The Impact of COVID-19 on Office Space Utilization and the Benefits of Hot-Desking

18 December 2020

Aside from payroll expenses, office space is one of the biggest cost items for businesses. In the last three decades, there has been an increase of 2 billion square feet of office space in the US. A superficial look at this data suggests that organizational need for office space is increasing, whether it's to cater to more employees or to set up conference rooms and the like.

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Given the current lock-down circumstances, many companies are now losing money due to under-used office space. This is because the definition of the workplace is evolving. Previously, the workplace was where the company set up its base. However, in a highly digitized world, the workplace is where employees work from, which could be at home.

A Workspace Utilization and Allocation Benchmark study revealed that US companies could save millions of dollars annually by taking up more efficient methods of managing workspace. This is why businesses have been taking measures to trim excess office space over the last decade. As a result, hot-desking has emerged as a popular option for companies across different sectors.

With the threat of COVID-19, the need for efficient use of office space and building and room-level occupancy location monitoring has been further expanding. Read on to learn how COVID-19 will influence office needs from now on and the benefits of hot desking.

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COVID-19 and Unused Office Space

Over the last decade, organizations have been slowly integrating work from home strategies. However, COVID-19 has forced companies to expedite such processes. Due to the pandemic, measures such as lockdowns, curfews, and social distancing were put in various cities to control the spread.

As a result, business operations were greatly affected as not all employees could be allowed entry into the business premise at the same time. For companies in hard-hit areas, employees were not able to report to work due to the stay-at-home measures. With reduced productivity, there was an immediate and unprecedented threat to organizations.

A report by the University of South Carolina suggests that COVID-19 related business closures and partial reopenings will cost the US economy between 3 and 4 trillion dollars in a two-year period. To resume operations and mitigate such losses, companies were forced to enable their teams to work remotely.

As organizations make the shift from traditional, on-premise operations, the benefits of having remote teams have become more apparent. One of the primary benefits is increased productivity. A Global Workplace Analytics study suggests that if the US workforce works from home for half the time, the economy will benefit from an additional 5 million working hours. As a result, there will be an additional $270 billion injected into the economy. This is why, even post-COVID, it is expected that the adoption of teleworking will continue increasing.

As such, there will be an increased need for companies to reduce their office space and adopt measures to optimize office space use. Along with hot-desking, investing in building and room-level occupancy location and monitoring will also be essential.

What Are the Benefits of Hot Desking?

In the traditional office setup, employees were given assigned workstations, each with their own desk. The assumption with this approach is that all employees work at the same time and spend most of the time at their work station. However, that's not necessarily the case, meaning that there's often a lot of unused office space at any given time.

This is why hot desking is fast gaining popularity. Hot desking is a system that grants teams flexibility and optimizes office space use by using a first-come, first-served approach. Instead of using an assigned desk each day, hot desking allows employees to select an open desk.

1.  Boost Employee Performance

One key feature of hot desking is that it makes it easier for employees to alternate between working from home and in the office. This allows you to optimize office space use whilst capitalizing on the benefits of having a remote team.

In a study on employees' performance, there was a notable 13% increase in performance among employees working from home. There are a number of factors that contribute to this increase in performance. First, by eliminating commuting times, staff will be able to start the day earlier and even dedicate more time to projects later in the day.

Another key yet underestimated benefit of teleworking is that the added flexibility will give employees more determination to finish assignments. Going by a survey by The Happiness Index, personal determination is a significant contributor to employee performance.

Also, the hot desk approach increases on-premise productivity. The environment gives employees an increased sense of autonomy, thus boosting their motivation. For some of your staff, there may be a lot of distractions at home. In this case, each employee can choose to either work from home or at the office, ensuring they are where they're most productive.

2.  Improve Communication and Collaboration

It's not enough for your company to have excellent products and services for it to succeed. A crucial ingredient for organizational success is effective communication and collaboration between various departments and employees.

According to 86% of executives and employees, workplace failures can be attributed to ineffective communication and a lack of collaboration. Poor communication is also known as a big contributor to employee churn, meaning your company will consistently lose its best employees.

Hot desking removes staff from assigned desks where they can isolate themselves. It encourages movement around the office, increasing face to face interactions between employees. As a result, it becomes easier for staff to communicate and collaborate on projects, translating to greater efficiency and productivity.

3.  Make Your Company Attractive to Top Talent

Today, job hunting is not just about the salary you take home. Among millennials, flexibility is a top priority for 92%, and 79% believe it boosts productivity. Hot desking increases flexibility in the office and makes collaboration convenient.

If employees need to work on the same project, they can select desks on the same side of the office. Such flexibility and increased collaboration will increase employee satisfaction, thus reducing churn. Besides retaining your best staff, your company will also be attractive to top talent looking for flexible work environments. For hot desking to attract top talent, you must be clear with your policies and approach, for them to know it is taken seriously.

4.  Improve Creativity

Over the last few decades, the entrepreneurial landscape has been continuously evolving. Many of the changes have been instigated by technological advancements that are, at times, disruptive. Therefore, companies must be agile to survive such changes. More importantly, organizations must be innovative to be the masters of change in their industries.

One of the biggest challenges of traditional office setups is that they stifle creativity. Employees do not interact a lot, thus reducing communication and collaboration, limiting the exchange of ideas, which is a key factor for creativity. Hot desking has the opposite effect on your office environment. It encourages movement and interactions in the office, thus boosting communication and collaboration. With such an environment, it is easier for staff to exchange ideas and innovate.

Innovation allows your brand to stay relevant and increase revenue despite the high level of competition and disruptions.

5.  Reduce Costs

Commercial real estate is very expensive and usually makes up one of the major costs of running a company. Depending on your location and the nature of your business, it can even be the highest cost you incur. Considering that 40% of office space in the traditional workplace setup is unused at any given time, there is a great cost-saving opportunity in optimizing office space use.

In this regard, hot desking is an invaluable solution. Instead of paying for a lot of space that is not used most of the time. Hot-desking, combined with teleworking, allows you to reduce your office space needs.

Hot desking comes with a lot of benefits. However, you can maximize the value you get from it and ensure your staff's safety by tracking movement and building and room occupancy. Contact us today to find out how our solutions can help you reduce costs and help improve resource utilization and safety.

Aneta Ciurkot

Director, Product Marketing

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    [Updated for 2020]
    [Updated for 2020]