What We Learned in Seattle about Choice in the Workplace

Key takeaways from last week’s Work Design TALK at Coterie Worklounge.

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Attendees mix and mingle at Coterie before the TALK. Image courtesy of Ashley Loftin.

Everyone recognizes that the way we work has changed, but we are now faced with a dilemma of choice and variety of workspace. Last week at Coterie Worklounge in Seattle, we sought to understand how to best balance and manage all of the choices available today.

Joining us on the panel were Brian Collins, workplace advantage operations manager at Microsoft; Bryan Croeni, director at B+H Architects; Carol Reifsnyder, senior manager of workplace strategies at T-Mobile; and Su-Zette Sparks, the co-founder of Coterie.

Here’s what they had to say on a variety of topics, all related to choice.

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Attendees received copies of our latest case study, “Work is What You Do, Not Where You Are: How GSA’s 1800 F Street Project is Transforming the Government Workplace”, sponsored by AgilQuest. Image courtesy of Ashley Loftin.


Mobility provides some ability to adapt and to cope with changes and increased choices, but then we must grapple with the question of “Where do I work today?”

Reifsnyder said that she sees a lot of mobility occurring inside of T-Mobile and spends a lot of time considering how to make assigned space more agile. “People want to be at work everyday,” she said, adding that they need to be around the office and only certain work styles can successfully function outside of the office.

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Bob Fox thanks the sponsors. Image courtesy of Ashley Loftin.

The tyranny of choice

Collectively, the panel pondered whether more choice increases well-being or, alternatively, does the “tyranny of choice” cause stress? Collins suggested measuring satisfaction and utilization, and then calibrating all of the tools accordingly. “You should be designing space for people to get things done,” he said, suggesting that leaders arrange desks, devices, and technology in a way that drives increased productivity.

Croeni addresses the stress and confusion that often accompany more choice with a “choice map”, suggesting that the work environment requires some level of self-awareness and self-optimization. The level of change management required for individuals also varies. The panel agreed that we need some understanding about our selves and our work to decide where to do what we need to do.

Image courtesy of Ashley Loftin.
Image courtesy of Ashley Loftin.

Work here, there, everywhere

Sparks shared her experience working from a variety of locations trying to get things done: Starbucks for knocking out emails, Kinkos for copies, trying to find a quiet spot for a conference call. That experience inspired her to start Coterie, one place for all of those tasks. The need for places like Coterie is underscored by the fact that 40 percent of the workforce today is independent, which was not expected until 2020. That number continues to increase rapidly, but the facilities for those people to work are very limited and not conducive to the work that needs to be done.

Coterie has only been open for four months and already has about 500 members. Many of those members had either a home office or an office that was distracting and not productive before joining the space.

Ultimately, the panel agreed that having choice in the workplace was important and crucial to being productive. It’s critical that we provide the right spaces that support the work we’re doing today, and more importantly, the people that are doing the work.

A special thank you to our event sponsors, AgilQuest, Knoll, CoreNet Washington, and Coterie Worklounge!
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