Summary: Leading facilities and workspace managers interlink space utilisation, workforce productivity, employee well-being, and organisational culture. But, most importantly, it keeps you aligned with the laws and regulations of a workplace. When it comes to building a successful space management strategy and attracting employees back to the office there are several factors to consider; room layouts, space design, access to amenities, and natural light.
Simple utilisation of space can go a long way. 69% of companies saw occupant satisfaction improve with additions of healthy life – plants and greenery – in the office. While 77% of workers credited an open-plan layout for their increased productivity.
In a post-pandemic setting, how a business plans for and manages the use of its physical workspace is more important than ever. Good use of space promotes a productive working environment, greater collaboration, and overall happier and healthier employees. This requires facility managers to:
- Manage floor layouts
- Monitor room availability
- Design office space
- Provide access to amenities
- Keep elevators, HVAC units, and other assets in working order
- Give access to parking spaces
The driving forces for better space management are three-fold; workplace health and safety, employee productivity, and occupant well-being. Both of these were challenged by COVID-19, resulting in a shift in how to manage hybrid working, hot desking, and safety protocols.
This, in turn, prompted different ways of employee working and a somewhat reactive response from office managers to implement processes such as office booking systems – something that Marc Fletcher, Regional Facilities Manager at Just Eat Takeaway, noted:
“If you’re looking at workplace systems, desk booking now has come to the fore. I know it was around before, but especially in hybrid working, no business works the same as it did pre-pandemic.”
A combination of workplace benefits and a proactive approach to ongoing challenges prompts the need for a flexible, yet structured, approach to both space planning and management.
So, where to start?
The Laws and Regulations of Space Management
Understanding the laws associated with the use of space in a commercial building can be the difference between a successful space management strategy and a failing one. The wording of these laws has an impact on the way you intend to use and optimise space. That includes:
- Access to toilets
- Capacity limitations for floors/rooms
- Disability access
- Workplace cleanliness
- Access to drinking water
Most laws surrounding space management are highlighted in both The Workplace (Health, Safety ad Welfare) Regulations 1992 and The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992.
Other laws you’ll need to be aware of include:
- Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Regulations 1992 – Covering the use of display screen equipment.
- Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 – Ensures the equipment provided by yourself is safe and suitable for workplace use.
- Equality Act 2010 – Ensures there is no unlawful workplace discrimination.
- The Building Regulations 2010 – Covers design standards such as water efficiency, fire safety, and sanitation.
Interlink Space & Floor Design With Workspace Needs
Have Clarity In Your Space Design Goals
When it comes to utilising your space, it’s important to have an end goal in mind. Common objectives for a space management strategy focus on people, place, and processes (the 3 Ps). This helps to outline goals like:
- Optimise the use of floor space
- Increase productivity among employees
- Reduce wasted space
- Improve health and safety
- Improve occupant well-being
Prioritise Physical, Functional, and Psychological Well-Being Factors
A safe indoor environment appeals to the psychological needs of your employees, which helps to produce a healthy and happy workspace. Without a focus on the well-being of occupants, a workplace will suffer. In 2019, over 600,000 UK workers suffered from work-related stress, depression, or anxiety.
To combat mental fatigue and stress, there are several physical and functional factors to consider when it comes to space design:
- Have a good indoor environment: Ensure optimal levels are kept for air quality, lighting levels, thermal comfort, and noise levels – typically, a noisy place of work is an unproductive one.
- Use the natural light: Access to natural light is proven to improve the psychological welfare of building occupants, so ensure the best possible use of light by not blocking windows and using open floor plans.
- Give access to refreshments: Access to food and water (whether free or charged) stimulates workers, make sure refreshments are readily available and easy to get to.
- Have comfort areas for regular breaks: Specific areas providing breaks for employees promotes a better work-life balance. Consider a personal workspace design for work and a large communicable area for regular breaks.
Understand Space Designs to Improve Employee Productivity
Your space planning and design depend on several factors, like knowing how your employees work best.
For example, you might find that an open-planned office generates better team cohesion. But, your employees might prefer a more solitary way of working – 85% of people surveyed by Ipsos said they couldn’t concentrate and prefeed to work privately.
So, it’s more about finding the right balance when using your space. Import areas to consider are:
- Open office plan: Proven to promote collaboration and interaction while using less floor space to house more employees – 70% of all US offices have already adopted an open office plan.
- Use of desks/cubicles: Consider the type of desks to use – shared, private, etc. – and which will ensure more work efficiency. Keep in mind that desk designs such as cubicles aren’t to everyone’s taste – “We used to think cubicles were horrible, now we know they are”, stresses Scott Wyatt.
- View of nature: Whether green spaces, window placement, or having an array of plants and shrubs in the office, having a view of nature improves mental health and well-being – worker productivity increases by 15% and reaction times by 12%.
- Amenities: Heating, air conditioning, drinking water, and air quality all contribute to achieving a successful space management strategy.
Take Inspiration From the Latest Space and Layout Designs
To get an understanding of what works when it comes to space planning, look at what other companies are doing.
One example is LinkedIn. The social media giant set a clear goal of making hybrid working more viable and sustainable for their workers. They considered the needs of in-person, hybrid, and remoter workers that included multiple diverse roles and preferences. Offering quiet places, bustling cafes, and replacing traditional work stations seating areas.
Another example is Apple, whose 2.8 million square feet structure accommodates 12,000 employees. Apple intended for the site’s architectural design to work with nature, which is proven to promote productivity, improve mental health, and reduce stress.
In the UK, NHS Property Services altered the way their estates were being used in 2013. As opposed to focusing on room and floor layouts, they had wider objectives such as repurposing vacant space, refurbishing space, and launching a flexible room booking app. As well as creating more space for healthier communities, they also raised £381m through the disposal of unwanted assets.
Futureproof Your Workspace With Flexible Space Design
Although it’s tough to plan for what you can’t see, a space management strategy needs to be flexible. At the centre of your process is an overall objective, which should be a constant no matter what challenges arise.
The biggest challenge to date for facility managers has been COVID-19 and the resulting aftermath. This put health, safety, and employee well-being at the forefront of an office manager’s thoughts when it came to space management. It raised questions like:
- How best to ensure employees are comfortable returning to the workplace
- What safety measures need to be in place and for how long (such as social distancing)
- How to enforce the correct PPE measures on people entering the building
- Where can hand sanitiser be best placed around the office
- What is a safe amount of people to have in one room
The COVID pandemic changed the way buildings function and how employees work. Most notably, businesses have had to create a new workplace environment aimed at hybrid and remote working – more than half of people who can work remotely expect and prefer to do so.
Hybrid working is still having an impact on the way a workspace operates today:
- Space needs to be readily available for employees coming into the office from home
- Companies operate a booking system for employees to reserve desks and rooms
- Wi-fi needs to be readily available to connect with staff working from home
The Facility Tools to Underpin Space Management Goals
Although protocols for hot desking and hybrid working were in place before the COVID pandemic, it certainly accelerated their adoption. Mostly with the use of smart tech and tools such as room capacity sensors and desk/equipment booking systems.
The use of Facilities Management Software, the Internet of Things (IoT) – smart sensors and devices, and AI have all been used in buildings to monitor and reduce costs. Take the use of IoT sensors for example, which are paired with a CAFM system and are used to:
- Analyse asset performance
- Build preventive maintenance plans
- Analyse air quality
- Report on energy and water usage
Although 72% of executives claim their goal for smart buildings is to reduce costs and improve profitability, improving space utilisation (48%) is the third biggest factor driving smart-building investment.
71% of leaders also see the benefits of using AI and IoT for optimising workspaces.
A compelling case can be made for the use of artificial intelligence in space management. By working with IoT devices and forming specific algorithms, building managers can use AI to plan space accordingly. It can tell you:
- What room/floor/desk types are most popular
- What areas of space see the most footfall
- How many employees are coming into work and on which days
Access to this data can help automate and suggest plans for room layouts, bathroom and kitchen placements, and even corridor widths – considering the laws for wheelchair access.
Start Building a Space Management Strategy
How a facilities leader plans and manages their space depends on the end goal, the objective. Whether that’s to optimise wasted space or improve the mental health of workers. To meet that goal, there are four necessary actions to follow:
- Know and understand the laws and regulations surrounding workplaces
- Find what works and what doesn’t work in your space and with your occupants
- Always be flexible to accommodate external challenges
- Know what space management tools are available and what ones are best to use in your facility