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Beyond the Cookie Cutter - Cluster Workstation Design

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June 26, 2008

Beyond the Cookie Cutter - Cluster Workstation Design

By Stefania Viscusi, Assignment Desk Editor

In the call center, workstations play an integral role in the productivity of both agents and supervisors. Call center furniture must not only be designed for comfort but also in a way that fosters communications and collaboration.
The cluster workstation has a unique circular set up that allows agents to work in a team environment and more easily achieve the goals of the call center.
To find out more about cluster workstations, I asked Jennifer Way, Marketing Manager at Interior Concept,s about the workstations, the benefits, and what Interior Concepts had to offer.
 Can you describe a cluster workstation and how it is set up?
A cluster workstation, also known as a circular store station or pod, is configured so the agents all face into the center of the workstations. Unlike a typical straight run of stations, an agent will not look at the face of another agent. With this workstation setup, some agents may feel that their workstation allows them their own space since they look into the center core of the workstation, and not another agent.

 What benefits can this furniture design set up provide for a call center?
This type of workstation is for a person that is looking for a unique design, not a typical cookie cutter straight run of workstations. A cluster or pod type workstation can allow more privacy for each agent and more work surface space.
 Can the way a call center designs its furniture improve operations?
Absolutely. One aspect of operations that is often overlooked is the traffic flow of the call center floor. When considering floor plan options take into account the entrance of the building and the location of training rooms and common areas. Have an idea of supervisor to agent ratio and general workstation design before beginning to plan the space.
A good floor plan will have ample aisle space for supervisors to easily reach agents when they need assistance, clear paths to training rooms, and easy access to break areas and restrooms.
Also, when planning for furniture, the tasks being performed on the call center floor should be taken into consideration and the furniture designed accordingly. The furniture should be designed to facilitate the environment and the work being performed. Individual company needs can range from privacy concerns – to a very “open” call center floor – to the creation of “team” environments where agents openly communicate and share information. This then drives the station design in terms of panel heights, size and design of the station and the groupings of agents. If the furniture is specifically designed for the individual call center/environment then the furniture will enhance the productivity of the center – and thus the profitability.
 Have you seen an increased interest in a cluster type of workstation? Why do you think this is so?
We have seen an increased interest in this type of workstation. This is probably mostly due to an increased interest in design. Some people are looking for an outside of the box solution for their call center furniture, a station that looks different from the typical cookie cutter designs.
 What is the benefit of this type of setup for employees who use them?
A main benefit is an increased sense of an agent having his or her own sense of space. The cluster type design allows an agent to not look into the face of another agent while working. The cluster/pod type design incorporates more work surface area as well so an agent will have more desk space.
Cluster workstations also offer many options in terms of accessories and design. A marker board panel can be incorporated into the workstation allowing agents a place to jot notes. A popular option is also incorporating paper management. This moves commonly used items off of the work surface and within easy reach. 
In terms of ergonomic accessories, the flat screen monitor arm is works great with this station design. Remember that proper ergonomic positioning is sitting with the back fully supported by the chair while reclining slightly, and arms and wrists in the correct position to use the keyboard tray.
In this type of workstation, users tend to place the monitor further away because the work surfaces can be deeper. Using a flat screen monitor arm will allow the monitor to be custom placed. If you have to lean forward to view the monitor it is not properly placed! 
 How is the cluster workstation beneficial for supervisors?
The cluster workstation can help to promote a team environment and agents can be placed in one team/work cluster. A supervisor can be incorporated into a cluster as well. A raised station can also be incorporated into the cluster to give each supervisor a better view of the agents.
Can you provide a brief description of Interior Concepts cluster/pod workstation offerings?
Interior Concepts offers four cluster workstation designs, although many variations are available within these designs – standing height options, panel height variations, panel material options, accessory and storage and options, etc….
Our cluster designs include a 6 person cluster, 5 person cluster, 4 person clusters + 1 supervisor, and a 3 person cluster.
Interior Concepts 6 person cluster design is shown here:
Stefania Viscusi is an established writer and avid reader. To see more of her articles, please visit Stefania Viscusi’s columnist page.

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