Successfully managing and guiding a company is always a multi-faceted endeavor. People, places and things are never as one dimensional as the figures appearing on paper. Having the ability to make adjustments and forge new directions, based on these changing figures, is critical to the overall health and success of the organization. The fuel for steering and moving these variables, then, becomes the proper use of data pertaining to the who, what, when, and, perhaps most importantly, where. The utilization and allocation of space in the modern business world is probably the most affected by technological progress, as business now takes place well beyond an organization’s four walls. But to take full advantage of our now “limitless” workspace, management must fully understand what they have and what their workforce needs to effectively perform their jobs.
Let’s delve in to some of the more effective uses of data-driven space management.
Less Need for the Space
One of the more popular discussions amongst companies seeking out innovative solutions is the use, need, and management of workspaces in the modern office configuration. Typically, there are two schools of thought on this trend; one side recognizes the opportunities for embracing technology and personal freedoms whereas the other side sees the demise of the traditional workplace and all of the potential chaos which may ensue. The truth is, not everyone will want this trend to catch hold, and that’s ok. Business has never been a whole group, all or nothing mentality. Innovations come from those who aren’t following the herd, but rather having the courage to lead the pack in new and different directions.
On this topic, there seems to be a fairly even divide, as the traditional workplace office configuration is not going away any time soon, but many other organizations are ready and willing to make big changes. The advantages of reducing office spaces have their merits and are worth examining, no matter which side you fall on. As so many companies have discovered, incorporating methods for more effective space allocation and management can be quite beneficial, while many of the traditional aspects of the business remain intact.
Mobility Builds Agility
The ways in which work is being conducted has changed on a fundamental level, sparking a collective shift in work practices and what is expected by our workforce. One of the biggest factors driving modern office configurations is the usage and availability of mobile technology. Our ability to stay connected and fully engaged, without the confines of space and time, means a dedicated office scenario is of less importance than ever before. Those who are not ready to lose the desk must still embrace this mobility trend in order to remain agile and offer an engaging workspace for their employees.
“Connectivity means more data, gathered more frequently from more places, which in turn means more visibility and more ways to increase efficiency and productivity, while improving safety and security.” -Gordon Feller
Outside the Office
Managing workspaces now looks much less like a floor plan and much more like a spreadsheet of travel and time management. An hour in the coffee shop, two in the park and a Skype conference from home all become part of the space utilization equation. This type of freedom is part of the idea of workspace agility, which looks at all variables for improved productivity. Everything from embracing and using new technology to knowing which trends are the most beneficial to your business, employers and employees are expected to stay alert and able to adjust to new and changing conditions regularly. And, with agility in mind, many in the C-Suite are finding that their key to agility is encouraging positive and useful trends that their workforce is asking for, as opposed to staying locked in to the tried and true safe zones.
Conferencing Without the Conference Room
Conference rooms have always been seen as a way to get people together to discuss and problem solve. The “think tank” allows members to bounce ideas and collaborate to reach solutions. And, although the ideals of this space aren’t changing, the ability to collaborate socially has moved beyond the confines of four walls.
Consider the idea of the “Nexus of Forces”, defined by Gartner as the “convergence of mobility, information, the cloud, and social collaboration, redefining and shaping core business functionality across the enterprise.” Connecting with multiple associates via technology allows for greater collaboration, as discussions and ideas can flow at all times and for longer periods of time than anyone would spend in an actual conference room. Just think, how often have you had that breakthrough at 10:30 at night? Now, it’s just as important as if it had occurred at 10:30 AM.
Schedule the Spaces
When space is needed, instead of leaving it open to chance, companies are investing in room reservation tools for space scheduling. This not only eliminates the embarrassment of a double-booked space, it allows for close monitoring of how space is being used and gathers data to better serve our employees’ future needs. Many have even found that offering the ability to schedule space/time outside of the office is an effective tool for properly managing space usage. This is often how occurrences become trends; and the ability to detect these trends on the horizon separates the leaders from followers.
Micromanage the Places and Things, not the People
One of the most critical elements of management is understanding the intrinsic connection between all of the managed areas. Space management is as much about management of staff and technology as it is physical real estate and square footage. Being able to see all of the moving pieces and track or anticipate the continued use of resources is helping companies to reduce much of their unused space and assets by as much as 40%. But, look closely at what is being tracked and managed and you can see that it is the “stuff” as opposed to the people that are getting more of the attention.
Stifling creativity and being overbearing in the monitoring of work output has never been a positive for managing people, even though the worker has typically been the most managed variable in the equation. Modern business, however, is realizing the technologically expanded abilities of the workforce and how relative leeway has helped increase productivity. Now, the shift for micromanaging is firmly fixating on the physical assets, which don’t hold opinions on their use and re-allocations. Managers are able to track usage through Integrated Workplace Management Systems, which give detailed insight on multiple aspects of office space and asset usage, allowing decisions to be made about where the money is being spent, without shortchanging the workforce.
As more companies recognize the work potential available through increased technological options, the use and look of office spaces is sure to see even more changes in the near future. Sure, there will always be hold-overs who want things to remain as they were, but those same people are more than likely already using similar technology in their personal lives. And that’s just the thing; technology in and out of the office is really becoming one in the same. Our phones, laptops and tablets are the driving force for change in space and asset management and they are already a ubiquitous part of everyday life, with no signs of reduced desire from the general public in sight. Agility will dictate ability and vice versa.