An office is a special place. Sitting at the crossroads of human experience, interior design and space efficiency, an effective workplace requires new levels of intentionality to bring the three together successfully.
One way workplace productivity suffers is when companies run out of office space. Sounds like a no-brainer right? It should be, but sometimes, it takes longer than expected for an organization to recognize they’ve outgrown their space until they end up with cramped employees, scarce resources and impractical working conditions. To make sure you don’t end up in an office insidiously shrinking around you and your colleagues, pay attention to these signs to know whether or not you’re running out of office space.
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Your office space: when rearranging furniture doesn’t cut it
A productive office space is one that actively and aptly fits the needs of the employees working within it. “Environments that are mostly open environments but provide ample on-demand private space” were found to be the most effective office layouts in Gensler’s 2019 U.S. Workplace Survey.
To supplement this research, Leesman emphasized the need to offer a “variety of workspaces” in their World’s Best Workplaces 2018 report. While those tend to be the ideal layouts, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to curating a space that works for every organization. There are a few aspects to consider to know whether your space sets employees up for success, or cramps their style.
Signs you don’t have enough space in your office:
- You’re struggling to incorporate choice and variety into the layout. An effective workplace is one that allows for flexibility. You’re likely running out of space if you can’t rework your current office layout to include different types of workspaces for employees.
- You’re leaning on co-working spaces more than is within your means. This could mean you always need to use event space for larger company gatherings or are overspending on a co-working solution. If you continually run out of meeting credits in your co-working space or more people are requesting to work there instead of your home office, you’re likely leaning on coworking space in an unsustainable way.
- There are obvious conflicts with office resources. If you’re not calculating your office’s exact utilization rates, it’s easy to tell from anecdotal evidence whether there is overlap in conference room booking, if the phone booths are constantly taken or if the WiFi bandwidth won’t cover the number of devices your employees need.
- Natural elements aren’t evenly distributed throughout the office. Looking around your office, do some employees have to work in areas void of natural lighting because that’s the only area a workstation can fit? Employees should not be forced into dark corners or stark environments.
Unspoken ways employees are telling you you’re out of office space
The best way to get a pulse on office conditions is, unsurprisingly, to look at the life within it. Taking employee behavior into consideration when thinking about workplace productivity issues is another necessary layer when determining whether or not you have enough office space. If employees act in the following ways, there’s a chance your lack of space is stunting productivity.
Do you see these behaviors in your office?
- Employees are opting to work remotely more often. Whether it’s from the comfort of their home or the cozy Starbucks down the street, this shows that employees no longer enjoy or feel comfortable working in the space provided to them, free coffee and dual monitors aside.
- Employees take client meetings out of the office more often. This could also manifest as a general decrease in visitors to the office. Not wanting to bring outsiders into the office is a red flag that employee pride and satisfaction with the office space is at an unhealthy level.
- Employees are acting territorial. Whether it’s “hoarding”, “anchoring” or “settling”, Herman Miller’s research cites three unhealthy behaviors that demonstrate a workplace ill-suited for the employees within it. These types of behaviors can surface when space and resources are scarce in an office.
Numbers don’t lie: what to measure to monitor space usage
Our recommendation is to dig into real data to understand whether or not you’ve outgrown your space. Whether it’s office space and meeting room utilization metrics or employee satisfaction surveys, sometimes you need to do more than look around the office and draw inferences from the behavior and layout around you. Review the following data points to nip the pains of an overgrown office in the bud.
- Office space and meeting room utilization is greater than 60% on average. We found that the sweet spot for meeting room usage is 40-60% usage at any time. Any more than 60% utilization usually means you’re short on meeting spaces and scheduling conflicts will likely increase.
- Meeting room spaces and types of meeting are poorly matched. When employees hold one-on-one meetings in your largest conference room or couldn’t book a room with a whiteboard for a design sprint, this can mean the distribution of rooms in your office doesn't fit your organizational needs. Tracking how well your meeting rooms fit the kinds of meetings occurring in your office can help pinpoint whether or not you need more meeting spaces.
- Employee satisfaction surveys reflect negative workplace experience scores. Whether it’s an external resource like Leesman or Gensler or an internal effort, it’s crucial to quantify employee experience to understand how your office is meeting employee needs. If scores are trending negatively over time, this could be a sign you’re outgrowing your current office space.
Feel like the walls are shrinking around you?
You’ve taken the time to reflect on your office space, the people within it and the data around your workplace productivity issues. Does it still feel like the walls are shrinking around you? If you think you don’t have enough space, then one of the following is likely the cause:
- You’re out of office space and you need to plan for an office move or expansion.
- Your office is bigger than you think and you don’t have the right tools to maximize your current office space.
- You’re in a trash compactor on the Death Star 😱
Either way, it’s time to act. The first step for any of these causes (except the last one, good luck there) is to reintroduce intentionality into your workplace to increase productivity. If you decide to move or expand your offices, use the insights you gleaned from observing the space and people in your current office to plan for the next. If you want to definitively determine whether you’ve really outgrown your current space, try implementing a tool to measure utilization and automate the typical pain points around the meeting room and work station usage.
Getting more office space -- either net-new or recycled -- can be an incredibly worthwhile investment. Whether it’s maximizing your office’s productivity per square foot or boosting employee morale, a well-designed office with sufficient space to offer flexibility and functionality should not go overlooked.
Looking to get out of your tiny office? Check out our full guide to moving offices here.