Guest blogger, Jackie Furey -the Director of Where Workplace Works- gets to grips with wasted workspace and explains how analytics are the only way of truly knowing how well a working environment is utilised…
It probably won’t shock you to hear this, but businesses waste a lot of space.
Last year, a UK workplace study revealed that the cost of this wastage is likely to be as high as £10 billion per year- and that’s just in England and Wales. In London alone, the cost of under-utilised space is said to be more than £4 billion annually.
And, if you still aren’t shocked then consider this – these are only estimations. If all workplace properties were suitably examined, it’s highly likely that those figures would be a lot higher. The fact is, you’ll never truly know how well an office is utilised until you perform a workplace analysis and assess precisely how it is being used.
For example, take an office that appears to be relatively busy. At a glance you may not see any wastage. Most desks are occupied, the meeting rooms appear to be booked and the break-out zones appear to have people in them. A snapshot look like that could easily convince you that all is well.
However, if you were to assess the environment over a period of time, analysing the way in which it is used (and perhaps the behaviour of staff using it), you’ll find that, actually the office is only ever utilised around 54% of the time- at most.
It may also reveal that many of the staff members that are present work flexibly and use the office to informally meet, or converse with colleagues- (so maybe this activity should be further encouraged?) It may also show that despite being booked all day, large meeting rooms are mainly used by lone workers and furthermore the breakout zone is an area utilised only 8% of the time, with 59% of staff choosing to eat at their desks.
Suddenly, you realise that a lot of the office space you occupy is not only wasted, but in many ways, failing.
So, what is a workplace analysis and how is it performed?
Put simply, an analysis of your workspace occurs thorough a series of regular assessments over a long period of time, to gain a closer understanding of exactly how the space currently functions. This is typically done by an audit team, who observe and record their findings via mobile technology, assessing the space across every single area of the office. Ordinarily, these observations are recorded every half hour, over a period of a typical week (or sometimes more). This can also be achieved via sensors, although at Where Workplace Works, we observe and record the activities taking place and by default are able to gain a more thorough insight into utilisation levels.
A Where Workplace Works consultant assessing a workplace
Sensor studies, whilst providing a good insight into office occupancy, are also widely used, but cannot differentiate between a vacant desk and ‘Signs of Life’ on a desk. This means that they are unable to register a desk which is empty, but clearly still in use or occupied (as the operator is away in meetings all day, taking a comfort breaks, or momentarily using other areas of the office). Therefore, despite appearing empty, the desk is effectively still occupied, and sensors will miss that information.
In short, sensor studies are currently unable to gather the important data on what is occurring in the space. That vital piece of the puzzle allows us to make suggestions on where the workplace activities should take place rather than where they did take place.
The Meeting Room
To give an example, let’s take another look at that meeting room – given that these rooms are one of the most commonly underutilised environments in the office- (in fact, a general workplace utilisation study will typically reveal that a large meeting room is used less than 40% of the time).
It is a common misconception that meeting rooms are constantly busy, simply because they are difficult to book. (That is partly because meeting rooms tend to have rush hours).
Consider, for example, a room that can accommodate as many as 20 people. After studying utilisation, it would not be unusual to find that for 68% of the time it is utilised, the space is used only for meetings with 2-3 people and 19% of the time it is used by single individuals. However, given that it only ever reaches full capacity 1% of the time, it’s obvious the space is rarely used to is full potential- or its intended purpose.
Making changes based on evidence
The data generated from a workspace analysis provides you with everything you need to make strong evidence-based decisions. In the case above, the results would give you a clear understanding of the space and how it is currently used. You are therefore able to make one of two informed decisions. You can either free up the meeting room space for alternative use, (by creating more appropriate areas for those small groups or lone workers)- or develop it so that it becomes an environment that is used to its best potential.
For example- by considering utilisation and behaviour, you may find that, the large meeting room is being used 68% of the time by 2 or 3 people, for informal style meetings – so maybe your office lacks a more informal meeting area, collaborative space, huddle or pod, that wouldn’t occupy as much floorspace? It is also clear that single workers use this room regularly to make calls or work contemplatively – so further investigation may lead you to understand that perhaps the office lacks privacy? Or perhaps it has sound issues? Maybe the introduction of a quiet zone or booths could free up the need to use such a vast space? As for the 1% time it is used to full capacity – well there are always alternatives such as the hire of external conference rooms, for those rare occasions.
The revelation that a large-scale meeting room is seldom used could lead you to reassess the square feet you currently dedicate to meetings. If you are a bigger business, imagine that on a larger scale, over a few floors- paired with the fact that utilisation is low- you could potentially free up even more space to accommodate flexible working, and low utilisation levels, by reducing empty or seldomly used desks.
If you were to analyse and assess all meeting rooms and utilisation, that could potentially have a significant impact, especially if a business has a portfolio of similar properties.
Of course, workplace analysis gives important data about all areas and zones, not just meeting rooms and general utilisation. It can reveal the use of specific environments and features, even equipment- and the effectiveness of all of these and whether they are used for their true purpose. More importantly- these studies can identify exactly what your staff are demonstrating a need for.
Once access to this information exists- you can develop a clear, evidence-based case for change, enabling your working environment to properly support the working patterns of your staff with great consideration towards the way they prefer to work.
Where Workplace Works is a workplace consultancy that offers a focused range of workplace consultancy services, with the necessary tools and expertise to help understand your business, your people, and your place of work.
If you would like to learn more about the workplace analysis services Where Workplace Works provides, you can email Jackie Furey directly : firstname.lastname@example.org or visit: www.whereworkplaceworks.com