Workplace Strategy Trends: What’s In, What’s Out?

by Elizabeth Dukes on June 12, 2018

Optimizing a workplace is like solving a puzzle. Everyone seems to know the “best” approach to take. In reality, there is no “one size fits all” approach to a workplace strategy. It all depends on your workforce and your company culture.

That said, some strategies that used to be commonplace are dwindling in popularity, and for good reason. Before we get into discussing which workplace strategy trends you should implement and which you should leave in the dust, let’s talk about why a workplace strategy matters in the first place.

Workplace Strategy: The Foundation For a Productive Environment

Deloitte has an excellent article about the advantages of an efficient workplace strategy. Specifically, Deloitte lists the following benefits:

  • Greater flexibility in how workspaces are utilized
  • On-demand collaboration via mobile technology, regardless of an employee’s location
  • Additional workspace options that empower employees to choose the kind of space that is best suited to support their comfort and productivity
  • More opportunities for virtual and face-to-face communication between members of the workforce, which encourages knowledge transfer and innovative brainstorming
  • Decreased corporate real estate expenses via space consolidation

A workplace strategy is essential for both business performance and employee satisfaction. Work patterns are continually evolving in favor of greater transparency and flexibility. These changes have impacted physical work settings, leading some concepts to become less popular in favor of others. Here’s a look at what’s hot and what’s not when it comes to workplace strategy trends.

Outdated Workplace Strategy Trends


In a New York Times article, Author Nikil Saval describes the use of cubicles (and why the practice is archaic) perfectly: “Early offices were designed to extract relentless productivity from workers.”

To be frank, cubicles are the poorly disguised cousin of assembly lines. They do not inspire creativity; they encourage an unhealthy attitude of clock-in, head down, clock-out, repeat. This philosophy flies in the face of today’s innovation-driven workplace, which is probably why Googling “death of the cubicle” returns nearly 2 million results.

The Open Office

The open office floor plan was intended to be the solution to the woes of cubicle life. It was designed to literally and figuratively break down the walls between employees. Unfortunately, “open office” has become synonymous with “noisy” and “distracting” and has been described by some writers as “an introvert’s nightmare.”

In theory, an open office would encourage collaboration and help employees complete projects more quickly and efficiently. In practice, an open office can hinder deep work and make employees feel as if they’re under constant supervision, which can hurt productivity and the employee experience.

The Virtual Workplace

The concept of the “virtual office” was first introduced in the 1980s but began picking up steam in the ‘90s once the internet was made available to the public. The idea is that the workplace isn’t a single, physical entity, but instead a network of employees connected by information and communications technologies.

While this may sound right in line with the push for work environments that support flexibility and mobility, it’s missing a key component: the opportunity for in-person, real life, face-to-face communication. And 95 percent of professionals say face-to-face meetings are essential for long-term business relationships.

Modern Workplace Strategies


Hot-desking is the practice of making a set number of workstations available to any member of the workforce on a first-come, first-served basis. When an employee gets to the office, they select an unoccupied desk to be their work area for the day.

Hot-desking is one of the more popular workplace strategy trends because it not only supports flexibility for employees, but it also helps companies save budget by more efficiently utilizing space. Plus, it can lead to better interdepartmental communication since employees will inevitably end up sitting to members of other teams.

Office Hoteling

Hoteling is similar to hot-desking in that all employees are given access to the same group of workstations. Every desk is up for grabs, regardless of an employee’s role at the organization. However, unlike hot-desking where an employee chooses a workstation when they arrive, in an office hoteling environment, employees reserve a desk before they come in.

Office hoteling offers the same benefits as hot-desking— greater flexibility for employees, reduced real estate costs and increased collaboration. One big advantage of office hoteling is that employees don’t have to spend time at the beginning of their day looking for an available workspace.

Activity-Based Working

Activity-based working (ABW) is another one of the workplace strategy trends with increasing adoption rates. Like hot-desking and office hoteling, in an ABW model, there is no assigned seating. But where ABW differs from the other two is that employees don’t stay at one workstation all day.

In an ABW environment, members of the workforce are invited to work in a variety of different spaces, each dedicated to a specific activity. Employees can go to a quiet area to focus, a meeting room to collaborate or a lounge area to take it easy. They are encouraged to choose the type of space that will best fuel their creativity and support their productivity and move from space to space throughout the day.

Choosing The Right Workplace Strategy

It may take some trial and error to figure out which one of these strategies is best for your organization. And you can certainly use a combination of the aforementioned methods.

To start off on the right foot, look at the current state of your workplace and review the data you have about your real estate and your workforce. From there, define the goals you want to accomplish with your workplace strategy.

Get input from the people most affected by the strategy — the employees. And, most importantly, make sure you involve the IT and HR departments. When you take a systematic approach to creating your workplace strategy, you’ll be much happier with the results. 

Want to learn more about how companies like Sodexo, Genentech and Hershey updated their workplace strategy to meet the needs of a changing workforce? Check out our latest eBook, Building the Workplace of the Future.


Elizabeth Dukes

Elizabeth Dukes' pieces highlight the valuable role of the real estate and facility managers play in their organizations. Prior to iOFFICE, Elizabeth was in sales for large facility and office service outsourcing firm.

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