Work has become some thing that we do, not some place where we go. The shift toward an increasingly mobile and flexible workforce is transforming the way people interact with and experience the workplace. It’s also forcing us to rethink how we optimize space, paving the way for enhancing facility management with technology from integrated workplace management systems (IWMS) to 3D modeling and augmented reality.
This transformation in the way people work requires us to find new ways to utilize and optimize space in a way that drives productivity, encourages collaboration and reduces the cost of occupancy. At the same time, the workplace has become an important part of a company’s brand, playing a role in attracting and retaining the best talent in an increasingly competitive job market.
The design of space used to be fairly standard. In most offices, standard conference rooms were scattered among row after row of identical cubicles. Organizations would drive more value from this space by increasing the density and reducing the amount of square footage per employee, which was challenging because computers and screens were large and instead of storing documents in the cloud, copious amounts of paper files required storage. Each employee had a dedicated desk, and each desk looked identical. On average, 85 percent of the building was occupied by departments and 15 percent was vacant unassigned and used as swing space for moves and stacking projects. It was fairly predictable but not efficient.
As the workforce moved to flex schedules and working from home, utilization of that space decreased. Today, we no longer need one desk per person. It’s simple maths to see how allowing 120 people to share 100 desks, we can increase capacity by 20 percent. This can easily be accommodated when considering the number of people working for home, on vacation or visiting clients. When this form of thinking is applied across the building or the wider portfolio, we can look to reduce the total amount of square footage we need. Do we still need 6 buildings in London or could we consolidate alongside a lease break? These decisions can lead to big savings, which can be put toward other investments to optimize that space, such as collaboration technology, better furniture style settings, a complete redesign of the building or a new building entirely.
Most organizations still struggle with getting this right. Through continuing to allocate one desk per person, these organizations mark themselves as more costly, less dynamic, and less competitive compared to their peers who are embracing these new ways of working and reaping the resulting dividends. And, the ratio of desks to employees is just the beginning. Even still, utilization of the workplace today is very low. If you walk through a typical office, utilization rates are usually around 45 percent. Compare that to the cost of space and how much an empty desk costs and the result is a lot of waste.
So how do you get from the workplace of yesterday to the dynamic and more engaging and productive workplace of tomorrow without moving to a new building? How do we create a space that engages employees and attracts new talent? It requires a combination of technology, the right mindset and planning.
The dramatic transformation in the way people work means finding new ways to optimize productivity so that employees can communicate and collaborate more effectively with each other. At the same time, attracting and retaining talent requires a more stimulating experience than those provided in the conservative and restrictive workspaces of the past.
Where to begin? Some organizations are moving toward activity-based workspaces. For example, creating quiet zones for those who need silence to concentrate on a specific task such as writing. The converse would be a collaborative zone in a colorful environment that would accommodate multiple employees and encourage creativity.
Strategic Space Planning
Agile workspaces can build a strong and happy culture but with a larger number of employees now expected to share desks, rooms, and various activity-based-working areas, there’s a greater need for much smarter room and flexible workspaces management. Strategic IWMS tools can help manage occupancy, space allocation, floor plans and changes, and optimize the sharing ratios between assigned and shared spaces or desks. For example, touch screens located right outside meeting rooms allow users to schedule meetings, check in or out and view room availability at a glance. Corresponding mobile apps can help employees quickly find colleagues and an available space that meets their requirements – from last minute meeting bookings to booking a desk as a touchdown space.
Capturing Workspace Utilization
It can be difficult to create a space that is flexible enough for 70 people one day and 300 people the next day. Yet, this kind of flexibility is no longer an option—it’s the expectation of the talent you want to attract and is critical for a modern-day workplace.
Organizations are increasingly turning to data to help understand and make decisions around space utilization, design and operations. Technologies such as sensors and heat maps can help us understand when a space is being used. Sensors under desks or in the ceiling can detect available space and allow teams to then quickly find a free space for meetings.
The best part? These technologies capture data for up-to-date information about occupancy and utilization. This data can be used to measure the effectiveness of designs, quickly budget project costs, model move scenarios, optimize utilization and align the workplace to the actual needs of the workers who are using that space.
3D Workplace Modeling and Augmented Reality
3D workplace designs can help everyone involved in a renovation or new construction project visualize every aspect of the space – even down to furniture, flow and lighting. SketchUp is the most widely used 3D modelling application in the world, and with the 3D warehouse users can download digital replicas of the latest workplace furniture concepts from all the top brands, allowing them to redesign their own workplaces with furniture selections from an online catalogue.
Augmented reality can take this concept a step further. The SketchUp Viewer for Microsoft Hololens can bring this 3D model to life, allowing a workplace design team to actually walk the space in its current state, visualize the design in mixed reality and provide live feedback. This experience can be shared with the occupants of this space – allowing the design team to get direct feedback from the people who work in this space on the different concepts and options being considered. Allowing talent to visualise the future concept of their office and influence the outcome will be a powerful tool in winning over hearts and minds in the transition towards flexible working.
Completing the Loop
If you’re responsible for planning and managing space, advances in workplace and design technology can help you move toward a more modern workplace. Moving towards a shared model of desk allocations will allow you to reap the flexible working dividend, and use these savings to invest in a more collaborative and dynamic workplace. Using IWMS and Space Management applications as the foundation, and combining these with cutting-edge technologies such as 3D modeling, augmented reality for workplace design, space utilization sensors and mobile working platforms, you can work towards achieving the agile workplace of the future.
If your organization is seeking a partner to help with your longer-term workplace management technology needs, we encourage you to contact us for more information.
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