You may have heard of underutilized office space that is costing businesses billions a year. This is not necessarily about empty desks or wings of an office building earmarked for an expansion that just never seems to come around.
This is about that meeting room that has been booked out but never used or that desk of that colleague that is heavily involved with new business pitches and therefore, only is occupied 1 day out of the 5 in a working week. Or its that desk of that colleague that works from home 2 days in the week, or that colleague that has gone on a sabbatical to travel the world.
There are numerous reasons why businesses are bad in managing their spaces, and for something that comes at a premium price, office space, it’s of major financial impact. Having a large office is reduced to having a Ferrari to drive on country roads only.
One of the ways businesses can reduce this problem is by embracing flexible workplaces. Meaning that people don’t get a desk anymore but at most a laptop and mobile chest of drawers to be able to sit anywhere they like. This way, you offer a viable solution for everyone to sit anywhere they like, in the most flexible way. This is all contingent on the work being able to be done via cloud services and stable VPN connections and having to handle as little paper documents as possible. Next to being more efficient with the available workspace, flexible working might also help improving communication between people who would normally not sit together in a predefined seating arrangement.
But even with the best laptops and cloud facilities, you will find people flex-working in the same place each day. There is something about having your ‘own’ spot at the office. A tell-tell sign is the appearance of more personal items at one’s desk, such as notebooks, a mug, and framed photographs. The framed photograph is probably the equivalent of leaving your coat on a seat to ‘reserve’ it for your friends who are still to arrive. This confronts businesses with another issue altogether: “do you enforce flexible workplaces?”
Wouldn’t that be the same as creating a predefined seating arrangement, with the only difference it changes quite frequently? For most companies, the answer is that flexible workplaces are a gradual (and slow) process. Some companies would do away with traditional desks altogether and offer bar-style and conference table workspaces. In promoting flexible workplaces, the philosophy can be to turn away from desks altogether.
Breaking Away From Traditional Planning
This thinking breaks away from the traditional office planning approach, with almost every room getting a function of bringing people together and/or as inspirational areas. Some locations are for focus, some are for creativity, some are for dialogue. As long as there are power points, strong WIFI, and a water and coffee machine, you can make it work. And what about the unused spaces in the office? That open space with the big windows, which gets too hot too quickly, with the right commercial window tint, can be the perfect large flexible working space! If the underutilization of office space tells us one thing, it’s this: think outside of the box!