The way employees use the office has changed during the past few years. And with good reason. Hybrid working has made a splash in the corporate world, transitioning from a somewhat niche ‘perk’ to something that’s become expected by over 70% of professionals worldwide.
While this shift has many perks that we’ll get into in a bit, it also leaves facility managers, CFOs, and business owners with a dangling question: what with our office real estate?
In this blog article, we’ll dive into the various ways hybrid working impacts our office real estate and how you can get the most out of the spaces you have. Read on to find out!
Hybrid working has taken the world by storm. While professionals worldwide have found their way back to the office, it is painfully clear that the hybrid workplace remains underutilized, even today.
Many companies have adopted a more flexible approach to remote working. This, of course, has an impact on how much office space is actively required. From Colliers’ 2022 Innovation Summit, we gather that 60% will only need 50 to 70% of their existing office space in the coming three years.
Does this bring with it an opportunity to save costs? After all, commercial real estate is, on average, the second-highest expense for most businesses, only surpassed by payroll. The answer is not so clear-cut.
Real estate costs can indeed be reduced by downsizing the amount of space needed and allowing for flexible desk booking policies, or ‘office hoteling’ as it is often referred to. However, other costs will need to be considered to optimize the space you keep. In the end, the goal of your (hybrid) office space is to help your workforce be productive. That means it should also be equipped to accommodate hybrid working.
Equipping your hybrid workplace with the right outfit to accommodate hybrid working is one thing. But how do you equip your workforce for the same? Part of the answer lies in your working policies. Your working policies should create clear guidelines around remote and on-premise work and prevent chaos on the work floor. So how do you set up these policies?
Naturally, every company is different. Some sectors require more presence at the office than others. We mostly accept that. But the same can be said for the various teams in your company. Workspace needs are not universal. That’s why it’s important to organize your policies among your teams.
An issue that many companies stumble upon as they roll out their policies is inflexibility, which is ironic given the purpose of hybrid working. Make sure your policies allow for exceptions to be made. Your marketing team members might usually have a set ‘on-premise’ day on Wednesdays and two days that can be filled in as they see fit. But if a project requires them to collaborate more extensively, it should be possible for them to come into the office every day of that week. The same can be said for the onboarding process of new colleagues for example.
Understandably, this can be hard to manage. That’s why many larger companies have started relying on software to help them manage their working policies. Some workplace management software can even automate your policies into a booking system for employees. That way, based on policies, access rights, and work schedules, employees can book a desk or meeting room at the office on any given day they’re allowed to.
Importance of data
How exactly do you know how much office space you still need after implementing hybrid work policies? As always, data beats opinion! Measure how much space is actively – and optimally – in use. ‘Optimally’ is key here—the way your spaces are used matters a lot.
For example, we asked facility managers from various industries and sizes if their meeting rooms were being successfully used. Most of them answered with “yes.” But when asked about metrics such as the idle or usage rate, the showup rate, and the occupancy rate per meeting, almost all admitted to not having a clear answer.
These are all critical metrics as they give you insights into how optimally your office real estate is used. It is not all that uncommon for spaces to be misused. For example, let’s say that employees are using your meeting rooms as private offices. Without proper systems to track this, you could be left with the conclusion that you need more meeting rooms. While in actuality, the ones you have were already underutilized for their actual purpose. Instead, you might benefit more from installing focus booths or zones, freeing up your existing meeting rooms for actual meetings.
There are many reasons why hybrid working will remain popular in the foreseeable future. As mentioned in the introduction of this article, no less than 70% of employees worldwide expect their employers to allow for some flexibility in where they’re allowed to work from. With the war for talent raging on, not offering some form of flexibility can prove detrimental to a company’s recruitment prospects.
As has been proven in the past few years, this approach to working is viable for most companies that make use of conventional offices. With this many merits, a sensible question would be ‘why not implement hybrid working?’. Some might take that even further and ask why they should keep the office around at all.
However, this latter question ignores the purpose of the office. Yes, fully remote work can theoretically be good for business continuity. However, a lot of collaborative efforts suffer from it. The office is a place where collaborations, company culture, and work efficiency get bolstered. That is, if your office real estate is optimized and well-adapted for it.
Looking to optimize your office space? Explore how zapfloor’s workplace management software can help.