In the hot seat: new workspace strategies

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Organisations worldwide have seen significant changes in employees’ work habits over the past 10 years, and the pace of change is accelerating exponentially with advancements in mobile technologies. This movement has resulted in
a seismic shift in how workspaces can best accommodate today’s ‘anytime, anywhere’ workers, who demand flexibility and agility, and no longer operate in a highly centralised and routine manner.

Forrester has reported that ‘anytime, anywhere workers’ in the US and Europe
grew from 15 percent to 29 percent of employees between 2011 and 2012, and
IDC projects that 1.3 billion workers worldwide will be mobile by 2015. Technology continues to fuel workforce mobility and enable workers to spend more time in the field working more closely with customers and vendors, or working at home or other convenient venues. (Forrester projects 905 million tablets will be in use for work and home globally by 2017.)

As a result, facilities management professionals are recognising they no longer need the same amount of space they have always used to accommodate employees. The average square footage per employee has dropped more than 60 percent since the ’70s and will continue to shrink as more companies adopt new workspace designs. Businesses today typically allow for little more than 18.9 square metres per person (about 200 square feet) and this space allocation could drop
to as little as 4.7 square metres (about 50 square feet) by 2015.

Shared workspace strategies

How is this office shrinkage possible? ‘Hoteling’ and ‘hot desking’ are two examples of shared workspace strategies for staff, who can work mostly off-site and therefore do not need a ‘permanent home’ in the office. These systems provide staff with convenient access to workspace at the office on an as-needed basis, so they can remain connected and maintain synergy with their co-workers and the organisation.
Office hoteling is a workspace program that supports employees who don’t have their own offices or cubicles. Instead they share workspaces. Employees who participate
in office hoteling programs typically work from home and only commute into the office when they need to collaborate with their peers. Hoteling also caters well to travelling employees who are not in the office full-time. In this environment, employees are more likely to schedule a desk, room or cubicle in advance of their arrival.

Hot desking is the process of ensuring mobile workers at a company can quickly and efficiently find and use a workspace (in some cases, any available workspace, cubicle or office) when they need to work in the office.

In addition to a hotel cubicle, office spaces used for hot desking may include unoccupied offices, conference rooms and ‘touchdown’ areas.

Hoteling and hot desking appeal to a growing number of today’s employees, who place high value on agility and having the autonomy to work wherever they can be most effective. In fact, studies have shown that many workers would be willing to sacrifice wages and ‘big ticket’ job perks in favour
of flexibility. They also know that mobile technology allows them to operate outside
of the office confines in the world where customers and prospects are living and business is being conducted.

In a traditional office, about half of desks, offices and workstations are unused at any given point in a typical workday. Companies restructuring their workspaces find they can reduce real estate costs by adapting existing office space to better serve employee needs.

workspace strategies2

Planning the space

The process of planning hot desk, hotel or other shared workspace areas for employees, whose schedules constantly fluctuate, can
be a challenge. Allocate too much and you lose the opportunity to save on space-related costs; allocate too little, and you have workers competing for space and possibly avoiding the office due to the hassles of finding a space.

Space utilisation tracking systems and technology are useful tools for capturing and analysing actual space usage trends to support educated, cost-effective decisions about the amount and specific types of workspaces the organisation needs. Because workspace usage typically ebbs and flows, utilisation should be measured over time to help account for normal fluctuations (e.g. holidays, peak holiday times, peak business travel periods). Space should
be allocated to accommodate ‘high tide’ so everyone who needs a space can always
find one.

Today’s workspace utilisation measurement technology provides richer and more accurate data on actual space usage to drive business decisions compared to traditional approaches, such as periodic head counts or meeting room scheduling system reviews. Ongoing monitoring can be useful to identify additional needs or opportunities to make further adjustments.

Scheduling systems

Once the workspace is established, it’s important to have a system in place, so staff can easily find and reserve work
and meeting space. Cloud-based workspace scheduling systems and mobile apps provide remote staff with access from mobile devices or laptops, so they can easily find an open spot prior to their visit and arrive at the office ready to hit the ground running, rather than spending time trying to hunt down an open space when they come in. These systems also can help employees to locate team members with whom they need to work so they can reserve adjacent or nearby space.

On-site kiosks can help workers find their reserved space upon arrival or to make ad hoc reservations. Meeting room and resource scheduling systems can be offered in the same fashion so that on- and off-site staff members alike are able to easily and efficiently plan and organise meetings by accessing the systems whenever needed.

With the right objectives in place and proper planning, any business – large or
small – can reap the benefits of effective hoteling and hot desking strategies to reduce costs, and increase productivity and employee retention.

Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), a UK-based global organisation that fights poverty in developing countries through volunteers, significantly reduced its real estate footprint and saved £400,000 by implementing a hot desking program that enables 320 employees to operate in a space with 180 desks.

The organisation accomplished
this by using workspace management tools that enable staff to locate and reserve workspaces when they are at the office. Its workspace management solution works with any web browser
or smartphone, and it integrates with Microsoft Outlook and on-site kiosks for staff that need to find ad hoc space. VSO’s head of international technology notes that it is useful to have a visual solution that enables employees to see where others are sitting and select a workspace near teammates in order to collaborate on projects when they are in the office. The savings VSO made were directed back into its programs, which pleases donors.

Author: NIGEL CLARKE, Asure Software vice president and general manager, EMEA & APAC.

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