Space management strategies can have an overwhelming impact on an employee’s well-being, productivity, and general happiness in the workplace.
69% of companies that introduced more healthy life into the workplace through plants and natural light saw occupant satisfaction improve. While 77% of workers credited the design of an open-plan office layout for their increased productivity. Both of these are creditable examples of what the implementation of successful space management strategies can achieve.
Space utilisation in the workplace promotes a more productive working environment and allows for greater collaboration between teams, resulting in happier and healthier employees. These factors are essential in a post-pandemic setting that consists of remote, hybrid, and on-site workers with the present challenges of disjointed teams and siloed working.
“…it’s really easy to fall into siloed working [without meaningful connections and spaces to support employees]. It really, really is.”
Video: Head of Workspace Solutions, Laura Wright, talks about the importance of prioritising space planning to reduce silos and bring office employees together in communal areas.
Pushing easy-to-use desk booking apps, creating bigger workspaces for teams, and planning collaborative floor layouts are just some strategies used to combat challenges such as siloed working.
But there are multiple other considerations for facility managers; what space management strategies are best for their workplace, what strategies are going to impact employee well-being the most, and how can they best plan for and deploy a successful space management strategy?
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Why Space Management Strategies Are Integral to the Workplace
Space management strategies focus on the 3 P’s; people, places, and process. They are used to help build a more productive and healthier environment in the workplace, particularly in office and commercial settings. Strategies include:
- Repositioning furniture to better utilise unused office space
- Removing cubicles or dividers to create a collaborative workspace
- Introducing natural light and plants to increase worker morale and happiness
- Using desk booking apps to make hybrid working as easy and relaxing as possible
As more and more businesses adopt space management strategies, the employee’s working environment is constantly improving. Better use of space in the workplace brings with it an appealing work culture, something that 37% of job candidates will prioritise over salary demands.
Housing associate, Abri, found that introducing larger communal areas in the workplace was helping to meet the demands of teams. Laura Wright, recalls such demands as employees returned to the office following the COVID-19 pandemic:
“They really want more meeting rooms and like really big ones because they want to have massive team meetings all the time. And that’s great because that’s really what we like; people going about their work. They’re out in their communities, they’re coming back, they’re having team meetings, and… to be fair, that can’t necessarily happen around a big table in the open office”.
With more freedom and autonomy in the workplace through space management strategies, such as expansive communal areas, employees are 12% more likely to report being happy in their job.
4 Ways to Nail Workplace Space & Floor Designs
1. Have Clarity In Your Space Design Goals
When it comes to utilising space, it’s important to have an end goal in mind. Common objectives for a space management strategy focus on people, place, and processes. 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
2. Prioritise Physical, Functional, and Psychological Well-Being
A safe indoor environment appeals to the psychological needs of 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.
Video: Head of Workspace Solutions at Abri, Laura Wright, demonstrates the people management strategies that have been successful in boosting employee well-being and employee productivity.
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.
3. Understand Space Designs That Improve Employee Productivity
Space planning and design depend on several factors, like knowing how employees work best.
For example, you might find that an open-planned office generates better team cohesion. But, employees might prefer a more solitary way of working – 85% of people surveyed by Ipsos said they couldn’t concentrate and preferred to work privately. So, it’s more about finding the right balance when using your space. Import areas to consider are:
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.
4. Take Inspiration From Others
To get an understanding of what works when it comes to space planning, look at what other companies are doing, such as LinkedIn, Apple and the NHS.
LinkedIn 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 workstation seating areas.
Apple, whose 2.8 million square feet structure accommodates 12,000 employees, 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.
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Future-Proofing Offices With Flexible Designs
Although it’s tough to plan for what you can’t see, a space management strategy needs to be flexible. At the centre of the process is an overall objective, which should be a constant – no matter what challenges arise.
The biggest challenge to date for facility and office managers has been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting aftermath. This put health, safety, and employee well-being at the forefront 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-19 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
Meet Space Planning Goals With Facility Management Tools
Space management strategies can thrive under the leadership of facility management tools and interconnected technology. Data like floor footfall and room usage – obtained via devices such as room occupancy sensors – can be collected and used to promote greater decision-making when structuring space planning and design in the workplace.
Facilities Management Software, IoT devices, and AI are driving the adoption of smart buildings and have been used to monitor space and essentially reduce building costs – in terms of unused space and better energy management.
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.
Source: Harvard Business Review, Data-Driven Work Spaces IoT and AI Expand the Promise of Smart Buildings
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 AI in space management. By working with IoT devices and forming specific algorithms, office managers can use AI to plan space accordingly by knowing:
- 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 law for wheelchair access.
Key Foundations for Building a Successful Space Management Strategy
The four key foundations of planning and designing a space management strategy are:
- Know the laws and regulations surrounding the workplace
- Consider occupant capacity and room size
- Plan carefully and accordingly
- Set KPIs to determine a successful space management strategy
1. Know the Laws and Regulations of Space Design
Understanding the laws associated with the use of space can be the difference between a successful space management strategy and an unsuccessful one. Most laws surrounding space management are highlighted in both The Workplace (Health, Safety and 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.
2. Consider Office Capacity & Room Size
When devising a space management strategy, it’s important to understand your space and the occupant within it.
- Calculate the exact square footage of your space – this will help create a more detailed plan for the room you have available
- Determine the capacity of the space – will it fit the total number of employees required?
- Know if the space is big enough to meet objectives – if not, how can you optimise the space to achieve your goals (consider folding tables, moveable desks on wheels, movable room dividers, etc.)
3. Construct a Space Management Plan That’s Best For the Workplace
- Take on board data such as footfall traffic and employee feedback to determine what they want from their space and how you could incorporate that into your objectives
- Use a specific space planning tool to achieve greater accuracy when it comes to space availability, costs, and measurements
- Understand the time it will take for the new space design to be deployed
- Alert employees to the changes in their working environment
4. Implement Your Space Management Strategy
- Plan to make workplace changes during out-of-office hours to avoid disrupting the workplace during operating hours
- Give plenty of advanced warning to employees regarding when the changes will be implemented
- Before initiating your plan, ensure you have key performance indicators (KPIs) that match your overall space management objectives
- Use tools to determine what’s working and what isn’t – track employee attendance, team collaboration metrics, and even work completion data
BONUS: Measure Performance & Adjust
- Continuously measure employee data and track KPIs
- Always be prepared to adjust your design or floor plan in accordance with KPI data
- Talk with employees to understand how they’re feeling about your space management strategy and what improvements can be made
FAQs About Space Management in FM
What Is Space Management In Facilities Management?
Space management incorporates the planning, designing, and monitoring of space within a built environment and workplace such as an office. It is a process undertaken by facility managers and office managers to utilise space to boost employee productivity and well-being while also promoting better workplace health and safety.
What Is a Space Management System?
A space management system, or Space Management Software, is a tool used to collect data regarding the use of space in a building to generate better decision-making when it comes to space planning, design, and utilisation.