Space utilization software eases transition to collaborative workspaces

by Elizabeth Dukes on March 29, 2013

Facilities management uses Space management software to track space utilizationOffice spaces are changing. With the influx of technologies that make it easier to complete tasks in real-time and a growing trend toward remote work, more companies are looking to expand collaborative workspaces, according to Facilities Net. In the traditional office, around 80 percent of real estate was reserved for individual space and the remaining 20 was used for shared areas like meeting rooms. Going forward, these numbers will become less divided as companies look to lower real estate costs and reduce the count of unoccupied desks.

Individual space shrinks, shared space grows

In fact, a study by Jones Lang LaSalle that was published by the Banker & Tradesman reported that some companies are taking this idea even further. A high-tech client in Cambridge, Massachusetts, recently relocated into a space in which 70 percent of the real estate was dedicated to collaborative and customer use, while 30 percent was reserved for individual employees.

To ensure firms strike the right balance, facilities managers must be able to accurately measure the number of desks that are being used by staff members every day. Once they have a detailed account of occupancy rates, they can use space utilization software and move management platforms to design the most strategic plan for reducing autonomous workspace and leveraging shared areas.

As facilities managers explore the possibilities of incorporating these trends into their own offices, they should remember this doesn’t necessarily mean square footage is greatly decreasing, the study explains. Rather, the real estate is being utilized in new ways for flex spaces and free reservation systems that allow employees to request areas only when they need them.

Rethinking traditional spaces for enhanced innovation

That’s not to say that this is the right choice for every environment, Facilities Net reports in a separate article. FMs must use appropriate tools that are a part of their integrated workspace management systems (IWMS) to determine if collaborative areas will be a better use of their real estate than individual offices.

“Benching works in media and advertising companies – creative environments – but you’re hard pressed to find it in a consulting or accounting company where you need some version of privacy,” director of interiors Tom Polucci told the source.

By monitoring employees’ use of space, analyzing processes throughout the facility and conducting interviews, FMs can evaluate whether the transition will further boost innovation and creativity or dampen productivity.

It was the right choice for USC Hybrid High School in downtown Los Angeles, which created open learning studios with separate spaces that were meant to break free of the traditional look and feel of a school, according to Education Week. The facility resembles more of a cafe than a typical classroom, with comfortable chairs and open floor plans that support the new teaching method – a combination of online learning and face-to-face instruction.

Overcoming challenges of collaborative facilities

It’s important to communicate plans for a shift to occupants because they are sometimes fearful that transitioning to collaborative workspaces could introduce a number of issues, Facilities Net adds. Concerns include noise pollution and distractions.

“Acoustics and noise are real issues,” design director Jason Rosenblatt told the media outlet. “I have always sat in an open office environment and there are times when I have to put my headphones in.”

That being said, noise doesn’t have to be a huge issue if decision-makers plan for it appropriately, the source adds. For instance, some companies build small meeting or phone rooms that can be used by an employee that needs a little bit of privacy. Sound-masking systems can also provide a solution by creating a certain amount of white noise that can drown out colleagues’ conversations, while noise-absorbing materials like carpeting and textiles can quiet interruptions.

With an integrated space management solution, FMs can anticipate needs and properly plan for upcoming changes to ensure occupants are satisfied and assets are being used efficiently.


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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