Booz Allen consultants compete for desk space

by Vault Consulting Editors | February 17, 2011

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Earlier this week, the Washington Post ran an interesting piece detailing some unusual changes underway at the McLean, Virginia headquarters of public sector consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton. Booz Allen, the publication says, has resorted to a method called "hoteling" in order to cut down on lengthy employee commutes and save office space.

Hoteling, it turns out, is the death of the typical office workspace; at Booz Allen, gone are the days of family photos on cubicle walls, derelict corporate mugs in rows. In its place is a new system that the firm hopes will underscore its commitment to innovation for clients and employees alike. Here's the idea: instead of assigning each employee a specific desk or office for the indefinite future, each Booz Allen employee must reserve their favored office space before the beginning of each day, much like a patron would reserve a hotel room for a night.

To make it easy for the employees, the firm hired on-site "concierges who help employees reserve a room or locate other employees." To further simplify the process, the tech-savvy firm created a web-based mechanism through which Booz Allen consultants can log in and check for open spots or reserve a desk online. The result: for many employees, waking up and reserving a desk at the office (if they plan to go in at all) is just another part of the morning routine.

The Post also notes that the firm installed "lounges, lockers and collaboration rooms" in a bid to maintain a professional work environment; that effort also saw the construction of "privacy rooms, like phone booths," where employees can place business calls in privacy.

At the heart of the plan is a commitment to improving work/life balance and maintaining a more flexible version of the traditional office model. The hoteling system ensures that lead associates or below—about two-thirds of the Booz Allen workforce—has the opportunity to work remotely, skipping lengthy Beltway commutes and thereby saving more time for productivity. The firm first dabbled with the idea a couple of years ago, when execs decided to "get creative" in order to keep employees happy and industrious. Since then, it's been a major success; desk reservation is now the norm at five Booz Allen offices, with four more on course to make the switch in 2011. One associate, 23 year-old Dee Dee DeHaven, summed up the workforce's feelings on the subject succinctly: "I don't miss the stuff," she says.

Some worried that the constant rotation and encouragement to work remotely would affect Booz Allen's proud culture, but execs say that that simply hasn't been the case. "I'm from the old school and always had my own desk, my own office," admits a VP. "But now you can be more mobile, you can be more flexible."  So far, the move looks to be paying off.

For more information:
Washington Post: Now Booz Allen workers have to call to reserve their desks

Filed Under: Consulting

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