Blog 5.: From workplace to “Eco-system” 1.

Office as a strategic tool

Continuing our blog series, we will explain why the office space is more important than ever before.

In the previous blog posts we examined the megatrends that affect our daily lives. Trends that change our world (Blog 1), then influence the business life (Blog 2) and employee preferences (Blogs 3-4).

In today’s blog we will investigate how the workspace can be turned into an Eco-system.

In our methodology, there are 5 different areas to exploit the potential of workspaces, through which the office has impact on costs, efficiency, engagement and wellbeing. This is what we call an Eco-system.

What are these 5 important areas?

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1. Real estate optimisation

Optimisation can be done on many layers.

One way is to reduce the sqm surface per capita (smaller office for more people), which is a trend that can be seen in several countries. Over the past 10 years, it decreased by an average of about 18-20%, and in the next 5 years another 15% shrinkage is expected. In the US, decrease from 23 sqm to 14 sqm is predicted. In Europe the surface per capita is between 12 sqm and 20 sqm. Germany is exceptional with its 28 sqm, whereas in Hungary, the average is 10 sqm. Alone with reducing the working area we can only reduce costs, it has a rather negative effect on efficiency.

We recommend our customers to manage the space as a strategic asset and insert it in a comprehensive and long-term plan.

Another way of reducing sqm is the introduction of WPSs: Workplace Strategies. These can have multiple manifestations, like desk sharing when more people use the same desk, or homeworking, meaning that on certain days colleagues stay at home and work from there. This means that the company needs less desks than the actual headcount, therefore the office space can be reduced. This should also be a part of an overall strategy.

A further possibility of optimisation (in case we talk about a contracted office space) is to examine how the idle areas can be involved in the cycle and utilised to the max. Good examples are kitchens and café areas which are practically only utilised in the morning and lunchtime. A similar statement can be made regarding most large meeting rooms where 2-3 people regularly occupy a 10 seat conference room.

By real optimisation we mean transforming the office space to make it more resilient (refer to my question in blog 1, at the end of the chapter about volatility, namely: How much can an office space be receptive of changes, be a strategic tool?).

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resilience: The reception of and rapid adaptation to changes in order to remain operational and take advantage of the change.

 

To make a workplace resilient we need 3 things:

 

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Diverse zones (clusters) – To enable an increasingly diverse workforce, technology tools and ideas to co-exist.

We used to have two main zones to be focused on in past office space planning: the actual workspace, where the workstations were located and meeting rooms, the venues of negotiation, suitable for both internal discussions and welcoming external guests.

When planning, today, we have to consider many more zones as more complex work is done by more diverse workforce (professional, cultural and generational differences) and we should also take advantage of technology (virtual collaboration, mobility, etc.). A well-thought and well-zoned space should support concentration, teamwork, brainstorming, socializing and learning, the possibility for seamlessly sharing analogue and digital information as well as virtual collaboration. All of this is to be done in a way that every sqm is used and measurably utilized.

When planning a resilient workspace, attention should be focused on the density of such zones, availability, transparency and ease of use.

It’s strongly advised to create a comprehensive Work Place Strategy before planning anything, in order to define the need for such zones or their quantity or shapes. An important part of the strategy should be to provide for the “Choice and Control” philosophy. This means that the employee should have the opportunity to decide where and how they carry out their work most efficiently, whether on their own or in a team, using either analogue or digital information, or being present either physically or virtually.

A well-zoned, diverse space can react to any kind of change much easier!

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Modularity – multifunctional, fluid spaces to rapidly trace changes

It is important to deploy the most appropriate spatial typology for the operation of the specific company and that the „I / Owned”, „I / Shared”, „We / Owned” and „We / Shared” spaces’ ratio. A workplace can only adapt to change if the allocation of space, furniture and technology solutions enable it to be easily reconfigured. This is what we call modularity.

If possible, avoid division of space with permanent walls and the use of built-in, large and hardly movable applications. Instead, multifunctional and fluid spaces should be designed. Regarding furniture, the focus should be on using moible, versatile, expandable, reconfigurable elements.

Every sqm in the office should serve the work that is being done there. But when we talk about sqm, we tend to think only of the horizontal surface. Think of how much unused vertical surface offices have! This drives us to include vertical surfaces in the space concept(e.g. to make work visible).

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Feedback loop – conscious measurement and modifications for maximum utilisation

The use of space utilisation measurement and continuous feedback allow the company to find out how zones are exploited in order to increase space usage efficiency.

Modularity allows for the quick reconfiguration and modification of each space function, so that it can be measured and modified again, until it fully contributes to the operation of the company.

Measuring space utilization in a concious way is increasingly important in facility management these days.

For example, the usage of meeting spaces. If you have a 10 seat conference room, and it is used by 2-3 people 90% of time, and you also have a shortage of meeting rooms on a regular basis, why not have two 5 seat meeting rooms, and we’ve already doubled space utilisation and decreased the useless time spent finding free meeting rooms. Meeting space reservation systems are available, that allows for the rooms to be booked either on-site or remotely, and clearly visible colored indicators show if the room is occupied or not. A variety of statistics are stored and can then be retrieved any time. Kitchens, collaborative spaces and shared workstations can be targets of similar measurement. To monitor these, an array of sensors are provided, tracking movement and utilisation 24/7. The data is then evaluated by a cloud based application and can be retrieved any time for further interpretation. This system does not connect to the company network so it is easy to install and any given peroid of time can be measured.

They say that managing a facility without monitoring space utilization is like running a company without a P&L statement.

Measuring can then be extended to the extreme. There are systems that have gadgets the size of a badge, for each employee. This system tracks who is where, which routes they take in the office, with whom and how often they interact, and from the blood pressure even the vibe of the conversations can be inferred. This complex measurement doesn’t only help with space utilisation but also to explore the company’s informal network (sociometrics).

There is a growing importance of the so-called ‘Moneyball’ approach. Maximum performance is reached by monitoring and data analysis. This comes from the movie with the same title (starring Brad Pitt) where a baseball team is selected out of only mediocre players using an analysis of performance data. This is a true story from the 2002 Championship. The team was undefeated through 20 games in a row, tht allowed them to win the championship. It is unique in the history of the sport and it also inspired a book. The adaptation of this book is the 2011 movie, Moneyball.

I will write about the other 4 important areas in my future posts.

 

Kis Károly | Károly Kis

ügyvezető partner | Managing Partner | BLUE Business Interior Kft.

 

 

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