Identifying 4 key worker types, their typical workspace and improving their wellbeing and productivi

1. Anchors

Anchors are typically those who hence the name are anchored to their desks on a daily basis and are the people with an influx of information to process.

Job roles within this category are accountants, researcher analysts and administration. These roles primarily use their own desks as retreats for concentrated work and spend their days as a 9-5 worker.

Being desk bound can become increasingly mundane seeing the same 4 walls, views, desk spaces and neighbours each day – leading to habitual behaviours that never break the mould of the typical.

However, being an anchor should not necessarily mean keeping to a desk; this is purely a term that means a person is based in-house, not necessarily chained to a work surface. Creating retreat style spaces throughout a wider office layout for individuals to move around to will instantly inject a sense of empowerment to them, choosing a different work setting and location. This mirrors the trend of encouraging movement being seen globally in workspace design as one of the most important elements of well being, whether this be moving work locations or even simply the choice of sitting at your desk or standing. Additionally for Anchors, localised conveniences are a standard – nearby storage and printers for example, which for some departments, such as accounts, are necessary on a smaller scale for certain document privacy, however.....sticking to the theory of movement and encouraging anchors to push out of their habits, it may be more beneficial to them to house the facility areas a little further away, again encouraging movement and even communication amongst teams. With anchors being habitually desk bound they also get the reputation of being the less social of the worker types and this can lead to a feeling of isolation, if frequently used facilities are placed further away, this forces individuals to move passed and through other departments, encouraging communication and collision.

Additionally, while on the subject of breaking habits, many companies are now adopting the theory that desks are even a thing of the past, and the feeling of possession people get from owning their desk only creates a negative environment. After a process of change management, the positive effect of being able to choose a work setting, communicate with colleagues, collaborate, collide or be in a quiet retreat far outweighs the negative and results in a higher level of productivity.

Agile working and variety are the key to unlock the true potential of an Anchor.

2. Bridges

Although still office based, these individuals are typically 50/50 users of a private space and meeting settings. These individuals ensure the flow of information, gathering and distributing it, essentially bridging the gap. This means bridges can go from being in an intense collaboration setting to a space with its own qualitative characteristics; relevance, reliability, comparability and consistency. Job roles within this category can be planners, software developers, researchers or data analysts.

For the 50% timeframe in a meeting setting it is important to understand the layout required for different styles of meeting. Flexibility is essential, experience has shown more recently that the typical table and chairs in a meeting room are becoming an outdated sentiment, replaced with a more casual environment that encourages communication and honesty amongst the attendees – with a table to hide behind, many individuals feel they are safe to not have an input, however sitting on a mushroom chair or auditorium style seating allows openness and fluidity in the space giving individuals the sense of inclusion and wanting to have their say and input their information freely.

For a bridge these styles of raw, honest meetings will increase their productivity as it will be more efficient in collecting the information and data they require to process.

The second 50% of a bridge’s job role typically consists of concentrated information analysis – therefore a quiet space with minimal interruption is required. In workspace design this can lead to a pattern in themed working spaces that are recognised company wide as people make their choices on where to work in that time period. So as an example with bridges, there could be a library style space with combinations of seating and sound deadening and this indicates a metaphorical ‘do not disturb’ sign.

Connected to this, in wellbeing terms this level of concentrated working can often lead to dehydration. It is key when designing a workspace to identify the ideal location for refreshment points, this is not the tea-point that has a great buzz and all types of workers can go to for a social experience, but are smaller refreshment and water points within grabbing distance to the working environment so to encourage hydration and as above, a little movement, even for a matter of minutes is all part of wellbeing.

3. Gatherers

These individuals are based where they feel comfortable at the time, they are typically the noisier groups and move around consistently depending on how they’d like to work or where, balancing between their tasks and meetings in or out of the office.

Job roles of gatherers can be designers, marketing managers, consultants or PR and so are also heavily millennial types – creative, social and interactive.

When thinking about the well-being and productivity of gatherers it is important to also think about their surrounding workers, so not to create a negative stigma around their different ways of working, isolating them from teams, so to reiterate the points above for their co-workers, agile working styles are essential with companies that have such a variety of individuals, it cannot be seen as ‘one size fits all’ anymore and to encourage productivity it is important to balance an element of escape from the social as well as attraction to the social.

Gatherers typically still need a landing point to process the information they’ve received, but they are roaming the agile working spaces of the office and collaborating with others for a far higher percentage of the time, so allowing space for creativity is a must - from alcoves of space with writable brainstorming surfaces to a games area getting the competitive juices flowing and encouraging different strategic processes within groups of people as well as individuals colliding in this space, for example in a tea-point, an anchor may walk in, over hear the conversations of the gatherer and spark a great idea that changes the thinking within the team.

Wellbeing for gatherers is often recognising that they have a higher tempo day to day work life with a lot of movement, interaction and collaboration and so countering this with a healthy balance such as designing a great tea-point for activities that encourage inner well-being ideas such as smoothie making or the benefit of herbal teas and pairing this with fitness and body wellbeing classes such as pilates or yoga, making the tea-point multifunctional and so in use when it isn’t just lunch time, a benefit to the company also as the square footage is being used more efficiently.

4. Navigator

This is a role that is primarily out of the office, navigating through the world of meetings, networking, clients and coffee shops, a typical job role for a navigator is a business development manager, sales person, coach or senior consultant.

The role of a navigator can be a lonely one, they experience a certain level of disconnect from the company they work for and yet are usually the face of this company and so have to encompass the brand more than most. This fact makes it important to design a workspace that feels inclusive as soon as you enter. In previous years office design has considered these individuals as hot desk users, however this saying and concept is somewhat out of date for future working styles – which is beneficial to Navigators as they do not walk in to an office designed to have the hot deskers venture in a minimal distance with small empty desks near the reception that only enhance a ‘them and us’ view between hot desk users and static office workers. Navigators do not need a large desk space, or in fact any desk space at all, they need a plug and play technology system for their laptop and a comfortable environment to come to for information downloading to the key business members and so this can tie in with the office based workers breakout spaces and alcoves evenly spaced in open plan so a feeling of being included is instantly recognisable.

Additionally, as a business having regular social and charitable events is essential for employee wellbeing and with this including the navigators in a group based activity, tying in with a catch up on where the business stands and where it is going, empowering the employees with knowledge and enhancing the brand mentality to the navigators. In workspace design, an allowance for this style of town hall meeting paired with an event space near to or within the tea-point/breakout is beneficial in a number of ways, decreasing costs on events if kept in-house, encouraging teams to interact as they are in a comfortable, familiar environment and then could equally be utilised for navigators to host client events.

It would appear that analysing different worker types concludes in a pattern of variety required in the workspace of the future, breaking habitual behaviours and giving the power of choice to employees is essential in their productivity & wellbeing – are the days of the desk numbered with the influx of different working styles and supported technology....?

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