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January 07, 2016

Where will you meet in the offices of the future?

Picture the busiest day at work. Everyone is in the office and all the desks and workspaces are occupied. However, for the rest of the week many people are out of the office working remotely and there are several spots in the office that are empty. Dealing with a regular lack of occupancy is a growing problem for many organizations. Do you opt for smaller premises, close certain departments on specific days, or rent the empty spaces to third parties? In this blog we’ll explore the advantages and disadvantages of these options.

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Fixed workplaces in the mobile era
It is no longer assumed that organizations will have huge offices with open-plan offices, where everyone has their place, including a family photo on their desk and bulging desk drawers. Organizations have changed, the way of working has changed, and employees themselves have also changed. Desktop PC sales have been in decline for years, while the sale of mobile devices such as laptops, phones and tablets keeps growing. Thanks to technology, people are more flexible, but how flexible is the space where people work?

Naturally, there are companies who still embrace fixed workplaces, and there are several groups of people whose work ties them to the office. For instance, there are employees who need multiple screens or specific infrastructures to perform their jobs. However, for workers such as consultants, sales, marketing and executive management, it’s often sufficient just to have a laptop and an internet connection. When it doesn’t matter where you sit – you can essentially work anywhere and anytime, including away from the office.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that many office premises are becoming more and more vacant. Some of these buildings have been repurposed to accommodate students or have been turned into community venues or shopping centers. Other companies that have been innovative and quick to adapt are deliberately renting these empty office spaces to other flexible employees who don’t need a fixed place. This explains the rise of firms, such as Workplace One, Book2Meet and Seats2Meet, where you purchase space like meeting areas or workplaces for only the times that it is needed.

 

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Measuring and controlling occupancy
Some companies must determine if varying occupancy on their premises is a problem or an opportunity. To determine the ideal use of their buildings and workspaces, companies can use sensors to measure workspace occupancy throughout the week. The information gathered can help companies make decisions on the value of used and unused space. Is it worth it to keep space for a specific day of the week when there’s 100% occupancy, even if occupancy doesn’t rise above 70% for the rest of the week? Would it be more cost-effective to have a smaller premise and to hold meetings externally when capacity has been reached?

Another solution could involve closing certain floors in a building and making them available only when occupancy demands it. When a floor is closed, it won’t incur any costs for electricity, maintenance or cleaning. This line of demand-driven operation can be taken even further – if you know the times when some areas will be empty, you have the option to make those areas available for rent to external companies. Now, your own empty spaces become flexible workspaces for outside workers, and will even yield some return.

There are multiple options available for organizations dealing with a regular lack of occupancy. The choice depends strongly on your type of company and the type of jobs your employees perform. What’s your ideal future situation?

Vincent Henricks
Product Manager Integrated Services Management