Amanda Groves

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These days, more and more companies are investing in alternative offices and workspaces, rather than making employees trek into traditional office environments for the usual nine-to-five work day. From remote and sharable offices, to outdoor, open floor plan, and hotdesk environments, there are a growing variety of new options for companies ready to think outside the box. Of course, alternative working spaces aren’t for everyone, so before you make the change, you need to consider if it’s right for your business:

Why consider an alternative office space?

Alternative offices can suit companies for a range of reasons. For example, reducing or sharing office space can offer substantial savings. Companies can seek out good alternatives to expensive leases, reduce the amount of space that they need, and cut substantial overheads. If your workforce is young and mobile, they may expect flexible work practices as a matter of course. Some may also see the benefits of offering alternative office spaces, like increased teamwork and happier employees.

Do you have a dynamic, open culture?

For alternative offices to work, organizations need to be flexible, forward-thinking and receptive to change. If your company is highly structured, with strict hierarchies and a strong reverence for tradition, moving into an alternative office will be a much harder — or even impossible — task.

Your managers need to lead from the front and embody a culture of creativity and new ideas. But you also need buy-in from your employees. Forcing them to work in ways that are completely unfamiliar to them could be disastrous. That’s one reason why alternative offices tend to work best for newer organizations that are involved in information or tech, where employees are often more accustomed to working (and thinking) outside of the box.

Can your operations support alternative offices?

Before you consider an alternative office, you need to do a full audit of your company’s operations and your employees’ roles. Do certain jobs depend on specific locations and types of facilities? Which areas require teamwork on a regular basis? How much of the work can be performed remotely, via email and with the help of collaborative software?

It may be that some teams simply can’t move into different working spaces, or that moving between them will be too disruptive. Others, however, may be a perfect match. That’s why many larger companies tend to use a mix of traditional and alternative office spaces to accommodate everyone’s needs.

Can your managers support new ways of working?

Alternative offices, such as hotdesks and remote and telecommuting workspaces depend on management accepting that attendance is not an indicator of performance. In traditional offices, there’s a great deal of oversight and monitoring employees’ performance is relatively straightforward. Alternative offices require a level of trust and confidence that, without daily face-to-face contact, people will still get the job done. Alternative offices also depend on great communication from managers so that workers neither feel neglected nor spied upon.

Are you able to invest in the tools and training needed?

For alternative offices to truly work, organizations need to invest in the software, tools, training, and administrative support needed to facilitate them. For people to be able to do their job effectively across alternative offices, for example, you might need to invest in collaborative software that makes teamwork and communication easier.

You’ll need to make sure you have the finances to provide standardized computer software, on-demand technical assistance, and mobile technology. If employees can’t communicate with each other, or with clients, managers, or technical support when necessary, then the business will suffer from a loss of productivity and a drop in morale caused by isolation and frustration. You need to make sure the systems you have in place are foolproof and efficient before you make the leap.

Traditional vs. alternative: Which way does your office swing?

With the host of alternative offices available to companies these days, it’s not surprising many are adopting the practice in various forms. The secret is to identify the right kind of spaces and to prepare the organization fully before diving in. It’s not an all-or-nothing game either. Whether you invest in a mix of offices, or phase them in gradually, if it’s right for your company, you can certainly reap many rewards.


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