Whether your organisation utilises a hybrid work model or not, space management is likely more useful than you realise in an office.
Once you get to grips with it, space management can transform office space, maximising real estate whilst also fostering an innovative workplace that produces happy and productive employees.
Consider this your guide to space management, explaining what it is, why it’s important in the office and how you can harness its power.
What Is Space Management?
Space management in the office is the practice of understanding how space is being used by employees and how to maximise productivity and well-being. This is done through a multi-step process of data collection, analysis and planning how office space will be used to its full capacity. It can be done in a variety of ways like repurposing meeting rooms for different uses, rearranging seating plans, and introducing new desk booking systems.
Why Is Space Management In Offices Important?
Proper space management can help a business save money, and boost job satisfaction and productivity. It can also keep the business thinking ahead, keeping on top of any growth.
From the outset, managing space might seem like a simple task. If a desk booking system is consistently fully booked then the solution would be to bring in more desk space to the office by repurposing social areas or meeting rooms.
However, on closer inspection, it might be that people aren’t booking desks for work, but actually booking them for a quick 10-minute email catchup before heading into in-person collaboration meetings, leaving the desk empty for most of the day.
Clearly, the answer is not as easy as bringing in more desks.
Another scenario could involve an organisation with multiple office locations for different departments, with some locations being underutilised while others are bursting at capacity.
Effective office space planning could help solve these issues but requires a lot of research and data gathering before a solution is found.
Space management has become even more important post-Covid, although office occupancy rates are creeping up, recent research in December 2022 has shown this depends very much on the day of the week. Tuesdays and Thursdays are by far the busiest days in the office, with office occupancy reaching up to 52% (pre-Covid there was an average of 60%).
Yet on Fridays, central London resembles a ghost town with only 15% occupancy.
As both employees and companies embrace the flexible schedule of hybrid work, offices would do well to embrace these commuting patterns and learn how to best maximise their office space and layout on both busy and quiet days.
Benefits Of Space Management
Understanding the benefits of space management and planning is the first step to learning how to implement it in an organisation that best suits that company’s goals.
The key benefits of office space management are:
- Cost savings
- Productivity Boost
- Happier employees
- Reduce administrative tasks
- Keeping abreast of company growth
Some of the biggest expenses for a business are office space, utility bills and office furniture. Space planning ensures an organisation is not paying for wasted overhead costs such as unused space, desks and chairs.
By ensuring an office suits employees' needs and that there is enough space for everyone to get their work done, productivity will rise as a result. A huge win for any company.
With seamless space management, employees are free to enjoy offices, get their work done and experience higher job satisfaction.
The office is changing from being a place of focused work to becoming a hub of intentional collaboration and socialising. Space planning will be able to track changing office needs and will be instrumental in effective hybrid office design that satisfies employees' needs and fosters a positive company culture.
Reduce Administrative Tasks
Choosing the right space management tools frees up operation and administrative departments to stop battling with outdated, manual desk booking systems or meeting room logbooks.
Keeping Abreast Of Company Growth
By continuously tracking how offices are being used, organisations can keep ahead of changing needs, and forecast growth in the company for a seamless evolution.
What Is An Effective Space Management Process?
The first step in space planning is a thorough evaluation of the current situation.
No stone should be left unturned as you audit the office square footage, current office capacity, hot desking booking, and meeting rooms, both designated and informal meeting spaces.
You will also need to compare the current supposed functions of areas and then find out how they are actually being used and if their function has morphed into something else. For example, often a smaller meeting room will be used for private phone calls instead of one-on-one talks, so in this case, perhaps the installation of phone booths might be a solution.
Space Management Software
Auditing office space will require the use of space management tools to record and gather data that will be instrumental in the planning stages. Using the right tools will help to identify trends in how employees are utilising, or underutilising, spaces.
A must for optimising office space is a comprehensive booking system, organisations need software that manages office capacity with buildings, floors and zones to track any preferences between individuals, departments or specific days. Recording when people are coming in and how often is crucial data to plan the optimal workspace, and this includes visitors as well.
There are tools that allow organisations to create their offices, floors and zones that people work in to manage capacity and provide visibility on how busy an office space is.
As hybrid work changes the workplace, a major function of the physical office is to host in-person and hybrid meetings. The right software will enable organisations to analyse data on how meeting rooms are being used.
And with focused work becoming less common in the office, there is still a need for companies to understand hot desk usage to ensure there is no wastage. Desk booking system data will need to be analysed with a review of office equipment.
Finally, companies with a generous budget might want to use design tools to help visualise an office layout and then try out different 3D modelling options in their planning process.
There are also tools like density trackers which are great for learning where people naturally congregate, and what kitchens or social areas get used the most. This can be great for planning which areas need to be extended and what spaces can be reduced.
Once the data has been collected, in-person interviews and surveys should also be performed to ensure a holistic understanding of office space usage.
Staff research will keep employees involved in the process and also create feelings of belonging to the company, a win-win.
Possible questions that could be included:
- Why do you come into the office?
- What type of work do you do when in the office?
- What is your favourite area in the office? Why?
- What is your least used area in the office? Why?
- What are your favourite days to come in?
- What improvements would you like to see in the office?
It will be interesting to compare the results of employee surveys with the actual data collected, as often there is a disparity between how people think they use an office and the reality of office usage shown by the data.
After collecting both sources of data, it will be time to analyse and plan. The information collected should provide a comprehensive overview of the needs of the company. As well as needs though, organisations would do well to also look to improve and new goals might need to be set.
If employees are using the small kitchen on the basement floor as an informal meeting space while dedicated meeting rooms are going unused, then a possible goal could be to increase the usage of said meeting rooms.
Organisations will need to decide on what successful office space management looks like to them, this could be increased office occupancy throughout the week, or perhaps just on certain days when there are team bonding events.
Every company’s goals are different and as such, every space planning strategy will need to be unique.
Once all steps are completed, the work is not done.
Effective office space management is a continual process which needs constant monitoring in order to keep on improving. There should be regular reviews of the data gathered from office space booking software as well as checking in with employees for their feedback.
Once all steps are completed, the work is not done. Effective office space management is a continual process which needs constant monitoring in order to keep on improving. There should be regular reviews of the data gathered from office space booking software as well as checking in with employees for their feedback.
Successful Space Management Example
The results of successful space planning speak for themselves as this example proves.
A company in the States wanted to boost desk bookings whilst also sticking to a budget. Before purchasing all new desks and monitors for the office, they decided to test out different workstations.
Some desks were installed with dual monitors and others with more ergonomically friendly desks whilst others had a single screen. Data revealed that the desks with dual monitors were booked 30% more than the other hot desks, while the ergonomically friendly desks were used for longer periods of time than regular desks.
Using these results, the company decided to invest in a higher number of dual monitors and posture-friendly desks.
Effective space management strategies are useful tools that are helping companies transition into the new hybrid workforce.
Although every organisation will approach office planning differently, the primary goal of creating an efficient, productive and happy hybrid workplace doesn’t change.
Simon Osman is a serial founder and investor with multiple exits in tech-based companies.