Every organization has to create a space plan, whether they have 100 or 10,000 employees.
But now that the number of people actually using office spaces is anyone’s guess, creating an effective space plan is a whole new ball game.
In this post, we’ll dive into what space planning really means in the age of hybrid work, what makes space planning effective, and the steps space planners should be taking to model the future workspace in the age of hybrid, flexible and remote working.
Space planning: a definition
In an explainer video for Study.com, teachers Stephanie Przybylek and Sasha Blakeley define space planning as “the in-depth analysis of how physical space is used in structures. It considers the purpose of spaces and who will use them. Space planning is a process that takes several steps, and it’s an important component for the work of interior designers and architects. Space planning helps ensure efficient use of floor space without wasting it.”
Workplace space planning is an analysis of how office space is currently being used, as well as a detailed plan for how everything that comprises office space – from desks to kitchenettes – will be configured moving forward.
Effective space planning carries out the organization’s business objectives, makes sure employees have the resources they need to do their best work in the office, and last but not least – is dynamic and adaptable.
Looking for a deep dive into what it takes to plan and manage spaces effectively in the age of hybrid work? Tune into this on-demand webinar:
Benefits of effective space planning
- Reduced costs from a rightsized real estate portfolio
- Reduced costs from avoiding the waste of facilities management on underused spaces
- An improved employee experience and more employees coming into the office as a result
- Stronger employee performance
- Increased energy efficiency through better use of space
- A workplace that adapts to work habits and preferences
- A workplace that scales dynamically as the company grows
- Data-driven decisions that inform office layout and office design
Steps to effective space planning
1. Measure how all workspaces are being used and occupied.
The starting point for your space planning guidelines should always be bringing in all office floor plans and tracking how every square inch of space that’s either owned or occupied is being used by employees. That could be done through consolidating CAD plans, Excel spreadsheets or using a workplace analytics platform. The goal here is to distil measurement down to what’s actually usable (e.g. desks and conference rooms) and significantly, what’s actually being used.
Do employees flock to the conference rooms for brainstorms or stick to the desks, for example? Without measuring past and present space utilization, implementing the office layout and design that keeps people coming back into the office will be a shot in the dark.
What should you be measuring?
2. Understand your workplace strategy and how it will guide space planning.
A workplace strategy aligns work patterns and preferences with work environments, and supports the organization’s objectives, such as cutting costs or retaining and attracting top talent. Space planning falls under the umbrella of workplace strategy, and as the plan for how space will be used in the future, it’s the physical embodiment of that strategy.
That’s why it’s critical that space planners take time to explore the full scope of the workplace strategy to ensure the right objectives are reflected in the plan.
Effective space planning is dynamic and evolves at the same pace as the organization. For that reason, aligning the space planning process with your organization’s workplace strategy will set you up for success from the get-go.
Nail your workplace strategy with this Workplace strategy guide for workplace innovators!
3. Define occupancy profiles and create an occupancy strategy.
An effective space plan quantifies both supply and demand – the supply of existing workspaces and the demand employees put on those spaces. Measuring all owned and occupied space down to the square inch is what quantifies supply, while utilization data and occupancy profiles – the ways different employee groups occupy workspaces – make up the demand side of the equation.
Back in B.C (before Covid), there was a grand total of one employee occupancy profile – people who come into the office five days a week. There may have been the odd employee who occasionally worked remotely or out in the field several times a week, or a particular team who collectively decided to come in at 10 AM every morning, but nothing major enough to alter a space plan.
Fast forward to today, where hybrid working has created multiple occupancy profiles. We have the keen beans who come in every day, the Tuesday through Thursday hybrid crowd, the out-of-towners who only come in for client meetings…the list goes on. To serve the needs of all employees, all office floor plans must be tailored around how each of these multiple employee occupancy profiles uses the workspace. And that’s why taking the time to thoroughly scope out what each occupancy profile needs from the workspace is imperative if you want a space plan that improves your employee experience and doesn’t waste space.
Learn more about the five different types of hybrid working here!
4. Deploy a space planning software that’s built for hybrid work.
Most organizations will be using space management software, because doing everything manually when you’re dealing with millions of square feet is a recipe for a migraine.
However, most space planning systems are built for BC (before Covid), when employees were directly assigned to one desk only – without hot desking, desk hoteling or semi-permanent remote working anywhere in sight.
Now that hybrid and flexible work is the norm, space planning systems have to assign multiple occupancy groups to different spaces that are used in different ways at different times, and model the best way for the workspace to accommodate each group. Using a space planning system that can model a hybrid occupancy strategy and space plan will make sure office layout and design meets the needs of employees – however their work habits and preferences change in the future (which they definitely will).
5. Consistently measure the success of the space plan and adjust the strategy over time.
The most concise space plan is all for nothing if spaces aren’t used in the intended way after the plan is deployed. Effective space planning is an iterative and cyclical process, not just a one-stop shot. The single biggest measure of success can be found in utilization data.
Are people using the new conference rooms? Great! But if it becomes apparent after a few months that they’re being used for meetings of three people instead of the 15 people they were designed for, it could be time to break them down into smaller rooms to make the best possible use of the space – not to mention avoid waste on utilities and cleaning.
What’s more, at some point every workplace will reach a state of equilibrium – in other words, where occupancy reaches a steady state and becomes predictable. This is the right moment to take those important real estate portfolio decisions that CFOs are chomping at the bit for real estate and facilities teams to make. Measuring the success of a space plan with the help of utlilization data provides the means to make decisions based on data rather than observation – decisions that can have a massive impact on your bottom line.
Webinar: How to Adapt to a Dynamic New Era of Space Management
The old world of work was static. The new world of work is dynamic.
But the approaches, processes and tools workplace leaders and space planners are using haven’t caught up.
Watch this on-demand webinar to explore a new approach that’s built to handle the constant change of a dynamic workplace.