work on an as-needed basis. Public accounting firms have jumped on this hoteling concept because of the number of employees they have that work remotely. A simple Google search of ‘office hoteling’ will bring up a host of brightly colored contemporary office spaces, airy and open - very pleasing at first glance. But what is the practicality of this approach, what are the positives and negatives – and how do employees really feel about this shift?
A recent Wall Street Journal article (“Don’t Get Used to Your Own Desk”) recently touted this practice as a huge cost savings endeavor, leading to a reduction in average space per employee of a whopping 20-40%. There is no doubt that cutting out wasted space saves money. It makes sense to assume that someone who works 80-90% of their annual schedule away from the office does not need a dedicated space - and for these employees, hoteling can make sense. But what is the impact on the employee that works in the same office every single day? How does the average tax accountant, for example, feel about arriving at the office and trying to schedule a place to sit? Stressed, detached, lost, devalued - these are all words that have been spoken around our office as we have hired and integrated two new employees previously employed by a large international public accounting firm where hoteling has been embraced. Kaila Maxey shared, “It is very difficult to work as teams - difficult to find where your collegues are sitting, difficult to work together, and even difficult to find a personal item that you might leave on yesterday’s desk that is now occupied by a stranger.”
Other research has shown additional negative aspects of hoteling – much of which has been highlighted in another recent Wall Street Journal Article “Why You Can’t Concentrate at Work.” Some of the most visually favorable aspects of the design of open and shared office spaces are creating distractions for employees. The bright colors, flood of natural light and lack of division between other co-workers actually create constant visual disruption for employees – much more than are experienced in a traditionally lighted, neutral toned office. Every movement can result in employees stopping work to process what is going on around them, and this can really hamper production. In addition, when employees see their peers in conversations, they are immediately curious as to the nature of the conversation and are often drawn to get involved. Many companies have also experienced a phenomenon whereby employees feel the need to ‘look busy’ based on a perceived expectation that they have of what their supervisors want to see – instead of working in ways that actually yield more productivity. In other words, working for the appearance of busy actually results in less production and hampers creativity – and studies have shown that employees working in a more private space are free to develop more efficient habits that better suit the demands of their job.
At The BaCo Group, we have really taken a hard look at hoteling – we have part time and flex time employees, we have out of office client demands – and we would definitely save money by reducing office space and moving toward shared workspaces. However, we have counted the cost to our valued human resources - and we have determined that creating workspaces for our team that make them comfortable and make them feel attached to the firm leads to productivity, satisfaction and loyalty, and this makes all the difference in developing longevity in our staff and management group.
Published on May 16 @ 9:01 AM CDT