Two Behaviors to Encourage with an Unassigned Workplace Strategy

Want your unassigned workplace strategy to succeed? Encourage exploration and connections throughout the office.

People work side-by-side at long benches in an open office. In the background, a trio of colleagues put their heads together at a small table.

Freedom. Energy. Variety. With benefits like these, who wouldn’t want to work in an open office? A lot of people, as it turns out. The very things that make an open office great can also make it a pain for those who crave order and focus. So how do you help people realize the benefits of their unassigned workplace? Start by encouraging two behaviors we’ve observed in productive workplaces with unassigned seating.

Go Exploring

When people move freely from conference room to community space to desk as their needs change, it’s a good sign your unassigned strategy is working.

A person sits in a comfortable lounge chair and works on their laptop in a secluded spot in the office.

Why Movement Matters

  • Sit where you want and move when needs change or when distractions interfere with productivity.
  • Orient yourself to either encourage interaction or discourage interruption.
  • Focus more easily with less clutter to distract you.
  • Let the creative juices flow by moving through the office and working in different locations.
Sounds Bites from Employees on the Move

“A colleague and I are working together on a project. To get it done faster, I sat at an open desk near her on the fifth floor.”

“I had a call scheduled at 10 and couldn’t find an open phone booth, so I found a lounge chair away from the main workspace. It was a great place to relax and have a long conversation.”

“After lunch, I needed to focus and work on a report. I moved down to an open desk on the fourth floor where it’s much more quiet.”

Six Ways to Encourage Exploration in Your Office

In this workshop, people have diverse spaces for work, including places where they can focus, collaborate, and socialize.

Give people diverse spaces for work—some for focus, some for collaboration, and some for socializing.

A pair of colleagues review documents at a desk. A nearby monitor displays additional content.

Provide technology and work tools that make it easier for people to move between activities and spaces.

A group of people work together in an informal setting with bar-height seating.

Create a culture that encourages a “work anywhere” mentality.

Five co-workers gather at a table for a meeting. One part of the group looks at a laptop screen while the others review documents.

Evolve your office over time to offer new types of spaces that support new ways of working.

A trio of colleagues have an impromptu meeting in a semi-enclosed grouping of Public Office Landscape lounge chairs and screens.

Ask leaders to show their teams what spaces are available and how they can use them.

At the end of the day, a group of colleagues socialize and share drinks and snacks.

Incentivize people to work in different spaces throughout the office.

Grow through Experience

People learn and grow when they have an opportunity to connect with different colleagues throughout the day. Here’s a few reasons why making connections is a good thing, and how you can help encourage it in the office.

Three people sit in a café, chat, and eat lunch together.

How Connection Sparks Growth

  • Learn by observing others working around you.
  • Ignite creativity through new conversations.
  • Get to know new people and new parts of the business.
Sounds Bites from Consummate Connectors

“Today I’m sitting with the development team. It helps to overhear their conversations and try to learn from them.”

“I like to sit in new spots and get to know people I normally wouldn’t see. I make a lot of friends that way.”

“A new person has been sitting by me this week. It’s helping him build confidence, and I’m able to answer his questions and show him how to do things.”

Five Ways to Encourage Connection in Your Office

A pair of colleagues work together at a bar-height worksurface and discuss a project.

Allow people and teams to share and display work in progress.

Two colleagues working side-by-side look intently at a laptop screen.

Encourage people to work alongside team members, or with colleagues from different areas of the company.

Co-workers swivel in their chairs to face each other and chat about a project.

Make it easy for people to find each other and open spaces where they can connect.

Four co-workers meet in a room they've reserved in advance. One works on a laptop while the other three review a sketch.

Establish expectations for office etiquette, including how to reserve desks and meeting rooms.

Three colleagues work together in a grouping of red and orange Public Social Chairs.

Ensure that everyone from the CEO to the office intern follow cultural protocols.

Dive Deeper into the Unassigned Work Experience

What You Need to Know About the Unassigned Work Experience

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Three Signs Your Unassigned Workplace Strategy is Failing

What to do when your culture, management practices, and resources are turning your office into an adversary of your people.

See the Research

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    Sources: Herman Miller Research, “The Unassigned Experience,” Fall 2016.