It’s good question. It’s a tough question and — spoiler alert – it’s a question that we won’t answer here in this post.
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But it’s a question that corporate managers around the globe are now faced with, and coming up with the right number is among their most important challenges right now.
Hybrid office - how to prepare?
That’s because, moving forward from the pandemic, the new hybrid-based work culture demands an unprecedented level of flexibility. Staff can drop in the office for a few hours or not at all. They can spend all day there or be unseen for weeks at a time. They can be permanently home-based but show up for special events, meeting or just because.
All this has obvious consequences for anyone planning (and paying for) office space to accommodate everyone. Use too much and you have a huge monthly bill for nothing. Too little means not having something so simple as a place to sit down on days with higher attendance and the morale and organizational problems that come with it.
It’s a balancing act with no real guide book and very little documented history to go on. We’re still figuring things out in the post-COVID landscape but this is a question that often needs an answer now.
Figuring it out with any precision is hard but there are some things you can do and approaches you can take that can help you to make better decisions when deciding how many workspaces you need for your hybrid office.
Hybrid workplace - what you have to gain
Before we get to that, though, let’s go through a quick list of the benefits of getting this question right. Right-sizing your corporate real estate commitments means:
- Reducing costs. Let’s start with the obvious. Unnecessary costs are always budget killers but real estate costs are in another league compared to almost every other expense. You might be amazed at just how much less you can spend with zero negative impact on performance, efficiency or morale.
- Promoting sustainability. Every square foot of space you don’t need is a square foot of space that you don’t have to heat, cool or manage. This is a win for both your bottom line and your carbon footprint.
- Better space planning. Going through the process of measuring just how much space you need reveals insights along the way. Among the most important is better visibility into just how you use the space you have. Meeting rooms always mostly empty (or full)? That tells you something about how much meeting space you need in your new, redesigned space.
- Better workplace experience. Apart from cost savings, improving the work atmosphere for staff is the biggest benefit to a redesigned space (and is often even more important). In an age where many employees don’t have to come to the office if they don’t want to, giving them reasons to come in by creating a more comfortable space is more important than ever.
You can’t improve what you don’t measure
Before you can get to work on planning your new optimized workspace with just the right number of desks and workstations, you need to know what your real needs are.
This process is hard to precisely quantify but there are ways to look at particular elements of your office life. The point is to see how your existing space is used and if it fits the needs of your staff. To get a better handle on this, look at:
- Meeting space. This is notoriously difficult to get right because meeting rooms that stay empty for much of the time can suddenly be in demand by multiple teams who all need them right now. Some office cultures are meeting-intensive and others aren’t. A change in personnel can mean someone with a different attitude towards meetings joining the team and suddenly changing demand for meeting spaces. Use your own historical data and industry-standard ratios to establish a baseline and don’t be afraid to introduce the idea that meetings can be limited or better scheduled if it means you can downsize as a result.
- High-traffic areas. Here’s where the numbers make things very clear. High-traffic areas will reveal both must-haves and favorites among employees. Where they have to spend their time (desks, meeting rooms) and where they choose to spend their time (collaborative areas, other spaces) tell you what the priorities should be in the redesigned 2.0 version of your office.
- Identify your peaks and valleys. Quantifying your busiest times is another important metric. Does everyone show up on Monday mornings? Is there a surge on Fridays by those who want to be seen before the week is over? Is lunchtime the end of the in-office peak or the start? Get a baseline for your maximum and minimum traffic and work out an average.
So how many workspaces do you need in your new hybrid office?
You’re about to find out. Once you have a good grasp of how your existing space is used and understand the regular rising and falling tides of employees over the course of a workday and workweek, resetting to a more appropriate number of workstations is much easier.
Here are some more things to consider that will help you get even closer to the right number for your hybrid office:
- Plan with your average in mind. The ‘average’ here is the occupancy rate over the course of a normal day. That’s your baseline for creating workstations. The extra built-in margin for error to cover at busy times is up to you — it could be a generous twenty percent or no margin at all or something in between. Remember that if you consistently bump up against the average in a way that becomes too close for comfort, you can introduce measures to have certain teams or departments come in on certain days & times. A small amount of infringing on employee freedom will be tolerated if it ensures a smooth workday.
- Leave room to grow. Or not. What good is going through the process of designing a workspace of just the right size if you go on a hiring binge in six months? While you can’t always see into the future, plan for extra space if that’s what you expect to need for in-office staff going forward. On the other hand, if you’re likely to be even more dependent on fully-remote staff, as industry trends suggest, maybe the space you have is fine.
- Use A/B tests. They’re not just for emails or marketing campaigns. Taking a day and moving around desks and other furniture is a small price to pay for the possible benefits you might discover. It’s one thing to visualize it, but it’s another to actually experience the different traffic flows and dynamics that a reshuffle can bring. Don’t be afraid to experiment to find what works best.
- Get feedback. Don’t let staff just complain in the breakroom about how the office design doesn’t fit their needs. Make it clear that this topic is a priority for you and central to the experience of everyone in the office. Ask for suggestions and be open to radical rethinks of the way you use your space.
Whatever the right number for you is, Kontakt.io can help
Are you somewhere on your own path to recalibrating your workplace? Thinking about how changing workflows can boost productivity and improve your employee experience? Our Rethinking Workspaces whitepaper is the perfect place to start. You’ll learn more about:
- Use cases showing how space optimization delivers specific benefits
- How technology is meeting the challenges in how corporate real estate is used
- The real defining characteristics of “smart” buildings and much more!
Download it today and move your office space a bit further down the path towards answering the question of just how many workspaces your hybrid office needs!