When the reset button was pressed on the world of work, facility managers were tasked with perhaps the most daunting challenge of their careers. Transitioning the workforce to a remote model (and overseeing the greatest work-from-home experiment of all time) has taught us some big lessons in agility, decision-making, and certainly innovation. Data from March 2020 showed how drastic the shift was: use of office space dropped instantly to 80 percent below historic averages.
While many of us initially believed it was a temporary stop-gap measure, and that we would eventually return to business-as-usual, we all know now that may never happen. Today in fact, even more unsettling stats are emerging: global office vacancy is predicted to rise from 10.9% pre-crisis (2019 Q4) to 15.6% in 2022 Q2. Real estate is often one of the costliest assets of a business, and it will fall to the facilities manager to ensure the workplace of tomorrow is planned as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.
There’s no doubt that the workplace must change fundamentally. The world is ready for Workplace 2.0 to be designed and deployed by businesses intent on riding this wave of change… and successfully enduring through to the post-COVID age.
In planning for this future, scalability and flexibility are key. We should all be prepared for radical fluctuations in employee office usage — and anticipate that not everyone will be coming back, at least not for a long while.
So, what should Workplace 2.0 look like? What should be our priorities right now? And what are the safest and most cost-efficient ways to allocate employees within real estate assets moving forward?
There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Your answers lie in what skills are needed, which positions within your organization are most integral – and how much in-person collaboration is essential to your success.
Here are three sensible steps to guide your approach to Workplace 2.0:
1. Re-evaluate your workspace
Recent occupancy studies reveal just how inefficient office space usage has become. Employees around the globe are not at their desks 50% to 60% of the time! Given that employers typically invest in 80-200 square feet of real estate per employee, vacant desks add up to a lot of wasted capital and operating costs.
Now is the time to ask some key questions: How much physical space does your business need right now? How much in 5 years? 10 years and forward? Are there ways of doing more with the space you have, or reducing your square footage to save costs?
The best way to answer these questions is to identify the most important processes for each area of your business and determine whether they can be completed remotely or what level of in-person presence (for collaboration or equipment) is required. You might even break individual projects down to determine what amount of time is required by employees and groups on-site versus offsite.
From there, you may get a clearer understanding of how much space you really need – and how to use it best.
2. Re-organize your workforce
Once you have an idea of your space needs and what level of access is needed for each employee, an initial picture of your custom hybrid office will emerge.
Now is the time to divide your personnel into three groups:
- A core group of full-time staff required to work in the office 100% of the time
- A hybrid group of staff members working at home and coming in set days and hours per week to occupy rotating space, “hot desks” and/ or meeting room seats, and
- Fully remote workers.
With these designated groups and their space needs established, you can proceed to re-envision your space.
3. Reimagine your office
A new hybrid office plan, one that is suitable for your business, will begin to take shape in your mind, and in your strategic plans. With the right smart tech platform, configuring your new office to reduce costs, maximize efficiency and transition to a hybrid model will be a breeze. The best of the new tech of this kind will allow you to do a great deal more than self-service room and desk bookings. They will help you crunch your data on your current workforce, budgets and essential processes, helping you to create:
- Optimal seating arrangements for your safe, hybrid working environment
- Intelligent protocols to allocate space, ensure right levels of access and expedite the return to the office
- Safe and efficient space usage – with up to the minute occupancy reporting.
It is important to bear in mind that a key reason people want to return to the office is to engage with each other, not just to sit in the building. Forward thinking organizations will configure and optimize their space for interaction. Whatever the future brings, the workplace of tomorrow is upon us. Armed with the right technology, however, your business will thrive after the transition.
You’ll be able to effortlessly manage which employees can come to the office, when they can enter and take their places, how often desks and rooms are cleaned, and whether the airflow is sufficient. Moreover, in Workplace 2.0, the potential to reduce your real estate, maintenance and facilities operations costs (which often amount to 10 to 20 percent of total personnel-driven expenditures) is significant. It’s all within reach … and now is definitely the time to be investing in the smartest platform you can find that will get you there quickly.
As the head of IBI Group’s Office of Innovation, Deepak is driving IBI’s transformational pivot to a technology-driven design firm through focused efforts catalyzing core growth, transforming IBI’s business models, exploring future tech disruptions in the industry, and fostering innovation.