From the top down: As work spaces shrink, CEOs lead by example

Michael Kruklinski

Michael Kruklinski

Guest post by Michael Kruklinski
Head of Siemens Real Estate for the Americas

The trend of the shrinking work space is well established. The average amount of space for every office worker in North America dropped from 225 square feet in 2010 to 176 in 2012, according to CoreNet Global. When a company institutes a reduction in individual work spaces, more often than not the CEO is the exception. This doesn’t exactly help foster a sense of shared commitment to this new way of working.

Michael Bloomberg famously subscribed to an open office “bullpen” configuration both in his business and during his tenure as mayor of New York City. Encouragingly, more CEOs are starting to lead by example. Here at Siemens Real Estate, we are seeing a number of C-suite executives throughout Siemens shrink their own work spaces as we roll out our New Way of Working (NewWow) office configuration, which emphasizes open office environments and shared work spaces.

Some of these executives have even decided to go a step further and forgo assigned offices, a decision that often makes a great deal of financial sense. This is especially true for executives who travel frequently. In a traditional office environment, their spaces would go unused when they are out of the office. Instead, these executives maximize real estate efficiency and help set the tone for the rest of the company.

Executives who give up the big corner office demonstrate that it is not just OK, but advantageous to do so. The elimination of the designated office opens up the space, both literally and figuratively, making it more inviting for employees at all levels to get together when necessary to collaborate on tasks or easier to find a private place to complete a project solo.

For example, Siemens Foundation CEO David Etzwiler successfully manages his Foundation team remotely with personnel in Washington DC, New York City, Atlanta and New Jersey. In his case, a dedicated office is unnecessary given his and the team’s extensive travel commitments. The team takes full advantage of current technology for “virtual check-ins,” individual one-to-one meetings and daily interactions to stay in touch and ensure a close and coordinated working environment.

At Siemens Canada, all of the divisional CEOs and CFOs have relinquished their assigned offices. When the sectors changed to divisions within Siemens, the executive team decided to follow a progressive path and change all sector offices to “think tank” conference rooms that anyone can use.

In my own case, I have a non-dedicated office at our Orlando headquarters. The style is that of a conference room and is open to others. So when I am not present, it is available for use by other employees. I’ve also committed to being paper-free so I can seamlessly work from anywhere in the world. Since I am not in Orlando every day of the month, this is clearly the appropriate choice.

By 2017, more than 150,000 Siemens employees around the world will work in an open office environment. CEOs that lead by example and participate in shared work-space environments help set the tone for successful roll-outs of open office configurations and ensure buy-in by employees across the company. Time will tell if this becomes a widespread practice. I, for one, hope others will follow their lead.

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