Work it Wednesday: Changing up the workplace puts flexibility to the test

10:15 AM, Oct 27, 2010   |    comments
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MINNETONKA, Minn. -- American Medical Systems makes medical devices for pelvic health.  These days, it's also making a splash in workplace flexibility with a pilot project called "Lifeworks."

"We're always interested in ways that we can grow in terms of innovation," said Randy Ross, Vice President of Human Resources at AMS.

"When our leader in charge of facilities came to us with this innovative and creative idea about what we could do to really change our workspaceand find solutions for our employees to be able to work more creatively, we listened, and were interested in taking it on as a pilot."

That leader is Dave McGinty, Senior Manager of Global Real Estate and Facility.

He envisioned a workplace where employees have no permanent address.  Literally no desk to call their own, but a variety of work areas that could best address their needs at any given time.

"So I can walk up to any space at any time and as long as it's available, and use that space," said McGinty.

In addition to work areas equipped with a desk, computer and telephone, there are larger areas where groups can gather, plug in their laptops, and share a powerpoint in a large LCD screen.

Large, airy meeting areas have a single table with writing surfaces for walls so employees can brainstorm without looking for supplies.

The new workspace also includes a more casual seating area with cushy, swivel chairs that have arms that doubles as a desk area.

For more private needs, several offices ring the larger work space.

The key is, anyone can use them at any time.

"We've asked people to never sit two days in a row at the same place, to keep moving to try out different spaces and to figure out ways that we can actually let people take advantage of different spaces," said Ross.

Employees have to wipe down surfaces when they leave to keep the space clean for the next person.  Employees stash personal belongings in lockers, which they can personalize.

Ross says there was an adjustment period, but for the most part, people are liking their new freedom in the work space, which includes the freedom to not show up at all.

AMS utilizes a software program that allows workers to see if others employees are working from home, offsite, in a meeting, in the building, or unavailable.  The program also allows for instant messaging.

"I would lie to you if I didn't say that it challenges all of us as managers to say some of the traditional ways that we think about managing people that include watching the hours, making sure that I can see them, finding you when I need you.  That all gets challenged here," said Ross.

"As a boss and employee, we're very clear on what it is they're working on, and how they're going to deliver those results, not what time they're going to deliver them."

McGinty says in addition to giving workers more freedom to do their jobs in the way that works best for their needs, the Lifeworks program offers potential cost savings.

McGinty envisions a day when AMS would need only one physical work space for every one and a half employees.  For a company with a worldwide work force, that could be a huge benefit.


(Copyright 2010 by KARE. All rights reserved.)

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