What Gary really hones in on is the open office trend that has been prevailing in many companies across America. The trend does away with the standard ‘cube farm’ that has been a staple of American business places for decades now. Open office spaces do away with the walls between workers, and typically include small gathering areas for teams of 2-4 employees to meet for impromptu collaboration sessions. While some open office spaces have assigned desks, many instead set up a space with multiple desks for independent work without reserving desks for specific employees. Instead, employees can sit down and plug in where they want, when they want.
Gary takes this a step further, explaining that the rebounding of rent and real estate costs coupled with the rise of collaboration technologies has allowed companies to rethink their office spaces. Not only can companies save on cost by reducing the actual amount of space that they utilize, but by reducing space companies are encouraging a more flexible space for collaboration – boosting employee engagement and improving productivity.
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It comes down to minimizing real estate costs while improving infrastructure. He gives his own experience with Ricoh as an example. The company reduced its office size by an average of 30% for immediate savings. Immediately, a portion of those savings were re-invested into new technology and eco-friendly solutions, and furniture was upgraded to promote the open floor plan in order to leverage its adaptive, mobile workforce.
The company then got rid of assigned seating, allowing employees to come into the office one day and travel the next without wasting space while they travelled. Conference rooms were developed in different sizes for different usages, all with the goal of helping people work together. They procured cloud file-sharing and cloud-hosted virtual desktop solutions so that employees could have access whether in office or on the road. A unified communication system allows for teams across the country and globe to share and edit content in real time while videoconferencing. This means that no matter where an employee is, he or she will have full access to all of the content of a meeting they attend remotely. So remote or travelling employees aren’t at a disadvantage being out of the office.
While Ricoh has just begun the process of converting its space to a more collaborative, open environment, these immediate changes have allowed for the office to support the employees. Employees now have the tools to work the way that suits them best. With 325-plus offices and centers across the U.S. supporting Ricoh operations, Gary looks forward to continuing in the open office effort, and encourages other companies to look into doing the same.