Good planning always begins with a clear destination in mind. When you know where you want to go, you need a map to take you from where you are now to where you want to go next.
Office space planning is like drawing a map and must therefore consider multiple factors, including your current office footprint as well as the needs of your people in terms of:
- How they want to work and how they seek connection, collaboration, and culture
- Your workplace strategy (i.e., hybrid work, hot desking, etc.)
- Your available resources and budget
Office space planning has undergone a transformation over the past few years. Robin’s The Office Space Report 2023 explains why:
- People are coming back to the office: 88% of companies now mandate employees work a certain number of days in the office and 56% of companies say the majority of their employees work in the office full time.
- But the office is getting smaller: 80% of offices have downsized since the pandemic and 75% of businesses plan to reduce office square footage again in 2024.
Office space planning and workplace management have to accommodate these trends and seek to drive and support some of the most important strategic goals of any business, including:
Enabling Your People to do Their Best Work
An accommodating office setting and office layout support how your people want to work, whether via quiet immersion, team collaboration, social connection, or otherwise. How you allocate office space must align with how your people do their best work.
Space planning and office space allocation are thus key drivers of employee experience and organizational productivity.
Enabling Your Organization to Optimize Office Space
Because commercial real estate is one of your biggest investments, you should leverage utilization data, as well as employee feedback, in how you conduct your office space planning and office management.
You also need to collect data to evaluate your plan’s performance. Office utilization data and workplace analytics should inform necessary adjustments to your plan, so you maintain alignment with your strategic objectives.
Remaining Agile and Future-Proof
If the global pandemic and its impact on the workplace taught us anything, it’s that change is the only constant. Reviewing results regularly (via workplace analytics), the function of your workplace leadership team, as well as measuring progress and being ready to tweak as needed is what success looks like in the present and future workplace.
7 Office Space Planning Guidelines and Procedures
What are the steps that a facilities manager, as part of a workplace leadership team, should take as part of an efficient office space planning process? From a high-level perspective, office space planning basics should include the following:
1. Audit and Assess Your Current Office Space Situation
What assets do you have right now in terms of office layout, commercial office interiors, security systems, equipment/technology, furniture, fixtures, and more? How are your people and teams doing in the current office environment in terms of productivity? What is your space usage like on a typical day?
What do most people complain about regarding your work environment and its layout? Do people have enough natural light and space to work quietly? What are your biggest compliance issues? This is your starting point for effective space planning.
2. Evaluate How Much Space Your Office Functions and Organization Needs
This space planning step will be highly dependent on the number of people you have in your office on any given day. If only 28% of your people come into the office each day, your office planning would need to find the best ways to accommodate those people and take into consideration how much space they need.
3. Collect Feedback from Your People
How would they like to use your new office space? What features, facilities, amenities, and/or on-site environments would help them work better? Use this data to inform what you do and how you do it.
4. Determine What Types of Spaces Would be Appropriate for Your Organization
This step is closely related to the one above. So if your people say they have a lot of team meetings, your plan would need to include a large mixture of meeting and conference rooms, as well as room/desk booking software enabling people to reserve space.
If you’re a creative organization, for example, with most people working on-site, you might prioritize open space and collaborative spaces that facilitate idea generation and innovation. If your people require more quiet focus, you might offer a mix of smaller rooms that are sound-proof and allow for immersive work and the benefits of a calm environment.
5. Formalize and Document a Project Plan
Specifically for how your strategic goals can be achieved. You’ll need strategy documents, blueprints open floor plans, cost breakdowns, and more that indicate what you’ll be doing and when, and at what projected cost. Be sure to check building regulations before making any major changes.
6. Work to Gain Stakeholder Buy-In
You’ll need to communicate where you’re going with your plan and what benefits it will deliver to your organization (including its clients and visitors). Clear and consistent communication is a foundational factor for driving your office space plan forward.
7. Use Data to Evaluate Plan Performance.
You have your goals, assumptions, and plans, but you also need to be ready for your assumptions (and daily office realities) to change.
When change comes, as it inevitably will, you need to be collecting plan performance data that allows you to adjust your plans to effectively accommodate the change.
Effective Office Space Planning: 7 Key Considerations
Now that we have a deeper understanding of why office space planning matters, what its strategic goals should be, and the role of workplace leaders in making it happen, let's focus on how to build an office space plan.
Think of this list as a kind of office space planning checklist, we'll run through
1. Open Space Remains Necessary
When it comes to office layouts and workplace design, open spaces in the office promote collaboration and serendipitous connections and create a sense of community in any workplace. Not building as many walls and private spaces, besides its metaphorical power, can also save you money.
2. Quiet Areas Are Needed
People work differently at different times. Employees sometimes need quiet time and quiet office spaces so they can immerse themselves in focused work or simply de-stress from the challenges of collaboration. This can be done by designating areas for quiet work.
3. Include a Mix of Spaces for Collaboration
Spaces, where employees can come together to brainstorm, create, collaborate, and socialize, are key components of any office. These spaces might include meeting rooms of different sizes (small huddle rooms, team meeting rooms, a conference room and auditorium-sized rooms for events and all-hands get-togethers), snack rooms/break areas, individual spaces for private calls, shared workspaces, and/or open areas with comfortable seating.
4. Light and Biophilia Matter
Employee productivity and well-being are significantly enhanced by good lighting and “natural” elements like plants (i.e., biophilia). Any office design should, therefore, include lots of windows that let in natural light as well as light colors on walls and floors.
Plants and other "outdoor elements" can also provide a sense of calm and inspiration, not to mention improving air quality.
5. Cost Control Considerations
There are multiple ways to control costs during the space planning process. You could, for instance, use existing furniture and fixtures in existing space rather than investing in new ones, or you could choose a more modular design that’s easily reconfigurable as needed.
6. Practice Hot Desking and Hoteling
Hot desking and desk hoteling enable employees to book desks for a day or a longer period of time, depending on their needs. These flexible approaches to office space can help reduce your CRE footprint while meeting the needs of employees in creating a hybrid work environment.
7. Leverage Space Booking Software
Space booking software allows your people full visibility into your available office space, both desks and meeting rooms, so they can easily access and reserve the space they need.
The right booking technology or space planning software also enables workplace leaders to collect office utilization data and workplace analytics to help make better decisions about future office space planning and resource allocations. When it comes to planning for a more effective office, space planning tools are essential.
Blending Best Practices with Bespoke Solutions
At the end of the day, your office space planning will be a unique mix of the best practices we’ve discussed in this post combined with bespoke workspace solutions that address the specific ways your people want to work.
You’ll also need to be ready to change as you move your business forward because the assumptions and circumstances you used in your planning will change too. Office space planning is both an art and a science.
At Robin, we’re here to help you do it well. We encourage you to reach out to us for help with your office space, or floor plan, or workplace management needs.