The Biggest Sources of Wasted Space In Your Workplace

by Elizabeth Dukes on May 7, 2019

As more Americans postpone retirement and members of Generation Z enter the workforce, employers are tasked with finding ways to accommodate a larger number of employees in the same amount of space.

Coupled with rising corporate real estate costs, this makes space utilization a high priority.

Make sure you’re taking full advantage of your available real estate by addressing these three common sources of wasted space.

Space Utilization: 3 Common Sources of Wasted Space

1. Document Storage

A standard four-drawer filing cabinet may only take up a few feet of floor space when closed. But it’s not just the unit you need to think about—it’s the space required to access the files inside.

In reality, a single filing cabinet takes up at least 10-15 square feet of office space. And considering your workplace almost certainly uses more than just one, that’s a lot of wasted space. Unless there are strict regulations your company must follow that require you to keep physical records, there’s no reason to store hard copies of every document.

The Fix

Rather than wasting space (and incurring unnecessary costs) by physically storing and maintaining files, invest in digital record-keeping. Implement software that allows you to upload all of your important documents to a single, easily-accessible database.

For instance, instead of keeping paper records of every leased asset, consider making the move to asset tracking software.

2. Private Offices

In a series of space utilization studies, commercial furniture retailer Herman Miller determined that private offices, on average, are unoccupied 77 percent of the workday. The truth is that in the modern workplace, private offices are often more symbolic than utilitarian.

At most companies, members of the executive team tend to be on the move during the day — either in meetings or visiting clients across the country. This means that while some individuals do still need private offices, many of them could be better utilized.

The Fix

Herman Miller discovered more progressive companies are transforming private offices into what they refer to as “Haven Settings.” These spaces are distraction-free zones which anyone in the company is free to use for work that requires more focus and concentration.

In addition to making better use of the space, this approach helps break down barriers between the executive team and the rest of the workforce and shows employees their work is appreciated.

Moving to an activity-based working (ABW) environment that lets employees book private office space when they need it is another way to achieve a balance between the need for privacy and the need to improve space utilization.

3. Conference Rooms

If a lack of available meeting space is a common complaint in your workplace, you might legitimately need more conference rooms. However, based on data from Gartner, it’s more likely your company isn’t using your conference room space as effectively as you could be.

In a previous post about ideal space utilization, we discussed the disconnect between the kinds of conference rooms employees need and the kind their employers provide. Specifically, while nearly three-fourths of all meetings are attended by two to four people, fewer than half of available conference rooms are designed to accommodate groups that size.

Unfortunately, companies overestimate their need for larger conference rooms and don’t allocate an appropriate amount of space for smaller meetings. As a result, over 50 percent of all conference rooms are underutilized.

The Fix

If you want to know whether your company has actually outgrown its space or if the issue could be resolved through a simple redesign, consider using Internet of Things (IoT) sensors connected to an integrated workplace management system (IWMS).

Installing IoT sensors in your workplace allows you to measure occupancy and collect objective data about actual space utilization. You can then use your IWMS to analyze that data and identify the most effective ways to use your existing space and avoid unnecessary expansions.

Developing A Good Space Utilization Strategy

The best space utilization strategies are proactive, not reactive. Good space utilization starts with an accurate assessment of how your employees are using the spaces available to them. That means looking at workplace data to determine which rooms are booked most often, when they are used and how many people are using them.

Once you have a baseline, you need to adopt a strategy that’s agile enough to account for the many ways the modern workplace is changing.

That means considering how remote work, travel and the gig economy will affect your space needs—and being willing to make adjustments quickly. 


Elizabeth Dukes

Elizabeth Dukes' pieces highlight the valuable role of the real estate and facility managers play in their organizations. Prior to iOFFICE, Elizabeth was in sales for large facility and office service outsourcing firm.

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