Office space management is the process of designing, organizing, maintaining, and optimizing the physical layout of a business’s workspace. This includes:
- The actual footprint of the office
- The creation of spaces for different types of work
- The placement of furniture, equipment, and decor
- The stocking and replenishment of supplies
- The maintenance of the space and building
The practice of office space management has changed dramatically post-COVID, with many companies transitioning to a hybrid work schedule instead of full-time in-office schedules. Now, physical spaces must enable greater flexibility for employees, managers, and company leadership.
In this article, we’ll dive deep into the key benefits of office space management, what makes a good space, and how you can build one yourself.
Benefits of Office Space Management
Good office design and space management isn’t just about aesthetics. It’s not just about fitting more desks into a space. Done correctly, it can have a dramatic impact on your business by increasing productivity, minimizing waste, and incentivizing employees to return to the office.
Let’s look closer at these key benefits of office space management.
The Gensler Research Institute’s U.S. Workplace Survey 2022 revealed that in the age of hybrid work, employees want to return to offices that make them more effective and offer a mix of experiences. They want to work in spaces that best facilitate the kinds of work they need to do throughout the day.
When you consider the diversity of the types of work knowledge workers have to do during the day, it’s clear the cubicle farms or open offices of the past were actually quite limiting. The former enabled heads-down work at the expense of seamless collaboration, and the latter created too many distractions for focused, deep work.
Gensler’s research found that the ability to focus on work was the number one reason employees wanted to come into the office. Employees see the ability to access technology, materials, and resources, all while limiting distractions, as essential for productivity. That’s hard to replicate in remote workplaces.
Having work spaces that accommodate deep work is key for certain roles, such as writers, developers, and engineers. But in the world of knowledge work, collaboration is critical. Per Gensler, survey participants only spend 34% of the work week on individual work.
The rest is spent in collaborative work sessions. Offices equipped with huddle spaces, meeting rooms that facilitate hybrid meetings, and open spaces for serendipitous meetings and collaboration make that type of work far more productive than remote or cubicle-style offices.
Ultimately, office space management in 2023 and beyond will be about creating spaces that enable people with different work styles and different types of work to do in a given day. Employees and managers should have everything they need at their disposal to effortlessly switch contexts and tackle whatever challenges and tasks the day brings - that's where space management tools come in.
Incentivize Employees to Work from the Office
Janet Pogue McLaurin, global director of workplace research and principal at Gensler, told HR Brew that employees won’t be willing to come into the office just to be handed a laptop, desk, and chair and told to do the same old things as before.
“It’s got to be a destination, not an obligation,” she said.
The proof? Gensler’s research showed that 83% of employees said they would return to the office at least one additional day per month if their office provided their ideal mix of work-related and social experiences. 42% would come back one more day per week and 24% would come back to the office full time if they could have their ideal mix of experiences.
That’s why your hybrid work strategy can’t exist without office and space management tools. Making the office a destination means that “return to office” will be something your teams will want to do whether it’s mandatory or not.
Minimize Waste with Space Management Tools
Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, noted that employees around the world are not at their desks 50-60% of the time. That’s a waste of space, money, and time. The office is about more than just desks.
The post-COVID hybrid workplace can’t just be more of the same. Smart, office space management tools will use data that shows actual—not self-reported—usage of the space to cut waste and drive return on investment.
For example, if the data shows underutilization of desks, you can remove excess desks to save money and find another way to use the space. If the data shows that some meeting rooms are routinely unused, you can find out if it's because it’s in an inconvenient location, the conferencing equipment doesn’t work, etc. Paying close attention to space utilization data can help inform these decisions.
Your office space, and everything in it, is ultimately an investment. Office and space management software helps you get the most out of it.
Download our report, “Redefining the Workplace to Enhance Productivity” to learn how leaders can create, manage, measure and iterate on successful workplace strategies.
Creating an Ideal Office Space Layout
So how can you actually get your office space management practices to the standard you need for a successful hybrid workplace? Follow these best practices:
Evaluate your space
You can’t make realistic space utilization decisions about managing your space unless you understand the features and limitations of it. While some property managers will allow you to do renovations or customize the footprint of the office, it’s not always an option.
That’s why you have to assess what you have to work with and go from there. Here are some things to consider:
- What is the total square footage of the office?
- What’s the office capacity—how many people can be there at once?
- What spaces already exist and how are they currently being used?
- What technology already exists in the office and what needs to be added?
Understand your employees’ preferences
Recent research from the Wellbuilt for Wellbeing project showed that work performance is maximized when workspaces are attuned to employees’ needs. The study showed that employee personality traits and the type of workstation they’re asked to use can predict on-task focus and happiness.
Thus, creating an office space employees want to work at starts with asking them what would make the office a place they want to work. Ask them what normally gets them to come into the office, and what spaces they use. What do they dislike about the current office arrangement?
You could do this via a survey for all employees who would come into the office, or ask team leads to share what would work best for their teams. Learn more about how you can improve the employee experience with your office layout.
Create spaces for different types of work and work styles
As the Gensler survey showed, people who come into the office want flexible work spaces that facilitate different types of work. Effective office space management accounts for these different needs
Create easy-to-access huddle spaces for quick impromptu meetings and collaboration. Equip your conference rooms with the technology people need to run effective in-person and hybrid meetings. Dedicate a space for heads-down work where quiet is enforced and people can stay focused. Your office space should be as varied as possible to account for all types of work.
Consider how technology can supplement physical spaces
It’s not just about the layout of the office or the physical equipment and furniture you have. Workplace management software can help take your office from good to great. Smart office space management software will also consider how to reduce waste with tools such as:
- Desk booking software to reduce underused desks and repurpose those spaces
- Real-time meeting calendars to ensure people can find open meeting rooms quickly and room scheduling systems to make it easy to book time in them
- Room displays for easy wayfinding
- Video conferencing equipment that’s easy to use and reliable so hybrid meetings can run smoothly
- A workplace experience platform to bring everything together and help people find resources, spaces, and colleagues for more connection and collaboration
Securing the right office space management tools make it easier to enable key functions like desk booking, room booking and making the on site experience frictionless for your teams.
Go beyond the "corporate"
Gensler’s research shows that while older employees tend to favor more traditional corporate workspaces, younger generations prefer to work in spaces that draw more influence from hospitality. For example, a workspace that feels more like a coffee shop or even a hotel lobby might be more appealing to younger workers and enhance employee experience.
If space permits, your younger employees may find those types of environments appealing. Try to find ways to go beyond the typical corporate office and create spaces that feel more relaxed and casual. Some offices have even incorporated spaces for classes, exercise, and sleeping. Find what appeals to your employees and try some out-of-the-box ideas.
Treat it like an experiment
While there’s plenty of science behind space management, there’s still a lot that’s open to trial and error. It’s unlikely you’ll build the perfect space right away. As long as you set goals for your in-office experience—attendance, employee satisfaction, resource utilization, effective space management etc.—you’ll be able to course correct as needed.
For this, utilization analytics that shows you if you’re getting your money’s worth for your space will be critical.
Office Space Management Tools Accelerate Productivity
Office space management takes an experimental mindset and collaboration between HR/people teams and leaders across the organization to ensure it leads to the results you need. Things like real time data around space utilization, asset management with the right tools and effective workplace experience solutions can take your workplace from good to great.
Today’s offices need to be flexible, offer a variety of experiences, and create compelling reasons for employees to make the commute. Hybrid workplaces will succeed to the extent their office space management practices succeed. Finding the right space management software solution to enable these transformations is the right place to start.
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