Space as a Corporate Resource: Decoupling Individual Ownership Perceptions.

Why is telecommuting so hard? What is it about the office environment that creates the expectations for ownership of space? While the company may pay for a cubicle or a corner office, the individual employee is typically the "owner" of that space and is reluctant to part with or even share that resource. As a consultant, I often talk with clients about workplace strategies that typically involve the evolution of space from a 1:1 desk to employee ratio to a use model that is more open, collaborative and flexible. Cultural issues create complexity in implementation when individuals reject the idea of losing their space... treating their office or cube like a scared object for which they will protest for and defend against the "space invaders" (pardon the pun). Why? Simply put, these persons are unable or unwilling to evolve their perception of space and the role that it plays in their ability to perform work. About five years ago, I read a book that to this day influences my thinking on the separation of source from use. Blown to Bits is an observation on the economic impact of information being separated from the traditional physical distribution model (i.e. a book, stone tablets, billboards). It struck me that treating information as a corporate resource and separating it from the delivery source, is not unlike the separation of a particular space from an individual and treating space as a corporate resource that is managed for the best use at a given point in time for a particular goal achievement.

What does this mean? It means that by disaggregating space and creating a flexible set of use types we can help employees perform their jobs and increase productivity. This allows employees to use each space for its intended purpose and capacity, thus increasing effective utilization. Without assigned space, the employee evolves perception from one of space ownership to integration of space and performance.