Are you required to consult over changes to an Employee’s Workspace?


In business it is common for Employers to think of new and innovative ways to enhance productivity, collaboration, and efficiency within their Organisation. An Employer may decide that they want to increase collaboration and teamwork in the hope of increasing productivity. This could be achieved by refreshing the office environment. An Employer could knock down walls, create an open-plan area, or even have shared working spaces. However, what happens if Employees have a perceived ownership of space which they think is theirs. Does this mean you have to consult with your Employee and seek their agreement prior to making any changes to the working environment?

We have had cases in the past where Employees have raised personal grievances for unjustified action causing disadvantage for moving their desk from a single office into an open plan office space because the Employer failed to consult with them and take into account their views on the change.

In most working environments, particularity office-based working environments, Employees have an assigned desk or office (which in most cases they can keep organised in the way they please). Over time an Employee could build up items of stationary or office supplies which they believe to be theirs. An Employee could even form the idea that the area around their desk or the office they have been assigned is their space. If Employees form the perception that a certain space, area or object within the working environment is theirs it’s more likely than not that you would face resistance if you tried to make changes within the office environment.

When an Employer is seeking to refresh the working environment and they believe that some or all Employees have taken ownership of certain spaces or objects, they should not blindside their Employees by coming in one (1) Friday afternoon with the handyman talking about how the office is going to change. Although how an Employer organises their workplace is at their discretion, the change may not be embraced by your team and could result in a personal grievance.

It is human nature to stick within our comfort zone, so if change is afoot, there should be some degree of consultation with Employees to ensure you are acting in Good Faith. Consultation could occur by simply calling a team meeting, letting everyone know that over the next few months you are thinking of changing the office space, however prior to any changes being confirmed you would like Employee input. You may be surprised at the level of feedback you receive in terms of changing your workspace. Furthermore, as your Employees are the ones who must live and breathe the changes you are making, they should have some input as they could come up with great innovative ideas that you may never have imagined.

As such, if you consult with your Employees prior to making changes, any changes that you do implement will more likely be embraced by most of your team. Therefore, your overall purpose for the changes could then be achieved faster causing the least disruption possible.

Some Employees will always be resistant to change however, if you consult with your team you reduce the risk of exuberant resistance being demonstrated by your team and enhance your ability to create a positive attitude towards the change.

If you are thinking of shaking up your working environment but are unsure how to go about it or initiate a consultation process that is right for you, feel free to give us a call. We would be happy to help.

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