Mobile, redefined

The company where this pilot fish works is remodeling its buildings, floor by floor, to create a new "mobile" office space. But that sounds better than the reality.

"It consists of very small cubicles with low separating walls and only a chair, a height-adjustable desk, a docking station and a flat-screen monitor, available on a first come, first served basis," says fish.

"There are a few workspaces designated as 'resident,' where you actually get your own, more typical cubicle office with cabinets, phones, etc. But for those of us designated 'mobile workers,' we have a locker, a laptop with an IP phone and a rolling computer bag, and we're expected to find a spot and sit wherever we can."

The arrangement is being touted as providing workers with more options for collaboration -- and there are some designated open areas where fish and her "mobile" colleagues are supposed to collaborate.

But if they need a desk, they rarely sit at the same one for two days running. And if the mobile workers have several meetings in a row, they have to give up their space -- so they sometimes sit at multiple desks over the course of a single day.

Result: All the mobile workers spend much of their time packing and unpacking their work areas and moving around like street people, dragging their belongings behind them.

"Before the transition, I argued vehemently with my manager that because of the nature of my work, I needed to have a 'resident' space," fish says. "But he insisted that by the criteria set by upper management -- which wasn't shared with us -- I had to be mobile, so I am.

"Flash forward a few months: I ran into my manager in the hallway, and he complained to me that he 'can never find me anymore.' Well, duh, I'm mobile.

"But then I thought, maybe there's an advantage to that after all!"

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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