Alternative Office Arrangements

Sometimes building a new headquarters is especially difficult. When a company, for instance a global 1,000-person professional learning platform, is in the middle of a pivot, the management oftentimes feels the new office could help define the the firm’s future, but more often than not the options are unexciting. Usually the choice is narrowed down to traditional private offices and cubicles, which are unimaginative and restrictive. The other tends to be an open office plan, which used to be the shiny new toy in office design 15 years ago, but a growing body of evidence suggests it decreases productivity and weakens job performance. Instead, what might be done is designing a new corporate headquarters around a new paradigm, neither open nor full of private offices. An idea introduced by architect Clive Wilkinson, called activity-based working (ABW), is based on the assumption that people should work in the type of space that supports the work they’re actually doing, and that might change many times throughout a day. Here’s why ABW suits modern companies particularly well.



No one has an assigned desk or office, the CEO included. The idea, again, is that one kind of workspace, more specifically one desk in one location, does not suit all types of work equally. Rather, the design offers an array of options that people can use for different projects throughout the day, such as a large open space surrounded by private meeting rooms of different sizes or so called „neighbourhoods” where people can work with their teams. Each contains team tables with individual workstations, enclosed glass meeting pods, chairs of different shapes and sizes, and adjustable standing desks.



Some people excel in energetic environments filled with interactions. Some work best alone. Others only need a computer, and some spread out with papers. Everyone at an ABW has the freedom to decide how and where to work. Each morning private items are picked up from private lockers and working spots are chosen. Staff move around depending on the work that arises. There’s plenty of private space for confidential calls or reflection. At the end of the day, stuff goes back into the lockers. Yes, personal desks are given up, but the whole office is gained. Trust and empowerment were the corner stone of the design process. Early on a design committee is usually formed with representatives from each business unit and different areas of expertise. They work closely with the designers. Their input makes for a better office and their buy-in makes for a smoother transition. Surveys validate the benefits of this approach: two-thirds of employees questioned report using multiple workspaces, and 91% say they’re excited about the flexibility ABW affords.



Landlines or desktop computers have been rendered obsolete in the ABW model. Everyone uses laptops that dock at screens wherever a person is currently working. The physical telephone has been replaced with software phones that run on laptops with headsets. Thus, technology allows staff to be flexible and mobile throughout the office. There might be adjustment issues, for instance meeting room technology needs to be seamless and isn’t.

Adapted from www.fastcompany.com


Exercise 1

Find the words or expressions in the text which mean the following:

1) the main building of a company: __________
2) a turning point: __________
3) a square area separated by walls where office staff work: __________
4) a pattern or a model: __________
5) an opinion which is the basis of other opinions: __________
6) to be appropriate for some purpose: __________
7) a place where you can safely store your stuff: __________
8) the most important aspect of sth: __________
9) contribution: ___________
10)to confirm that sth is correct: __________
11)right now: __________
12)without any problems: __________


Exercise 2

Match the expressions from the two columns into logical collocations:

1) to narrow                        spot
2) an open                          down a choice
3) to weaken                      in an energetic environment
4) an array                         obsolete
5) to excel                          issues
6) a working                     expertise
7) at the end                     office plan
8) an area of                     of the day
9) sth is rendered            of options
10)adjustment                  job performance


Exercise 3

Provide English equivalents of these expressions:

1) nierzadko
2) ciekawostka
3) przypisać coś
4) regulowany
5) pracownicy
6) poufny
7) łagodne przejście
8) podejście do czegoś
9) elastyczność
11)telefon stacjonarny
12)stanowisko pracy


Grammar corner…

You may already know that in English it’s enough to use a word as a verb for it to become one. For instance, a petition can be used as a verb in a phrase like to petition the court for sth, which means to officially ask the court for sth. In other cases, though, we need to make certain changes to turn a word into a verb, like for example in the phrase from the text to weaken job performance.

Typical verb endings, apart from -en, include: -ify, -ize or -ate.



Exercise 4

Fill in the blanks with an appropriate VERB form of the words in brackets. Use the typical verb endings discussed in the grammar corner.

1) We need to … (INTENSE) our efforts, otherwise the competition will be ahead of us.
2) This report … (SUMMARY) the strategies taken last year to increase competitiveness.
3) In order to … (MINIMAL) the risk of failure, we must consider all possible scenarios.
4) Next year we will be … (CELEBRATION) the 10th anniversary of our company being listed on the stock exchange.
5) Many pharmaceutical companies … (CREATION) demand for their products by telling people they are sick.
6) Many analysts believed that the iPhone 5C would … (CANNIBAL) the sales of the newly released iPhone 5S.
7) Social media and the Internet made it necessary to … (SUPERVISION) workers’ online activity to make sure they spend time at work productively and not, for example, on Facebook.
8) At some point of any company’s growth, the founders must accept the need to … (DELEGATION) responsibilities, as it is impossible for them to be on top of every aspect of the operations.




the headquarters – siedziba
a pivot – punkt zwrotny
a cubicle – „boks” to pracy w biurze
a paradigm – paradygmat
an assumption – założenie
the corner stone of sth – główny element czegoś
to suit sth – pasować do czegoś
a locker – szafka (np. na rzeczy)
input – wkład
to validate sth – potwierdzić coś
currently – obecnie
seamless – bezproblemowy
to narrow down a choice – zawęzić wybór
to weaken job performance – osłabić osiągane wyniki
an array of options – szereg możliwości
to excel in sth – celować w czymś
at the end of the day – w ostatecznym rozrachunku
an area of expertise – obszar, w którym ktoś się specjalizuje
sth is rendered obsolete – coś odchodzi to lamusa
adjustment issues – problemy z przystosowaniem się
oftentimes – nierzadko
a shiny new toy – ciekawostka
to assign sth to sb – przypisać coś komuś
adjustable – regulowany
staff – pracownicy
confidential – poufny
smooth transition – łagodne przejście
an approach to sth – podejście do czegoś
flexibility – elastyczność
a landline – telefon stacjonarny
a workstation – stanowisko pracy
enclosed – zamknięty
a pod – siedlisko, stanowisko
a petition – wniosek, petycja
efforts – starania
an anniversary – rocznica
to be listed on the stock exchange – być notowanym na giełdzie
to be on top of things – kontrolować wszystko



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Ex. 1
1) a headquarters
2) a pivot
3) a cubicle
4) a paradigm
5) an assumption
6) to suit sth
7) a locker
8) the corner stone of sth
9) input
10)to validate sth

Ex. 2
1) to narrow down a choice
2) an open office plan
3) to weaken job performance
4) an array of options
5) to excel in an energetic environment
6) a working spot
7) at the end of the day
8) an area of expertise
9) sth is rendered obsolete
10)adjustment issues

Ex. 3
1) oftentimes
2) a shiny new toy
3) to assign sth
4) adjustable
5) staff
6) confidential
7) smooth transition
8) an approach to sth
9) flexibility
11)a landline
12) a workstation

Ex. 4
1) intensify
2) summarizes
3) minimize
4) celebrating
5) create
6) cannibalize
7) supervise
8) delegate