NewWow is a HotMess

Repman's Podmates

Repman’s Podmates

Imagine arriving at your office, picking up your personal effects, setting them up at your desk, and then clearing off the items and returning them on your way out. Now, imagine doing that every single day.

Siemens, the big German multinational, is making employees do just that. They’ve redesigned their offices in the wake of a major, global downsizing, and are trumpeting what they call NewWow (an acronym for New Way of Working). I call it HotMess.

I’ve seen variations of NewWow (or, hoteling, which is what it really is) in action at several large client organizations. It’s brutal. No one has an assigned work space. And, at the end of each, and every day, they pick up their belongings and wait until the following morning to find out where they’ll next be sitting. They’ve told me their productivity and morale suffer as a result.

Siemens disagrees. Their management believes such a nomadic lifestyle encourages more collaboration and worker productivity. I say it merely makes a large, impersonal workplace even more isolating.

One of the few ways in which employees CAN express their individuality and personality is by decorating (or, tricking out, their work stations). Some are very cool. Some are quite conservative. But, each enables the individual to express his, or her, world view.

I’ve taken that POV to the next level at Peppercomm. I’ve ‘adopted’ a pod located directly outside my office.

Our pod is very tight. We constantly engage in idle banter, share stories and end up dissing the most senior podmate (that would be me).

We also plan pod outings (or poutings, as I call them). And, we have a really good time every day. I’d even say we have our very own esprit d ‘corps.

If Peppercomm were to adopt the Siemens approach, I’d have four different employees sitting outside my office every 24 hours. There’d be no chance to get to know them, or chill with them.

I also think overall morale would suffer if we asked employees to bring in fewer personal effects, scoop them up each and every day, place them in a bag at the reception area and then find a new workstation on which to set them up the following day.

NewWow is bogus, and dead wrong for the Millennial mindset in particular. I believe younger workers revel in expressing their individuality. Take away their personal work stations, and I think you take away their passion as well.

And a tip o’ Repman’s kepi to Greg Schmalz for suggesting this post.

12 thoughts on “NewWow is a HotMess

  1. Interesting story, George. I’ve had a few personal experiences with hoteling myself. In my case, it occurred in instances when a client crisis necessitated our working on-site. I still recall the frustration of inadvertently leaving behind important documents (or losing them entirely) when we were shuffled from one cube to another.

  2. Siemens is late to the pack-up-your-things party. Back in the day, Burson had its “desk people” –staff without a permanent office but with a big cardboard box for one’s personal;belongings. Of course, that was due to explosive growth and a paucity of office space that ultimately led to relocating staff in three different office buildings. BTW: that didn’t do much for morale either and may have led to the decision to try and buy a building.

  3. Amen, Julie. While I salute Siemens for attempting to modernize its workplace culture, hoteling (or, NewNOW as they call it) is a broken model.

  4. Great take, Rep. Totally bogus idea.

    What could work is a revolving lunch date with different groups of employees/colleagues each week. Time is controlled, setting is relaxed, menus change, and if you don’t like what some are “dishing out,” well, you’re going out with another group next week. A New Way of Lunching – NewEats.

    I’ll see you at Les Halles. Let me know when.

  5. This is the most bone-headed workplace idea I’ve heard in a while. Talk about being counter-productive. In order to succeed in any program, any leader with half a brain will tell you that consistency is key. I will not invest my time or energy in a company that treats me with such blatant disrespect. I am a human being, not a box of Kleenex.

  6. I do appreciate the comments, ladies. Here’s my only issue with switching work spaces on a monthly basis. It would wreak havoc on a firm our size, force our office support staff to work throughout the night to support the relocations AND challenge our already-challendged IT infrastructure to the breaking point. I’m all for variety and diversity, but we’d need a separate infrastructure to support it.

  7. I have to agree with Sarah. Every day is too often, but I think once a month is perfect for a change of surroundings. Sitting in the same place, staring at the same things, talking to the same people, means my ideas are going to be the same, every day. There is always lunch and happy hour to spend social time with the people in the office that I really connect to, and it would be nice to get to know more people I work with. Looking out a different window every so often can be inspiring and spark creativity. Talking to someone else and hearing a different perspective makes me think about things differently, and learn about an audience that I may not be a part of. As far as the personal items go, I can see how that would spark creativity and productivity for some people, but it would just distract me (personal problem.) I could always take the phone and phone extension with me, right? So once a month I would be fine with carrying my phone, computer, and few things and switching it up. Millennials have grown up saying that they don’t want to sit behind a desk and stare at a computer every day, we have to get over that; but changing the scenery every so often prevents restlessness and contentment, two things that stifle creativity.

  8. I think a nice mix would be ideal — in my high school Japanese class, we would change seats every month. That way you had time to get to know your fellow table-mates, but you mixed it up periodically too. It does allow for some creativity and innovation to spend time in new settings and surrounded by different people. Speaking as a millennial who thrives in her individuality, I do love the opportunity to experience new things too. The worst thing is stagnation.

  9. I wouldn’t be able to work at a place where my presidential bobble heads don’t have a permanent place to stand. I think if Siemens thinks this will attract Millennials, they should consider maybe switching seats once a year, etc. Every day is too hectic and would make this Millennial feel a bit lost.

  10. Thanks, Greg. Agreed. And, as the article stated, Siemens has also done this to attract Millennials, thinking they’ll take to this approach. I think it will repel them.

  11. Sounds like musical chairs to me. If you need to speak to a particular employee, their phone extension is going to change every day or if you go out to the “bullpen” you won’t know who’s sitting where unless you keep a “scorecard.” The Siemens way sounds like total chaos.