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The Ultimate Guide To Space Optimization In The Hybrid Workplace

by Ann DiPietro on September 21, 2021
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Work is no longer confined by walls, and the hybrid workplace is here to stay.

A 2020 survey predicted that 22% of the American workforce – 36.2 million people – will be working remotely by 2025. This is an 87% increase from pre-COVID-19 levels.

Yet many employees still want to spend at least part of their time working in the office, where they can collaborate in person with their colleagues, reserve a quiet place to concentrate, and take advantage of on-site amenities. Managing a hybrid workplace brings new challenges, including space optimization.

How do you make the most of your office space while giving employees the flexibility to work from anywhere? There are no easy answers, but here are a few recommendations.

What is space optimization?

Simply put, space optimization is making the most of all the available office real estate you have and using it in a way that best supports a positive employee experience while reducing waste and minimizing costs. The goal of space optimization isn't just to increase the number of employees per square foot, but to ensure each space is being used the way it's intended. 

5  strategies to improve space optimization in the hybrid workplace

1. Establish a baseline occupancy target to determine office space per employee

While different employee roles and functions require different types of space to be productive, it’s good to have some general guidelines.

Start by considering your average occupancy percentage before the pandemic, or before you transitioned to a hybrid workplace. How much space did you have per employee at that time? If you don’t know, look at recommended industry averages.

Commercial real estate website Squarefoot also offers a handy space calculator.

Don’t forget to consider how employees’ needs might be different depending on your industry and their department and roles. Your legal team will likely need more private office space for closed-door meetings and review of confidential documents, while your marketing team will want more open areas for brainstorming and collaboration.

If you plan to continue having assigned desks, you may not need one for every employee. Determine which employees can share desks, based on how often they plan to be in the office, or consider implementing office hoteling.

2. Establish a remote work policy

While each department may have its own guidelines for when employees work remotely and how they use your hybrid workplace, company-wide expectations help create clarity, transparency, and understanding. Decide what values are most important, not just for team morale and productivity, but also when it comes to planning and optimizing your space.

Set clear parameters around when teams will meet in person, when they are expected to meet with clients in person, and when fully remote employees will be expected to attend company events.

This remote and hybrid work policy template should give you a great starting point.

3. Survey employees to determine how often they plan to use the office

Ask employees to consider all aspects of remote work and in-office work, and give them flexibility to determine their hybrid work schedule.

Questions to ask employees include:

  • How many days each week do you plan to be in the office?
  • During what hours do you plan to spend most of your time in the office?
  • How do you feel about attending meetings when you are not physically present?
  • How will you take the initiative to remain involved in office activities?
  • Have you discussed how often, if at all, you will be able to travel back to your department’s primary worksite?
  • How will you feel if your travel is limited to once or twice per year?
  • What type of meeting space and amenities do you need when meeting with clients in person?  

As you consider employees’ needs, don’t forget about their belongings. You might need to add shelves, closet space, or intelligent lockers to help employees keep valuable items secure.

Intelligent locker systems are ideal for a workplace with desk hoteling because they can be reserved, assigned, and reassigned by any employee throughout the day.

Understanding the employee’s needs and expectations helps you optimize your space accordingly. It also helps you analyze, test, and implement tools to streamline space reservations/claims,

4. Use a desk hoteling system

As you give employees more flexibility to choose when they come into the office, you need a way to manage seating while ensuring space optimization.

A desk hoteling system gives you a more structured way to manage your space and resources. Unlike hot desking where employees claim space on a first-come, first-served basis, hoteling allows your employees to reserve space in advance. This helps your facilities team update your workplace based on the number of employees who plan to be there. It also helps you monitor space utilization trends over time so you can better plan your future space needs.

One of many considerations for desk hoteling is how to create a welcoming and productive workspace for the most people. It's common for facilities managers to plan their hoteling strategies by thinking about the average day. How many people are typically in the office? What resources do they need? This narrow planning may create problems later. Instead of preparing for a reasonable scenario, think of the worst case.

Consider your peak demand; how many desks will you need if everyone shows up? Then prepare around that number.

A desk booking software also give you analytics and data regarding usage and timing, as well as helps you to create a safe space regarding physical distancing in our current post-COIVD world.

5. Make smart, multi-purpose furniture and surface choices

Your workspace is more than computers, desks, and tables. After a global pandemic, we all have learned to adapt and pay attention to our surroundings to best create an environment in which we can thrive. Look around your office space for innovative ways to use your current assets.

Use whiteboard paint on the walls in brainstorming or meeting rooms. Buildings.com, an industry news source for facilities and space managers, offered these and other tips for optimizing your space.

Furniture also plays a role in creating a space that can host a board meeting in the morning and be subdivided into smaller team meeting rooms later in the day by using mobile walls, or dividers that double as whiteboards. Use smaller desks or tables that can be rearranged Tetris-style to create differently sized spaces, change the energy or mood, and make the most of your area.

space management software

Use space management software to optimize your hybrid workplace

Space management software helps you visualize all your spaces, track utilization, and reconfigure your floor plans as needed.

You can see a graphic representation of your floorplans, overlaid with real-time data on desk and space reservations. This gives you the ability to make strategic, data-driven decisions.

The right space management software will give you a sense of control and understanding of your facilities from a global perspective, helping you to create both short and long-term strategies to avoid having empty space you still are paying rent on. Understanding how your space is used and creating a space that serves your employees where they are now – not pre-pandemic – will lead to better employee productivity, boosting the bottom line while minimizing costs.         

Just because your employees are scattered, your office space organization doesn’t have to be. Take a tour of our space management software and find the tools to improve space optimization in your hybrid workplace.

Capterra Ratings: ★★★★★ 4.5/5

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