Space Management | Optimizing Your Office for a Safer Environment
Space management has seen some major advancement over the years. Organizations and businesses are increasingly becoming space-conscious, always looking for ways to maximize occupancy without compromising workspace comfort for its occupants. Now more than ever, organizations and businesses need to be mindful of their space usage. Proper space allocation is now required in every workplace to meet the COVID-19 safety regulations.
Evolution of Space Management
Space management became popular in the 1970s. Back then, the focus was more on restorative cleaning and maintenance. There were no tools, strategies, or solutions to measure occupancy and determine if the workplaces’ various facilities were well utilized. However, at that time, employee expectations and employers’ priorities were also different.
Today, employees want to work in decent, smart offices that are spacious and well organized. On the other hand, employers want to downsize their business spaces and minimize rental costs. These conflicting needs have forced several companies to adopt smart space management strategies to strike a delicate balance between the contrasting demands.
Even with the many innovative solutions in the market, several organizations are still striving to utilize their resources. But before we look at the key components of space management, let’s first define what space management is.
What is space management?
Space management is simply the process of identifying and allocating physical spaces that a business or organization occupies. These space(s) could be a single floor in one building or multiple floors spread across multiple premises, sometimes even located in different geographical locations.
What are the key components of space management/planning?
Space management falls under the facility management (FM) category and is a multi-step process that involves data collection, analysis, evaluation, and forecasting, then strategizing. In practice, this would require a sophisticated system to identify floor plans/layouts and occupants, then gather all the relevant data, process this information, and gain insights to help with space utilization.
But all these are just processes or workflows. Every organization has varying office space management ideas, ideals, expectations, etc. Defining a set of office management techniques or strategies isn’t enough. A store that sells consumer goods will have to adopt a different office space management strategy from a marketing firm situated on the 12th floor.
So, instead of going the shallow approach to listing the “best office space management strategies,” we’re going to dig deep and see how your organization or business can develop a custom space management strategy based on the needs, goals, capabilities, and resources at hand.
To understand this better, we’re going to break down the key components of space planning/management into three:
- Business goals
- Employee needs & Workplace processes
- Space Management Tools
What are Your Business Goals?
Even with the advent of the pandemic, every business or organization still has some goals and strategic plans in place, whether short or long-term. For example, a small business will prefer a small space as they plan to expand and maybe relocate in the future. On the other hand, a large organization operating in a competitive niche will settle for a large corporate office with an ample working environment to attract top talent and retain their employees.
Having an end-to-end approach to your business goals will allow you to make the right decisions regarding current space demands, space needs and future needs. Before you can analyze some space utilization metrics that suits your organizational goals, below are some vital tips to consider:
- What are your short and long term business goals?
- Does space management affect these strategic goals? If yes, how do they relate?
- What aspects of your business goals align with space management, and how can you achieve them?
- Do you need to collect some data for analysis and evaluations?
- What changes do you want to see? How will the data collected help you gain a clear insight into where you are, where you want to be, and where you’ve come from?
Planning your business or office space won’t succeed if you ignore the above, seemingly insignificant steps. Always leverage space analytics to better plan your space usage during and after the pandemic. The idea is to limit shared space.
Know Your Employees then Understand the Standard processes
Business goals tell more about what your business stands for and what you want to achieve at an organizational level. What follows next is knowing more about your employees, the people responsible for hitting those targets, and achieving the goals.
When it comes to employee information, you want to know enough about them: what are their expectations? What are their health concerns? Do they feel constrained in the current office, do they want a new space, etc.?
Questions to ask
- How can you track your workers and the space they are using? Ensure you can identified all employees by name, which department they are assigned to, the assets they use, and the space they occupy.
- What assets are assigned to specific employees? Are there office/business supplies shared, for example, an office printer, water dispenser, etc.?
- Should you track the office inventory by employee or workspace? For example, what happens if each employee had their own printer? Now, what happens if your employees share one printer placed at the corner?
As much as you want to keep track of your employees and see how they utilize the available space as they attend to their day-to-day duties, there are some vital processes you need to pay attention to. The facility manager and the space management software provider both need to understand how they will structure their reporting and why they need to do so.
For example, you are the facility manager keeping track of office supplies that are considered redundant and are disposed of to create more space to accommodate the new COVID regulations. Here you want to have a clear-cut approach to how you’re going to collect real-time data and see if that asset is actually redundant – how many employees use it per hour, day, week, or month. This will help you identify the metrics you will be analyzing. You should also consult with the software vendor and find a way to automate the processes to make them seamless and convenient.
What Space Management Tools do you need?
When it comes to effective space management, whether in your retail store, corporate, or business office – you are only as good as your tools. Real estate, rent, or mortgage are among the major business expenses you need to reduce. And apart from negotiating with your landlord, you need to cut back on the physical space. But how will you know you have extra, unused space? Or that it’s time to find a smaller and cheaper alternative? You need space management software.
A 2018 JLL space utilization report shows that organizations have an average utilization rate of about 60% to 70%. By extrapolation, these companies are paying for 30%-40% office space they aren’t utilizing. This is a space optimization problem that could be solved with space management software.
Two Technologies to Adopt
At some point, every business faces the challenge of space. In other words, either relocating to a smaller and cheaper space, reorganizing their space for compliance issues, or finding a new office to accommodate the new hires. With the latter, anticipating growth means cutting unnecessary costs. As well as finding ways to harness more value from your assets and investments. That said, there are two technologies every facility manager needs to adopt:
- An Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) – this is a software platform that combines several independent systems in one ultimate package to help leaders make better and informed decisions about their workplace or real estate portfolio.
- A Facility Management Software – this is a software platform. It is used to run key facility operations and functionalities. For instance, space management, service requests, reservations, and assets.
Leveraging these two tools helps facility managers accurately forecast and plan using real-time data instead of relying on estimations and guesswork. Several businesses are moving away from print and towards smart and innovative space management solutions available on the market. It doesn’t matter how confident you are in your craft; if you aren’t leveraging technology, you’re fighting a losing battle.
As you plan your office or business space during the pandemic, make sure you’re moving away from the tedious excel sheets and unnecessary paperwork. Instead, find a robust software that will help you take charge of your space easily and conveniently.
What is Space Management in Retail?
The factors considered when managing your retail space are different from those you’ll prioritize when managing a corporate office. In the retail sector, space management focuses more on managing the floor space to better serve your customers. The store space is always a limited resource; hence you must use it wisely. More often, the sales volume and the gross profit are directly proportional to the space used to serve customers/generate sales.
The first step to understanding your space is by choosing the right store layout. This way, you can easily reduce floor congestion and avoid the struggle of serving your customers during the peak shopping hours. If you’re to reorganize your retail store, pay keen attention to the product category. Always allocate the profit builders some quality space while the high-sales, low-profit products should be displayed next to impulse products. The product’s life on the shelf, shape, size, and weight should also be considered.
At these times, there’s also the need to factor in social distancing when restructuring your retail space. Make sure you are allocating enough space between individuals as you serve them.
Why is Space Planning Important?
Space planning ensures that everyone in your office, every asset or inventory, and every product or customer in your retail store occupies their rightful position. The key focus of space planning isn’t limited to the use and assignment of an existing space. It goes beyond the present needs to planning future space specifications and requirements. This ensures that space is maximized and distributed fairly as required.
Below are the other benefits of space management:
Operational Cost Savings
If you know how much space you need to run your business operations effectively, it becomes easy to predict how much you’ll need in the next five or ten years. That kind of information can empower your decision making.
For example, you may discover that you don’t need to lease a new office or business space. In order to accommodate growth or conform to the COVID-19 workplace safety protocols. Instead, you need to get rid of redundant inventory or office supplies and create the required space.
Increase Productivity in your Workplace
A Fellowes Workplace Report shows that 87% of employers prefer a well-optimized work environment with workplace benefits such as ergonomic seating and wellness rooms. As a small business owner, achieving all these can be challenging, but not impossible. You need to devise a strategy and work on it: one step at a time.
During the COVID times, workplace productivity has been critically affected. It takes the right workplace planning to avoid allocating too much or too little space to your employees. Since, each comes with serious consequences. Poor space management can negatively affect your firm’s sustainability goals hence negatively affecting the employees’ productivity. The result is an ineffective and inefficient organization/business.
Better Strategic Planning
Real-time data from your space management software gives you an accurate picture of the space occupancy. Here you’ll know the current demand for the available space so you can forge ahead as you anticipate growth and a rise in demand. These insights can also help you make some quick and smart fixes. For example, converting your permanent office desks into “hot desks,” hence saving space.
The data you get from IWMS and FMS will also help you better understand the use of your office or business resources. HVAC and lighting systems are the two common resources you can plan better. Once, you know the actual demand and even the time when your employees need them the most.
Since the onset of the pandemic, social distancing has become the new norm. Due to the COVID-19 virus, reorganize the workplace to accommodate fewer employees is now required. This is in order to minimize the risk of spread. Many employees are working from home, but some jobs and duties require in-office attendance. Such businesses need to remodel their office and business spaces to ensure compliance before they can rightfully run their normal operations.
As the pandemic continues to surge, space planning in offices and business premises is increasingly becoming necessary. Optimizing your office or business space narrows down to knowing what you need as a company, what your employees want, the processes you should follow, and having the right combination of space management tools.