Improving Workspace Utilization Part 3: Desk Sharing

In the past two weeks, we’ve explored ways to collect data and how to interpret it to find ways to improve workspace utilization. But it’s all numbers and big talk until you actually start implementing changes. If your workforce is inadequately prepared or if you roll out changes (such as desk sharing) in insensitive fashion, there can be pushback. Employees may feel displaced and disengaged. This week, let’s look at some ways to minimize disruption while maximizing productivity.

Plan, Communicate, Implement, Communicate

The GSA recently published a workspace utilization report with examples of major corporations that have successfully implemented desk sharing programs. For example, IBM now provides only 1 desk for every dozen workers. Of course, they didn’t make this change all at once. There was a lot of investigation involved. It began when they realized that many of their employees spent the majority of their time embedded with client organizations, where they were provided with a workstation as needed. These workers actually wanted to spend even more time at client locations (and the clients concurred). So, the desire was already present to make a change. IBM still proceeded with care. The organization:

  • Examined the options for 8 months to determine the best way forward;
  • Communicated with employees about upcoming changes;
  • Engaged a behavioral psychologist to help the team manage the transition from an emotional standpoint;
  • Tested an initial solution;
  • Requested feedback; and,
  • Rinsed and repeated for 3 years with additional office spaces before rolling out the program on a national basis.

What Strategy Works for Smaller Businesses?

Even if you have only one office location, you can still follow many of the smart practices from IBM. HR and executive management should work together to create a communication plan that:

  • Collects opinions and perspectives from employees prior to making final decisions about workspace utilization changes;
  • Communicates the “why” of the planned changes, explaining how they benefit the company and employees;
  • Has a mechanism in place to collect feedback about the changes that have been implemented; and,
  • Is open to adjustment on an ongoing basis to ensure an optimal outcome.

It’s Not All or Nothing

An intelligent desk sharing arrangement accommodates the needs of different work groups. For example, teams that work on-the-go may be well-suited to desk sharing while those who really are tied to a desk all day may be more fully supported with a dedicated space. The goal isn’t necessarily to force desk sharing on the entire workforce if it’s not a good fit. The goal should be to create an environment that supports the greatest efficiency for all employees while eliminating space that is truly going unused.

Improving Workspace Utilization Part 2

improving workspace utilizationHave you painstakingly collected loads of data so you can start improving workspace utilization? Now, you’re ready to sift through it and put this Workplace Business Intelligence to use in making smart decisions about how you allocate office space. Analyze the utilization data to determine the following:

Usage for Shared Spaces

  • Which spaces are used at the highest capacity and which spaces go unused
  • Which employees and departments use shared spaces and for what purpose
  • Times of day and days of the week when each area is used most often

Additional information to gather: Compare the actual usage data from shared spaces such as meeting rooms or conference rooms with the scheduled usage.

  • Are people showing up and using the space they’ve set aside?
  • Are small groups booking a large conference room when a small team meeting room would do?

This helps you identify whether people are hoarding the best workspaces even when they don’t need them. It can also help you decide whether space hibernation is a good option. With hibernation, you can use rules-based booking software to enforce an energy-saving approach to workspace utilization. For example, it might only offer the option to book conference rooms on one floor until all those spaces are filled. That way, you only have to heat or cool that floor.

Usage for Individual Workstations

  • The maximum workstation occupancy percentage on an average workday
  • The percentage of employees who are typically at their desk for most of the day
  • Peak times of day and days of the week for workstation occupancy

Additional information to gather:

  • Are employees working within the office but away from their desks? If so, where?
  • Are they setting up temporary workspaces in other areas? If so, what is it about these self-chosen workspaces that makes them more appealing than the assigned desks?

This type of information can give you insight into what types of flexible workspaces could be used to replace traditional workstations and reduce the overall office footprint. For example, if people are gathering in small social groups to collaborate on a come-and-go basis using mobile devices, a workplace lounge might be a viable option.

Next week, we’ll talk about some of the ways to ease a transition into desk-sharing, one of the most far-reaching and impactful ways of improving workspaces utilization.

Improving Workspace Utilization Part 1: Know Your Data

Is your company struggling with real estate costs or trying to fit an expanding workforce into an existing space? You could benefit from more efficient workspace utilization. Businesses all over the United States are experimenting with ways to cut expenses and optimize existing assets. Here are a few of the top trends for getting the most out of every square foot of office space.

It Starts with Tracking Current Use

Since your goal with this exercise is to make the work environment more useful, you need to begin by determining what areas are getting the most use right now. There are a number of ways to go about this:

  1. Random checks and headcounts throughout the day
  2. Computerized “check in” systems with kiosks, apps, or card readers that employees can use to check in and out of work areas or workstations
  3. Occupancy detectors featuring unobtrusive sensors that identify when a room or individual workstation is in use

Which One Works Best?

Option 1 is inexpensive but largely inaccurate. Fluctuations in usage throughout the day or from one week to the next may skew the data and give a false impression of space usage. It probably won’t provide enough data to help you make an informed decision. This technique would need to be used very methodically over an extended period of time to deliver useful information.

Option 2 may mean a significant one-time expense for setup and require multiple system types to cover all desired areas. In addition, it relies on full employee cooperation—which makes it prone to inaccuracy as well. It may work best for shared areas like meeting rooms and less well for individual workspaces.

Option 3 is a passive system that offers the highest level of accuracy and may be available using leased equipment that can be returned after it has delivered the necessary data. The sensors can be redeployed as necessary, allowing a company to track trends over time and reevaluate after each reconfiguration. This is often the ideal option for companies that want to track desk usage for a large workforce.

Once you have collected the data, what can you do with it? We’ll explore some options next week in Part 2

Buy Office Furniture That Keeps Everyone Happy

Are you ready to buy office furniture, but not sure if you are making the right choice for all your workers? Last week, we explored a couple of common personality types and what kind of office furniture and layout they are most likely to enjoy. Featuring a design layout with a number of different work areas is one way to give most of the people what they want most of the time. For example, a versatile facility might feature a mix of:

  • An area of open desks for collaboration and continuous communication
  • Enclosed workspaces or “pods” for tasks that require high concentration
  • Small meeting rooms or breakout areas for small teams
  • A larger meeting room for group discussions or videoconferencing
  • A work lounge for employees who prefer mobile technology

Let’s Get Granular: What Should Workstations Be Like?

The overall layout is the macro picture. At the micro level, employee workstations are often very standardized. Obviously, purchasing office furniture in bulk is the best way to get a good price. However, you can specify modern office furniture that it is highly customizable to meet a variety of needs and tastes. Regardless of personality or work style, employees do feel more engaged and valued when they have some control over their immediate work environment.

Consider selecting office furniture that allows employees to:

  • Reconfigure the layout from time to time
  • Add or remove features (tool rails work well for this)
  • Raise or lower the worksurface height
  • Use supplemental pieces like a rolling panel to create a cubicle door
  • Increase or lower the height of privacy panels
  • Adjust lighting at the desktop level

When you choose customizable, highly modular furniture, you can meet your objectives of:

  • Purchasing in bulk for cost savings
  • A uniform overall look and feel for branding
  • Good ergonomics for health and productivity
  • Promoting high levels of employee engagement

When you have the right starting place and some good advice, it’s a lot easier to buy office furniture that employees can tailor to their needs, their tasks, and their personality. At The Office Planning Group, we’re here to help you find furniture that can grow and change with your office. Contact us to schedule a space planning consultation today.