The Metrics of Distributed Work

This Excellent Study, conducted in 2011 by Knoll, Inc. ( with help from Ratekin Consulting (Joel Ratekin is a leader in Distributed Work) can be viewed and downloaded here –> Link to Knoll Distributed Work Study

Over the past 10 years Distributed Work is finally catching on at most companies, even in Silicon Valley where cube farms have been the norm for at least a generation. Distributed Work was formerally called, “Alternative Work” design / place or System (AWS). But Distributed Work is no longer considered an alternative workplace design: it has become mainstream, hence the need to change the term.

The reasons for this change are due primarily because employees are working in an increasingly social, mobile, and collaborative fashion. The conventional, boilerplate office programs and spaces that most of us are familiar with (one size fits all, cube farm or the dreaded dark, narrow hallways when housing everyone in enclosed “private” offices (think IBM in the 1960s)) were never intended to support the complexity and unpredictability of these new work patterns.

This new workstyle is often referred to as “distributed work”—a combination of:

  • heads down “Focus” work (for more information, see my prior article here–> Focus Space – It’s What You Need)
  • Formal Collaboration of varying duration
  • Informal Collaboration of varying duration
  • Social Interaction that occurs in a wide variety of settings within the building, campus or other locations.

distributed work program workspace types

The diagram above is from the 2011 Knoll Distributed Work study (Figure 4)

In addition to providing physical spaces to match these four main types of work, work policies, technology and communications networks all play important roles in facilitating Distributed Work. Employees are embracing the new levels of personal freedom in the rich, diverse work spaces that are explicitly designed to support Distributed Work.

Now that we know that a well designed and supported Distributed Work environment improves organizational collaboration and employees embrace it, how do we as space and occupancy planners measure it? Unlike traditional design, one workstation (or seat) is assigned to one employee or contractor, where it is quite easy to measure Occupancy (don’t confuse this with Utilization!), we need new metrics and methodolgy to measure or benchmark Distributed Work. Working with the best space and occupancy planners in the San Francisco Bay Area, I envsion that via “Lateral Learning” the Bay Area Space Planners User group will set the new standard for space benchmarking, needed in today’s new workplace.