Workforce Empowerment: What’s in a Space?

It’s not news that your office—its layout, style, decor, and overall design—can profoundly impact your employees and their performance. Your space planning design can help make this impact positive by encouraging productive and collaborative activities.

Space Planning Design for Business Needs

Ultimately, your office design should facilitate your employee’s work so the business can achieve its goals. Productive, engaged employees (i.e. those who can do their work better and faster) usually mean more business goals are met.

So, when looking at the space planning and design for your office, you must be clear on:

  • Your business goals
  • The work your employees need to do to achieve those goals

For example, one business goal might be to expand into a new market by the end of the year. To do that, your marketing team needs to be able to research and develop a solid marketing strategy. What does that research and development look like? Lots of time and space to brainstorm ideas? Onsite research in that new market? Maybe focus groups to test different strategies?

Once you understand your business goals and how they’ll be achieved, you can begin your space planning design to best facilitate that work.

Getting Good Employee Input

When you’re planning a change in your workplace, whether it’s relatively small or radical, getting and using input from employees is a good way to help them get excited about the change. The key is to get constructive input. There are three methods companies use most:

  • Surveys: These can be very helpful, but it’s often challenging to design a survey that will give you complete and accurate data. Employees may not have time to fill out surveys, so you may have to offer incentives to get responses.
  • Focus groups: Focus groups allow you to ask deeper, more specific questions to a select group of people that represent each department or business unit.
  • Audits: Walking around your workplace, observing what people are doing—and asking them, what they’re doing and what would make their jobs easier—can give you a lot of good information. But, you’ll need to conduct this exercise several times to get a complete picture.

Space planning and utilization software, like Serraview, can provide an accurate picture of the type of work people are doing. Empirical data can illustrate how often employees are in meetings or conferences or how frequently they collaborate or work solo. Of course, it also will show many people or which teams are typically in the office on any given day.

The data you gain from strong utilization software can be invaluable. You may know, based on data that your utilization software provides that approximately 60% of your employees are in the office at a given time. But, does that mean 60% of every department? More likely, maybe 25% of your sales staff is in the office most of the time, along with 80% of your HR department, 50% of your legal team, and 40% of your IT department (except on the various days each week or month when different departments have “all hands” meetings). Utilization software will be able to provides specific data so your space planning design can account for the different needs of each group.

How does space planning software maximize ROI?

Create Water Cooler Moments—but Don’t Force Them

Most companies today want a space planning design that encourages collaboration, both planned (breakout or brainstorming rooms that teams can book) and spontaneous (cafe-like settings where people can stop and chat while having coffee). You should intentionally try to design a layout that encourages a certain flow through the space. You can add furniture and other items, like whiteboards, that will encourage people to share ideas when they meet. But don’t get so fixated on creating the “ideal water cooler” space, and don’t worry if the space doesn’t get used exactly as you intended.

Learn how to make your workplace go from lifeless to lively.

If certain spaces are being used differently than designed, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re being used incorrectly. If a space is designed to meet people’s needs, they will use it—but their needs might not be exactly what you envisioned. Flexibility is a crucial element in every space planning design.

Flexibility does not have to mean a completely open office, or even an activity-based workspace. It just means that, as you design your space for your current needs and you keep potential needs in mind. This may mean choosing smaller desks for offices to make it easier to move them (and people) around. Or it may mean running cables and wires through ceilings to make it easy to convert an office to a conference room with video capability. You will not be able to plan for every possible scenario, but with some forethought, you can make it easier to adapt to different possibilities.

Strong space utilization software makes office space planning and design a snap—request a demo today and find out how.


Why Many Corporations Fail to Optimize Their Buildings for Peak Utilization

You’ve made the switch to activity-based working and have reduced your footprint. You’ve removed desks and individual workstations, and now your people-to-seat ratio has been adjusted based on your usage data. You managed the transition well and your employees seem happy and productive.

Until…somehow, every department decided to schedule an all-hands meeting on the same day. Will there be chaos as everyone tries to find an open desk and sufficient meeting room space? Or have you planned for peak utilization of your building?

What Is Peak Utilization?

It’s the scenario above—when everyone, or nearly everyone, shows up to the office, expecting to have a desk or workstation. Will there be enough to go around? As companies adjust their people-to-seat ratio (on the understanding that, on average, 40% of their space isn’t being used) and move to hybrid or agile working environments, planning for peak utilization is a crucial exercise.

Change how you track space utilization to get a more accurate picture of your building usage.

What it Takes to Plan for Peak Utilization

There are two main approaches that go hand-in-hand:

1. Understand work patterns so you know when/how often to expect peak utilization

Each department likely has slightly different needs and work patterns. Maybe Monday through Thursday, you can safely assume that only half the Sales team will be in the office, but that department has a meeting every Friday and almost all of them will be there in person.

Maybe the Marketing team, which works next to Sales, also regularly schedules a team meeting the last Friday of every month, so you know that’s the day when that space will be crowded.

2. Encourage work patterns to keep resource utilization balanced

You could just accept that on that last Friday, Marketing and Sales will be fighting for space. Or you could share the data you have with Marketing and Sales to help them make a decision about their schedules.

Take a close look at employee work patterns so you know what to expect on any given day.

Activity-based working is not a one-size-fits-all—learn how it can be adapted for your company.

What’s Stopping Companies from Planning for Peak Utilization

Historically, getting accurate data on building usage required time-consuming manual audits. Now, thanks to space planning and utilization software and other technology, the bigger barrier is effective communication. Employees often resist being told to change the way they work—whether that means giving up their desk or scheduling meetings earlier or later to avoid overbooked conference rooms. Having a strong change management and communication plan will help you implement policies to handle peak utilization.

But What Do You Do When Everyone Shows Up?

Sometimes, no matter how much you plan and prepare, you’ll be surprised by a full office. If you’ve been creative and purposeful with your space planning, you won’t have chaos. Set up multi-use spaces that people can use: lobbies, hallways, cafeterias or breakrooms can all be outfitted to serve as part-time workstations or meeting spaces. Some companies can make use of outdoor spaces as well.

When you create multi-use spaces, make sure they will function well when being used for work activities. Check that your Wi-Fi can support them and that they have adequate technology available.

Communication for Resource Utilization

Having these multi-use spaces or a plan to handle peak utilization won’t do any good if no one knows about them. In addition to a communication plan that eases employees into new ways of work, your change management strategy should also explain how various spaces can be used and what to expect when office traffic is above average. You can also share your usage data with department heads so they understand how they can adjust their team’s work patterns to minimize occurrences of peak utilization.

Find out other ways activity-based working serves your employees. Download our guide to creating an activity-based working strategy in your office.