Workspace technology is the answer to optimise space

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Technology is a major factor that is changing how, when and where today’s workers operate. Armed with portable and powerful technology, today’s mobile workers are using their flexibility to be more agile and productive.

They are empowered to avoid the distractions and disruptions, and the cycle of constant meetings that often characterise a typical office workday, and they are using mobility to spend more time meeting and collaborating with customers, vendors and other business partners.

When they’re in the office, they are not bound to their assigned workspace by a landline and desktop. They can move freely throughout the office without missing important calls or emails, and spend less time isolated in their workspaces and more time connecting and collaborating with co-workers.

Workspace technologies are essential tools for facilities and real estate professionals for adapting the workplace to agile workers and ensuring optimal use of space.

Utilisation technology supports space optimisation planning

Shared workspace is an option for agile workplaces with many employees who do not need a ‘permanent home’ in the office. For example, Scottish Water, one of the UK’s largest water services providers, implemented a hot desking initiative for its agile workers, which enabled the organisation to save over $9 million in construction and operating costs in its newest office with a 25 percent reduction in the number of workspaces.

Space planning, today, can be challenging as traditional methods or standard planning formulas may no longer be relevant. Allocate too much and you lose the opportunity to maximise space-related cost savings; allocate too little, and you have workers competing for space or possibly avoiding the office due to the hassle of finding a workstation. Ideally, space should be allocated to accommodate ‘high tide’ so everyone who needs a space can always find one.

The space planning process should begin with understanding how existing space is being used. Traditional measurement approaches such as a ‘bed check’ – where a staff member does a periodic head count – only reflect utilisation at points in time and do not provide a complete picture. While meeting room scheduling system reviews only show when spaces were reserved, not whether they were actually used and to what capacity.

Workspace utilisation measurement technology provides robust and accurate data on actual space usage to drive informed business decisions, and the best part is the new systems are easy to install and operate. Activity sensors detect when a work or meeting space was used and for how long. Traffic sensors, which measure and track the capacity to which a space is being used, are ideal for larger spaces. Both types of sensors are simple technologies that passively detect utilisation over time to show patterns.

The real benefit of these sensors is the objective and actionable data they provide to support informed decisions on how to add, reduce or redesign existing space. Robust business intelligence systems collect and analyse data from the sensors allowing you to drill down into the details of a space – from macro to micro levels – in order to identify utilisation trends and potential inefficiencies. These systems also present the data in dynamic, interactive report formats that resonate with executive team members who ultimately review and approve the organisation’s space plans and costs.

Careful planning and measurement can help organisations eliminate excess or unused space or repurpose portions to optimise usage, grow headcount within existing space or add only as much additional space as it will actually use. Ongoing monitoring via workspace utilisation measurement systems can be useful to identify additional needs or opportunities for further adjustments.

Scheduling systems help spaces run efficiently

Once spaces have been carefully planned, workspace scheduling systems support optimal usage, so that employees can quickly and easily find work or meeting spaces – whether they are planning in advance or making ad hoc arrangements. Reservations are made and reported in real-time, so space availability is always accurate and current.

Cloud-based workspace scheduling systems and mobile apps provide anytime, anywhere access, so that staff can easily find available work or meeting spaces prior to their visit and arrive at the office, knowing exactly where they’ll work or meet. These systems also help employees locate workspaces near team members with whom they need to work, so they can reserve adjacent or nearby workstations.

On-site kiosks can help workers locate their reserved space upon arrival at the office or make an ad hoc reservation. Touch panel displays located near individual spaces or blocks of spaces provide yet another layer of support to help staff check space availability and make reservations.

As the workforce grows increasingly mobile, dispersed and global, many organisations are exploring and implementing new ways to support workers who no longer operate in a highly routine and centralised manner. Progressive organisations are leveraging these trends as a strategic opportunity to reduce costs, operate more efficiently and improve productivity – and many are seeing agile workplace initiatives as imperative to being more competitive and efficient.

Facilities managers who leverage today’s workspace planning and scheduling technologies can create more flexible workplaces that not only optimise space and reduce real estate costs, but also support a workforce that is highly agile, productive and engaged.

Nigel Clarke is the senior vice president global – Europe/Middle East/Africa and Asia-Pacific regions of Asure Software Inc.

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