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Property Team: How To Drive Space Utilization Planning Conversations

Taking control and optimizing your
space saves millions

Ian Morely

By Ian Morley

The need for space utilization planning is no secret to corporate space planners. You know you should be taking steps to proactively manage the use of your property. Taking control and optimizing your space would not only save your company millions, but do wonders for your career prospects as well. Imagine gaining the respect of your business peers and executive leaders when you can drive strategic change throughout your company.

Space Utilization Planning: How’s That Going?

How can your property team be proactive when you’re drowning in spreadsheets and floor plans, and just trying to stay afloat dealing with the constant barrage of space requests from the business? Like many property teams out there, you’re probably so overworked that you are forced to operate in react mode.

Even if you had the time to do space utilization planning, getting the data you need to make decisions is another major hurdle. To come up with scenarios that make more efficient use of your workplace, you need accurate data about who sits where as it stands now. Not only does it take a tremendous amount of time to collect all that information manually, but by the time you’re done people have moved around and the data is already out of date.

Without that data, you are driving blind when trying to do space utilization planning, and you can’t prove to the business what you know from observation: that your space is under-utilized. So you are forced to give in time and time again to those endless demands for more space. So how can you demonstrate the true occupancy story and drive those space utilization planning conversations with your business units?

First Things First: Win Friends and Influence People

You need data to prove your case for space utilization planning. How are you going to get that data without walking the halls with a clipboard and adding to your stacks of spreadsheets?

Here’s a surprisingly effective way to get started: by making friends with the people who know your space the best and making them into your space champions.

Every floor or business team has an executive assistant, personal assistant or other staff member who already knows everyone and where they sit. There’s a good chance this person already has a list or a floor plan on their desk showing where everyone sits. These people should be your new best friends as they can be a wealth of information. They can also be your eyes and ears on the ground to give you a heads up about the upcoming needs of the business. Best of all, they’ll be instrumental in helping you drive any changes that you’re planning.

However, this advice comes with a warning: if you don’t make friends with these people, they’re likely to be your biggest roadblocks for future space utilization planning initiatives. If they don’t trust you to offer value to the business, they won’t cooperate with your requests and your plans. Even worse, they will horde space that could be better utilized.

The question is, how can you get these potential space champions on your side and providing you with the data you need for space utilization planning? The answer lies in providing tools that make it easy and offer them value.

How Technology Can Help Your Space Utilization Planning Efforts

Workplace management tools

As you’re probably well aware, keeping track of people manually is a losing battle. Workplace management software can improve the situation in a hurry. Products with modern, cloud-based technology can be up and running in a few months.

Yet here is what you might not know: you’ll get the most space utilization planning benefits from choosing a software tool that allows your business teams to update and validate their own data. Here’s why:

1. They understand the benefits. Those space champions begin to be motivated to work with you when you give them access to their own data: up-to-date floor plans, staff lists integrated with your corporate directory, the ability to print their own reports and manage their own space requests.
2. You gain an undisputed source of truth. There are no more arguments about data accuracy. Now when you have a conversation with the business about their space usage, they can’t question your data since they validated it themselves.

Utilization tracking technology

After you’ve built your network of space champions, the next step is to look to utilization measurement technologies to augment your data and show where you have the opportunity to do better space utilization planning.

Some examples of utilization measurement technology include badge swipe, network tracking and sensor systems. Armed with the data these systems provide, you can now have a conversation with your business unit not only about their vacancy rates, but also their underutilization of the desks they have assigned to their staff.

Related articles:
What’s New In Smart Building Technology: Occupancy Sensors
The New Workplace Space Utilization Metrics You Need To Know About

Space Utilization Planning Tips That Help You Gain Trust and Drive Change

Once you’ve got the enabling technology in place, here’s how to prioritize your efforts to make the most impact with your space utilization planning.

  1. Train your space champions on your new workplace management system right away. Be sure to explain your process so they understand that you now have the ability to rapidly provide them with new space when needed. When they trust your ability to do this, they are much more likely to hand back space that’s not needed right now.

  2. Further encourage business units to give up space they don’t need by showing them the cost (or even the notional cost) of their vacant space. Especially in a chargeback situation, this information can be a powerful motivator to consolidate and cooperate with your space utilization planning initiatives.

  3. Implement a formal process for your space champions to spend 5 minutes at the start of each month updating their occupancy information. To make it easy for them, create visual reports showing who sits where on a floor plan.

  4. Start your space utilization planning with the low-hanging fruit. Produce a “top 10 offender” report that highlights business units who are sitting on large amounts of vacancy or under-utilized space, and focus your efforts on optimizing these areas.

  5. Finding small pockets of available space is a help, but you can do more with that space by restacking your floor(s) to consolidate all that vacancy into one contiguous area.

  6. Engage with your CFO or Financial Controller community early and often. They are ultimately the audience who will be most interested in your space utilization planning efforts as a way to save on property costs and reduce wasted spend. They also have the ability to provide the executive support you need and put the necessary weight behind your initiative.

Related article: 10 Steps That Drive Better Space Efficiency in the Workplace

To accomplish your space utilization planning goals, it’s essential to choose workplace management software that’s aligned with your needs.

Find out the most important points that you must not neglect in your evaluation process with this practical guide: 5 Critical Comparison Points for Workplace Management Software.

5 Critical Comparison Points for Workplace Management Software

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