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A Guide to Space Management for Workplace Leaders in 2024

May 3, 2024
7 min read
HubStar VP of Growth
Guide To Space Management In 2024

How do you adapt the work environment to the ways employees want to use it? And how can you do it in a way that doesn’t feel like a reckless game of battleship?

In this post, we’ll look at effective space management – what it is, how it’s changed since the pandemic the five ways to get it right in 2024.

What is space management? 

Space management is the ongoing process of monitoring, altering and maximizing the efficiency of all the space available to employees in a workplace. 

Simply put, space management is the ongoing process of making workspaces better. 

What’s the difference between space management and space planning? 

Similar, but different. Even though these two concepts both revolve around changing workspaces, they have different goals and happen at different times. 

Space management is a continuous process. Space planning, on the other hand, happens in the pre-design and design phases of workspaces. And while the goal of space management is the efficient usage of all workspaces, the goal of space planning is the best allocations and configurations of space to meet requirements. 

5 Steps To Effective Space Planning

5 Steps to Effective Space Planning

The world of work used to be static, but now it’s dynamic. Follow these 5 steps to effective space planning to build a workplace that keeps up with the constant…

The Benefits of Office Space Management 

  • A better workplace experience. Office layout and design impact productivity, culture and employee wellbeing.  “Both architectural and atmospheric elements can determine employee perceptions about social norms, organisational behaviour and social interaction possibilities”, states a 2022 study.  A great workplace experience keeps people coming back into the office by choice. That gets CRE leaders more ROI from the entire real estate portfolio.

  • Predictable attendance levels. The one thing that makes space management for hybrid offices so challenging is unpredictable attendance levels. Paradoxically, effective space management can actually make attendance levels more predictable. It sounds like a riddle but it’s not. Effective space management creates better workplaces, and people want to come into great workplaces more regularly, which evens out occupancy patterns.

  • Reduced costs. Space management isn’t the silver bullet for getting rid of unwanted office space and solving the empty office crisis. But what it can do, when used effectively, is cut the operating costs of all office space, with the most noticeable differences in underused spaces. How? By repurposing empty space into something employees are more likely to use, or by strategically shuttling down use of energy and FM services in proportion to utilization levels

  • Reduced carbon emissions. With new sustainability data and reporting disclosure regulations coming into effect this year alongside net zero targets, companies need to be able to tie office operations to environmental impact. Effective space management shapes the workplace around how employees are using it, preventing wasted energy, services and resources like food for cafeterias

How has office space management changed since the pandemic?

Space management has always existed, but up until recently it was done far less frequently and for different reasons. 

It was also a whole lot easier and less complex pre-2020, because when spaces needed to be changed up it was typically for one of two reasons: 

  1. Too many employees to comfortably fit in the office 
  2. Inefficient use of space (e.g. a shortage of meeting rooms every day of the week) 

Whereas now that hybrid work is the norm, it’s much less obvious when space needs to be changed and improved. That’s because all of these realities are now true: 

  • People come into the office at different times that are very difficult to predict 
  • People come into the office for different reasons 
  • Office space is getting increasingly expensive to operate 
  • Hybrid work means that most companies will require less space, even if the number of employees is the same or greater than pre-pandemic 
  • Hybrid policies and forced return-to-office mandates don’t make office attendance more predictable 
  • People share multiple workspaces instead of just one permanently assigned desk
  • Employees want the office to give them something remote work can’t to make the commute worth it 

So to summarize the above, office space management in 2024 needs to: 

  • Accommodate lots of different hybrid work schedules 
  • Accommodate increased space sharing 
  • Reduce operating costs wherever possible
  • Make the office somewhere employees choose to be (without being forced) 

Space management now needs to accommodate each of the above realities without overcrowding or undercrowding. 

And since space management for hybrid offices combines workplace data, employee experience and constant change management, it needs to be cross-functional. HR, Ops, CRE and IT need to be involved as opposed to just space planners and managers. 

Ordinary space management now has a new discipline – hybrid space management

But how can you nail space management when the targets are constantly moving? 

It might seem like attempting to build a castle on top of a sand dune, but it doesn’t have to be. 

5 Ways to Nail Space Management in 2024

1) Measure your capacity

How much office space do we have right now?

Ask multiple C suite leaders, and their answer to this conundrum will always be “too much”.

But to answer this question with certainty, you’ll need to undertake a full audit of how much office space exists across the entire real estate portfolio. Measuring the total square footage will probably be a cinch. What could be more challenging and time consuming time-consuming (but necessary) is measuring the function of each space. 

For example, record the numbers of individual workstations, small, medium and large meeting rooms, lounges and kitchenettes. This is critical because successful hybrid office spaces offer a wide variety of functionalities and uses, so having this information is the baseline you’ll use to decide on the changes you’ll need to make. 

Pro-tip – ratios are very useful for establishing a baseline too. For example, the ratios of individual to collaborative spaces and the ratios of permanently assigned to hot desks. 

2) Measure employee demand for the workplace

How much and what types of workspaces actually need?

This is when a clear picture of the work to be done starts to emerge. This stage of space management is about more than just figuring out how much space people need – it’s also about figuring out the types of spaces they need. 

Measuring how people are using the office is central to figuring out employee demand. Most organizations turn to badge swipes and hybrid policies for this data, but neither can provide the granular level of data required. That’s because badge swipes only show if people came into the office, not what they did, and enforcing hybrid policies doesn’t necessarily mean people are following them. 

There are more descriptive metrics your organization can use to measure employee demand, including space utilization rate

Pro-tip – Measure employee demand for specific business units and the teams within them (e.g. Commercial team, the sales team) to inform better space allocation for neighborhoods. 

5 Space Utilization Metrics for a Better Workplace in 2024

5 Space Utilization Metrics for a Better Workplace in 2024

Measure these 5 space utilization metrics to cut costs, improve employee experience and make real estate portfolio decisions with certainty.

3) Match space supply with employee demand 

This stage of space management is a lot like a puzzle. The desk sharing that comes with hybrid work can make this step a lot more complex than it would have been before the pandemic. Most people might come in two or three times per week depending on your hybrid policy, but others might come in once in a blue moon, expect a permanently assigned desk five days a week, or want to work from different locations. 

Chances are, you’ll have more employees than space. Figuring out the right sharing ratios and space assignments is how you make it all work. 

It really helps to use floor plans as a visual here, and overlay spaces with the employee groups that will be using them. Doing this with tools like AutoCAD or using paper is going to be a nightmare of Sisyphean proportions, so the right tech will come in really handy.

4) Use agile space optimization for better space management

For most organizations, underused office space is a lot more likely to crop up than overcrowded space. Underused space could be occurring for a couple of reasons: 

  • Employees need different space functionalities – collaboration, relaxing, quiet individual work and more – that the office doesn’t currently offer.
  • There’s just not enough employees to fill the space

So whether your spaces are over or undercrowded, how do you make them better when work patterns are so unpredictable?

Agile space optimization is the way to go.

Instead of making office design decisions based on a hunch, agile space optimization is about working from reliable data and course-correcting quickly. Some organizations, for example, rushed to install kitchens with free food to entice employees back into the office, only to discover nobody used them and subsequently had to rip them out.

A limited test to explore whether kitchens serve as an attractor is clearly preferable to spending a giant wad of budget on kitchens that turned out to be a flop.

Agile space optimization not only avoids wasting time and budget, but also avoids false assumptions about what’s working and what isn’t.

1

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5) Rinse and repeat

When it comes down to it, space management is a series of experiments.

With hybrid work being the status quo, work patterns and workplace norms are constantly changing. No one knows what external events might happen that alter the ways we work entirely.

The right amounts and types of space functionalities are always going to evolve – which means space management needs to be a continuous and iterative process.

When demand is unpredictable, data is the only thing that provides certainty. Consistently measuring space utilization data illuminates how things are changing and the right actions to take.

Space management is one of several ways to align the work environment with workplace patterns and preferences as part of an adaptable workplace strategy.

Download this guide for the whole story on how to build a workplace that cuts costs, improves experience and achieves business objectives in 2024.

Workplace Strategy in 2024 - how-to guide download
HubStar
Author

HubStar

HubStar is a next-gen hybrid workplace platform that helps workplace innovators create a productive, connected workplace. Bring teams together in the right place at the right time while optimizing the spaces, facilities and policies they need to collaborate, do their best work and thrive.

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