Cubicles "benched"

By Shive-Hattery

Cubicles ‘benched’

Shared workstations reduce footprint, increase collaboration

Two common business problems are finding their solution in one design trend.

Since a traditional workspace uses cubicles with assigned workstations, companies that want to expand their workforce therefore need to add more space to their office. But adding space comes at a high cost, especially in large cities like Chicago where space is at a premium.

At the same time, companies have discovered the value of shared knowledge between employees and want to increase opportunities for communication. But in a traditional office environment, that means spending time finding each other in Cubicle Land, or scheduling time-consuming meetings.

Collaborative workstations solve both of these problems. They allow companies to increase workforce within the same footprint, and also group employees together in a way that allows for informal discussion and collaboration throughout the day.

What does a collaborative workstation look like?

They are commonly called “benching workstations” because they use bench-style seating, which can be height adjustable so workers can sit or stand. Some storage might be available, but the goal is to minimize personalization of the spaces to make them more fluid. Partitions between workstations are lowered and might include glass instead of cloth, making it easier to see and talk with coworkers.

First come, first served

An office we are working with in downtown Chicago, which is a holdings company for energy generation and distribution companies, was looking for ways to reduce its office space. On a typical day in the IT-centric office, half of the staff was off-site, and contractors who only worked three days a week still had full-time assigned desks.

By creating pods of unassigned workstations, employees who are working on projects can group together – instead of having to move to a new location like a conference room to meet, they can simply ask questions or share ideas with their group from their seat. Then, when projects change, employees can easily move to a new workstation pod.

Smaller 2-person conference rooms are available for employees to grab for quieter, more formal meetings. Executives’ offices can also be used for larger meetings when unoccupied. But most project discussion is held informally throughout the day, with employees working alongside fellow team members and able to talk freely over low partitions.

Other advantages
The east coast office of the same utilities holding company made the move to 100% unassigned workstations. Not only did employees start coming to work earlier to get the “good spaces,” but they have also built stronger networks as employees got to know each other better from working next to new people every day.

By clustering teams, time is saved that used to be spent walking across the building finding team members. Meetings are quicker and more informal. These workstations appeal to the Millennial workforce, which is coming from college more used to working in groups on projects.

While individual workstations separate people from each other, collaborative workstations support the social nature of work today. If people can see each other, they talk to each other. And sharing of ideas leads to the creative environment that every business is looking for. 

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