10 strategies to maximise workspace utilisation

by FM Media

Ten strategies to maximise workspace utilisation are shared by PAT GOEPEL of Asure Software.

How can real estate and facility professionals maximise the value of their space without negatively impacting employees while, at the same time, getting the most from their real estate budgets? It’s a question receiving more and more attention at the executive management team level. Why? Because real estate costs are the second largest cost for most organisations, yet they can be managed effectively if workspace utilisation is optimised.
The problem is that real estate and facilities managers may not be aware of all the workspace inefficiencies that exist. Consider employee desks, for example. Out of office travel, off-site meetings, telework employees and vacations often result in workspace utilisation rates of 40 percent or less. This gap in space provided and space used is where money is lost. When this gap is defined, how to best allocate workspace – and add space only when it’s truly needed – can be determined.
Through careful data analysis, excess real estate can be reduced, existing real estate can be reconfigured and repurposed, and the density of a workspace can be improved – ensuring the efficient utilisation of real estate and ROI is maximised. As workspace utilisation options continue to unfold, consider these 10 strategies that will help maximise the value of existing space and make organisations more efficient.

1. Ask questions
The first step in maximising workspace utilisation is to start asking the right questions. To uncover inefficient use of space, identify the following:

  • Which spaces do employees enjoy using most and why?
  • Why does one conference room space get booked, while others remain unused?
  • Who uses the space, and how frequently?
  • When a conference room space is booked, does it really get used?
  • Is there a best way to put an end to ‘no shows’ who reserve space?
  • How can existing workspace be put to better use that ultimately complements employee morale and efficiency?

Just remember, asking employees these questions may generate some valuable information, but their responses are subjective. When employee responses and data from other workspace utilisation detection sources are combined and analysed, real estate and facilities managers will most likely uncover several qualified suggestions to maximise space utilisation.

2. Understand desk utilisation
Gone are the days of providing one desk to each individual employee. Technology has made the modern workforce more mobile – capable of conducting business from almost anywhere. In order to know how much space is actually needed, real estate managers must first understand how the existing space is being used.
Start the process by identifying if, when and for how long each desk is used – preferably with an automated presence detection device such as a desk sensor placed at each desk. Once this data is analysed, facilities managers can determine actual workspace utilisation rates. This is particularly helpful before and after any spatial reconfiguration projects.

3. Measure the true value of meeting rooms and other shared workspace
Most offices have several conference rooms and shared workspaces that simply aren’t used efficiently. For example, it’s common that employees book the plush video conferencing room rather than using the stale, white-walled meeting room. However, what’s the financial impact when the VTC (video teleconferencing) room is booked for a weekly staff meeting simply because of its high-end characteristics when someone actually needs to use the VTC equipment and is forced to use external facilities?
Innovative image sensors can be used to track utilisation and uncover workspace abuses. Sensors also capture room occupancy, another key to identifying inefficient use of space. Imagine if that same VTC room, with a capacity of 30, is consistently booked for meetings that involve just a few people.
Knowing when and if a room is used, and how many people are meeting in it each time, helps determine efficient space use and enables facility staff to plan space reconfiguration that better meets the needs of all employees.

4. Analyse space utilisation with scepticism
Innovative room booking software is a great way to manage shared desks and meeting rooms. But, just because a room was reserved, it doesn’t mean it was actually used. Multiple sources of data need to be used to determine the delta between planned and actual use of the workspace. For example, combining data from room booking software and utilisation data from image and desk sensors helps determine space use, thereby helping to save thousands of dollars – if not more – by preventing unnecessary expansion.
Rather than increasing office space just because employees say they ‘can never find any meeting space’, accurate space utilisation rates can be obtained and policies to prevent ‘squatting’ or ‘placeholder’ room reservations implemented. And, remember, analysing workspace use is an evolutionary process. Repeat the process with regularity to keep the organisation ahead of the curve and create the most value from occupied real estate.

5. Hibernate underutilised space
Using room scheduling software to ‘hibernate’ (disable) reservable workspace that is not used on a frequent basis each day practically guarantees immediate cost savings. When large areas of underutilised space are turned off, the energy (and related costs) required to heat and cool that space is significantly reduced. In addition, real estate managers find that through hibernation efforts, they are able to maximise the use of available space more effectively. Try creating and enforcing space use policies to ensure hibernated workspace stays off limits unless the rest of the facility is completely occupied.

6. Provide interactive reports that offer executives high value
Understanding workspace utilisation isn’t about collecting data, it’s about analysing it. Instead of producing narrative reports that generate little attention from the management team, create informative, graphics-based dashboard summaries to help them better understand real estate utilisation trends.
A business intelligence (BI) system that provides real-time, interactive dashboards allows real estate and facilities managers to drill down into the details and empowers them to identify space utilisation trends and inefficiencies. This will keep executives informed about ongoing potential cost savings, making the real estate or facilities manager look like a champion. It’s a win-win.

7. Consider variable workspace options instead of expansion
Outside vendors provide a real opportunity to access variable workspace instead of investing in real estate expansion. As organisations grow, especially through acquisition, they often don’t rationalise existing space. Now is a great time to eliminate underused real estate and adopt variable workspace policies to reduce costs. Selling or sub-leasing a small sales office, for example, and using variable workspace instead can easily pay for itself several times over within a 12-month period.

8. Integrate workspace applications with the IT group
The in-house information technology team should be in lockstep with any effort to maximise workspace utilisation. As real estate and facilities managers invest in workspace technologies and software, the IT pros in the organisation can offer expertise that will help eliminate duplicate databases, integrate data from multiple systems and, ultimately, get the reports and information needed to make meaningful change while helping reduce the total cost of technology ownership. Integrated workspace management tools are just one example where the IT group can assist in both deploying the hardware and software to maximise effectiveness and make the tools easier to use, share and manage.

9. Consider the mobile workforce
Modern technology has enabled the mobile workforce to work whenever and wherever they choose. It takes less space today to accommodate the workspace needs of 100 employees than it did just two years ago and the pace of this change continues to advance. As employees adopt technologies and employers adopt flexible work policies, the number of people occupying a typical workspace on a daily basis will continue to decline. So, plan ahead as assigned spaces become underutilised. Space that sits empty means money lost.

10. Communicate with employees
As with any major corporate change, real estate and facility professionals will want to work with human resources to implement a change management plan to ease the transition. Corporate culture will only adopt and accept workspace utilisation policy changes, open environments, and shared space if they understand the need for change and the right expectations are set.
Communicate with employees about the need to make this transformation. Help employees embrace the change by including them in the process, getting their feedback before and after implementing changes, and showing them how the organisation is implementing their recommendations. Only then will facility workspace adapt to become more efficient and productive.

Changes in the workplace today mean that real estate and facilities managers must pay careful attention to creating a more productive and efficient work environment. It’s about finding the right balance between employee needs and real estate costs.
If organisations approach the transformation with intent – surveying employees, tracking occupancy and analysing the data, and making the necessary adjustments – a more collaborative, productive workforce will emerge, management will appreciate the effectiveness and efficiency of the workspace, and real estate and facilities managers will be the rock stars who made the workspace a model to emulate.

Pat Goepel is the chief executive officer of Asure Software. Novera is Asure Software’s reseller partner in Australia.

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