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Do Finance teams really need a desk?

I saw this article from CFO Magazine and thought it was really neat. I don't think it would work for our setting but love the innovative and collaborative thinking abilities. Could you work like this? http://360.steelcase.com/articles/the-next-office-why-ceos-are-paying-attention/

Answers

Ken Stumder
Title: Finance Director / Controller
Company: Ken Stumder, CPA
(Finance Director / Controller, Ken Stumder, CPA) |

Depends on the role. The set up in the article is great for professional services but not for your everyday operational finance person. I recall the audit firm I started with had beautiful offices built upon the same hotelling concept. I also recall sitting at a long table grinding away with somebody sitting a few feet opposite me and to either side. Didn't feel very collaborative, though I suppose it was.

My desk is relatively clutter free but as I look down the chain of command, the desks are progressively more cluttered with the "stuff of finance". As you go up the chain, the desks appear to be just places for family portraits and the occasional hard copy document of the moment. There is the need for privacy and security as well.

I won't even mention the association between status and offices...

Topic Expert
Keith Perry
Title: Director of Global Accounting
Company: Agrinos, Inc.
(Director of Global Accounting, Agrinos, Inc.) |

Christie,

I actually worked on this at Intel about 15 years ago. It was controversial then and now. The balance you need to play is benefits (open, window access [a legal right in many jurisdictions], collaboration) with the negatives (distractions, privacy). At Intel, the variation (humorously) boiled down to height of cube walls.

For the most part, we've always tried to set a bar for privacy & quiet (distractions cost, and finance especially needs privacy or you taint the entire organization). Once set, you can work on collaborative schemes based on that. Screen filters, conference rooms, etc can replace walls if done right. You also need culture that supports working in such an environment, which is a bit of a chicken/egg combination, as you need to be in the open environment to adapt to it.

I've had people who couldn't function responsibly in office-layouts, and people who were fantastic in completely open settings, doing rather the same role. I'm not saying this as a negative, more that the group's interaction with their environment needs to be actively managed.

KP

(Agent, JKS Solutions, Inc.) |

The link is an ad for Steelcase products not an article. Personally as a finance person, I need a place to focus. Team rooms should have an element of ease and facilitate openness and I enjoy the open enviroments but my job is not to party, it's to produce. Such is finance.

Topic Expert
Christie Jahn
Title: CFO
Company: Prime Investments & Development
(CFO, Prime Investments & Development) |

That's strange because I just clicked it and it takes me right to the article

Topic Expert
Christie Jahn
Title: CFO
Company: Prime Investments & Development
(CFO, Prime Investments & Development) |

In reading the article Valerie, I didn't take it that they were using this tool as a way to "party" for their environment it was a way to have open dialogue and brainstorm ideas together. As I stated, it certainly wouldn't work in my environment but I could see certain industries where this could be a new method to actually increase production (e.g. I could see this working well in a marketing firm or advertising agency possibly).

Robert Rochester
Title: VP & CFO
Company: Edcor Data Services LLC
(VP & CFO, Edcor Data Services LLC) |

First of all, I agree with Valerie - this is a Steelcase promotional piece that is designed to position themselves as "experts" in their field. There is nothing wrong with this, but you need to keep that in perspective.

I believe employees who do not have a permanent workstation feel less "connceted" to the organization. They may not feel the same sense of belonging as someone who has a permanent piece of the company to occupy. Those who must stake a claim to their workspace du jour may feel like transient workers - perhaps feeling a little like the homeless person who sleeps under a different bridge each night.

For the supervisor, it becomes difficult to keep track of who is in the offfice each day and who isn't. How do people in other departments contact such a worker without a phone on their desk? Do you give them all cell phones? I realize steelcase is touting the opportunities for enhanced colloboration, but I tend to see more opportunities to socialize rather than colloborate on business issues.

There are many employees who are not mature enough to excel in such an environment. You will do them a great disservice if you set them up for failure! There are others who need the structure in their work lives that a permanent workstation provides. I do not see this working for most companies. And in those instances where it does work will likely be only in isolated pockets within an organization.

Ken Stumder
Title: Finance Director / Controller
Company: Ken Stumder, CPA
(Finance Director / Controller, Ken Stumder, CPA) |

Robert - agree 100% with your thoughts on how a permanent workspace creates a connection to an org vs. feeling like a transient. That was definitely a drawback of the audit profession.

The way hotelling works is employees check in and when they are assigned to a space their phone calls are routed to that work space. It's all tracked by logs, and you can look up who is where on a directory at any given time so contacting someone is not really an issue. Just pointing out that the technology supporting this was very robust even a decade ago, though I am not an advocate of hotelling for operational finance professionals.

Chris Shumate
Title: Accounting Manager
Company: Dominion Development Group, LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Accounting Manager, Dominion Development Group, LLC) |

Christie - I definitely think this is something of the future. Generations are changing. Open workspaces are coming. My wife works for a large government contractor that is starting to invest more in open workspace environments. I agree with Robert about the distractions and employee maturity. My generation wants and desires to be more collaborative with one another.

There is a great leadership blog post that actually discusses this. Here is the link: http://careynieuwhof.com/2013/07/leadership-trends-with-brad-lomenick-episode-1/

DISCLAIMER: You may notice that Carey Nieuwhof is a pastor. He has a burning desire for training leaders. Check out the leadership trends video. Focus on the message of leadership, not the faith aspect, unless you are a person of faith.

Sara Voight
Title: Controller
Company: Critical Signal Technologies, Inc
(Controller, Critical Signal Technologies, Inc) |

We have an open work zone with seating around a table in the middle of a larger workspace. This gives us a place to get together to brainstorm. The staff then have a private desk or office for when they are working through the data/details to complete their work. Some of my reporting requires the parsing of data from over 55K lines of Excel. Sitting in an open area listening to chatter around me with the possibility that anyone could ask me a 'quick' question while in the middle of this would make me cringe. Actually, it would make me start the process all over again.

Topic Expert
Keith Perry
Title: Director of Global Accounting
Company: Agrinos, Inc.
(Director of Global Accounting, Agrinos, Inc.) |

Sara, great example. There are plenty of studies showing the time cost of interruptions.

Samuel W Reed
Title: Cofounder and CTO
Company: BitMEX
LinkedIn Profile
(Cofounder and CTO , BitMEX) |

I like the idea. Generally, I spend about half of my time collaborating either on calls, in a conference room, or in my office. The other half is during close and I'm at my desk cranking through the work. I like noise and movement and actually focus better with an audio book or radio on, so an open environment would work for me. However, I know many individuals for whom this would not work. If you design the office with different options, it would definitely enable all workers to bring their A game.

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