How Flexible Workspaces Can Transform Your Company’s Culture

By: Leilani C. Latimer, Sabre Holdings

The concept of a flexible workspace or “hoteling” has been around for some time, but since companies have placed a heightened focus on the environmental impact of their internal operations, and in particular their real-estate footprint, they have been grappling with implementing this kind of workspace strategy.

At Sabre we began to look at “hoteling,” or Flexspace, as we call it, to save costs and reduce our environmental footprint. We wondered whether these principles could be applied to a business like ours where only some employees travel, and not all of the time.  Our goal was to create a system that would reduce real estate costs, reduce our environmental footprint, and create greater flexibility and agility for our workforce, and hoteling seemed like it was worth a shot.This strategy of “work is what you do, not where you go” accelerated a transformation in our employees and our work culture because not only did our employees adapt to the new “Flexspace” environment, they began working more closely with each other, breaking down many of the silos between projects and departments, created a more collaborative environment and ultimately strengthened our competitive position in the fast-evolving travel technology industry.

It wasn’t easy – change never is – but here are some success factors:

  • Let data support and determine your decision – A detailed analysis including data points such as attendance (badge swipes), travel and vacation days and commuting needs will uncover opportunities that are not always self-evident.
  • Build the business case with key stakeholders – Working with a core team of primary stakeholders across several disciplines, including corporate real estate, facilities management, technology support, environmental sustainability, human resources and others will ensure that the business case and the implementation plan are balanced and positioned for success.
  • Secure executive management endorsement and support – Buy-in at the top level of the organization will set a clear direction for implementation and expectations for success. This includes leading by example.
  • Develop a clear communication plan – Ensuring employees know what’s happening and why, and having ample opportunities to raise concerns and ask questions is crucial for the implementation to go smoothly and to maintain productivity.
  • Cultivate strategic partnerships – By partnering with Jones Lang LaSalle, a leading Property Management firm, we were able to gain forward-thinking insights and expertise as we developed and implemented our plan.
  • Invest in flexible, robust technology infrastructure – Having technology systems in place that create a plug-and-play environment supports both the implementation and ongoing maintenance of the program, and makes it easy for employees to work in the most flexible way possible while staying connected to their teams.
  • Never underestimate the human element – Transitioning employees  – executives and managers too – who have been accustomed to traditional hardwall offices or assigned cubicles to a flexible work environment requires a significant amount of change management.
  • Know your global culture – When considering global expansion of Flexspace, know your corporate culture and your local culture.
  • Expect the program to evolve over time to meet changing company needs –  The program must be rigid enough to maintain balance and continue to achieve the original goals and objectives, but flexible enough to respond to the changing space requirements of a dynamic workforce.

Leilani C. Latimer leads Global Sustainability Strategy and Initiatives for Sabre Holdings, the world’s leading provider of high-performance travel solutions with its businesses: Sabre Travel Network, Sabre Airline Solutions, Sabre Hospitality Solutions and Travelocity. Ms. Latimer is a Board Member of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, a member of the CSR Committee at the Global Business Travel Association and a graduate in Sustainable Management at the Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco where she works and resides.

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2 responses

  1. Interesting article, Leilani. It does seem that interest in hoteling and other types of flexible working spaces and styles are on the rise. I think most of this can be attributed to the sustainability movement, but some of it may be a cost-cutting initiative in and of itself. However, these types of practices, including telecommuting and flextime, are great ways for a business to cut its carbon footprint without lowering productivity. Having the portability and flexibility to be able to work wherever and however one needs can be a great way for businesses, especially the small business I work with on a daily basis, to remain competitive in this difficult global market. It can also be a great tool to recruit and retain employees, especially younger employees that crave flexibility and portability.

    – Tim Kovach,
    Product Coordinator, Energy at COSE

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