As we finish The Optimized Workplace series, it is fitting to wrap up with a discussion about space strategy and it impacts to the physical environment. It seems like for as long as we have been talking about the workplace, our clients have always been looking for ways to “optimize”, drive down costs, engage, attract and retain employees through their real estate portfolio planning. Today and looking towards the future is no different, except our industry has become more knowledgeable and insightful on best practices that influence how organizations can apply space strategy. Space continues to be one of the highest overhead costs for our clients. Organizations are moving towards a more dynamic planning approach that is constantly looking at the most efficient and effective space use.
The workplace is more than just an envelope in which people work and work is done. It plays an integral role in supporting both the business and culture. Mobility, Adaptability and Flexibility are finding their way into our workplace planning, design, and physical infrastructure. Mobility can be defined as the workforce’s capacity to have both choice and control over how and where they perform work both externally and within the workplace. As it relates to the optimized workplace, flexibility is key to that choice and control. Also, the more adaptable the workplace becomes with infused technology, variety of work settings, and flexible furniture, the more inherent Workplace Mobility becomes.
So, where does an organization begin when implementing a space strategy that includes mobility?
• One of the initial steps is fully understanding workplace utilization; the process of understanding and tracking workspace usage as well as employee occupancy within the office environment.
• Thoroughly assessing when people are in the workplace and then how they are using space, provides key insight to the space strategies that must be developed or re-aligned to better support an optimized and balanced workplace.
Once organizations are able to understand workplace utilization, how can this understanding directly impact space strategy?
• Allocation ratios can be explored to improve overall workplace performance. These ratios address the correlation of the designated seats to the number of people allocated to a floor and/ or building.
• Historically, planning has specifically targeted 1:1 allocation ratios (1 seat for 1 person). Space strategies and workplace utilization inform the optimized workplace so that it is responding specifically to where and how people are working.
• This level of optimization can lead to real estate and operational cost savings. As the quantity of people allocated to a floor or building increase, the SF per person begins to decrease, allowing for potential SF savings.
• Looking at allocation ratios coupled with concepts such as free address (unassigned seating), desk sharing, and hoteling support ultimate flexibility, choice and control.
As the allocation ratios continue to evolve from 1:1 (1 seat for 1 person), it is even more critical that individual and shared spaces find a balance. As consultants and planners, how can we make sure that we are achieving this balance?
• The concept of equitable ME and WE spaces means that the workplace becomes a representation of all its workforce needs.
• The physical space must find compromise between the square feet area that is distributed to all types of spaces; both dedicated and common, both open and enclosed, both collaborative and focus.
• The ME:WE ratio concept at its core is about optimizing the workplace through variety of spaces that support work.
In order to promote mobility, strong executable people, technology and space strategies must be in place to address the future of work and the workplace. This means that Real Estate, Finance, HR, IT and key Business Leaders must be working together towards a common vision, with everyone on the same page and supporting the same goals. We look forward to continued dialogue with our clients and peers about this subject and many other variables that influence The Optimized Workplace!