The Math is Mathing: 3 Steps to Rightsize Your Office Space

June 11, 2024
Hybrid Work
Space Design
The Math is Mathing: 3 Steps to Rightsize Your Office Space

TL;DR Article Summary

Reducing office space to control costs and meet sustainability goals is a widespread opportunity for hybrid workplaces. According to a Knight Frank survey, 50% of major global companies will reduce their real estate in the next three years.

What’s more, space optimization in hybrid workplaces can yield between 10% to 50% space savings, according to CBRE’s The Math Behind the Hybrid Workplace research. However, as organizations reduce office space, its role in fostering better workplace experiences continues to grow. Spaces now need to meet employee needs, hybrid working patterns, sustainability goals, and business objectives.

Here’s how facilities managers, corporate real estate leaders, and workplace experience designers can carefully craft strategies to achieve the optimum balance for high-quality spaces.

1. Understand the Demand for Office Space

Understanding the demand for space was much more straightforward in a traditional work setting when employees worked in the office full-time. Then, space demand was based on current and future headcount because each person was provided one workspace—their specific desk.

Today, the demand for hybrid workspace is driven by multiple factors, such as days in the office, employee work styles, and hybrid workplace policies. Instead of looking at headcount, facilities managers need to examine other metrics to understand the demand for hybrid workspaces. One is in-office attendance, which is no longer static in a hybrid work environment, as employees may go into the office at different times and frequencies.

While headcount and office attendance metrics can help organizations understand their demand for space, utilization data is quickly becoming the bread and butter of space optimization. The office utilization rate compares space supply and demand to determine if space is used effectively.

Read more: CBRE Research Reveals 3 Ways To Optimize Office Space for Hybrid Work in 2024

Factors Influencing Space Requirements

Today, work styles are more dynamic, influenced by technology availability, company culture, and personal preferences. They also often vary across job functions, teams and individual organizations. All of these factors influence space requirements in the hybrid workplace:

Employee Needs

Work styles trend toward agile working, where flexibility and access to amenities take center stage. Employees want an array of spaces that can meet all their working needs, from flexible hot desking seats to tech-rich conference rooms for hybrid meetings to peaceful areas for relaxation. As modern workstyles evolve and employee experience expectations rise, the type and ratio of workspaces also change, according to the JLL Global Occupancy Planning Benchmarking report.

“Where we sit all day is deeply personal. It’s not just about work anymore.” - Phil Kirschner, Workplace Strategy Leader at McKinsey & Company

Frequency of Office Use

How often employees are in the office affects the amount of space needed. Many hybrid programs are structured flexibly, usually requiring employees to be in the office for a fixed number of days but not dictating which days. Predicting behaviors and space use in an environment that fluctuates weekly is more challenging and can impede space optimization. Leveraging a workplace management system with data and analytics to track space use and peak days become increasingly important in hybrid workplaces.

Company Size and Structure

The number of employees and their roles can also affect space requirements. Larger companies usually implement workplace policies that offer flexibility within specific guardrails to make analyzing office space use more predictable. Smaller companies may opt for more remote working and cut down on office space to help save money. 

Additionally, some industries tend to be more hybrid-friendly than others. For example, while tech companies tend to be more hybrid or fully remote, most workers in industries like hospitality and food services work fully on-site. Those in finance roles requiring high security and compliance are also more likely to work on-site. Recently, Barclays and other banks announced they may have employees return five days a week in the office under new U.S. brokerage regulations.

Technology Requirements

Technology is crucial in shaping modern workspaces, particularly in hybrid work environments. It can significantly reduce the need for physical space by enabling remote work, enhancing communication, and optimizing the use of existing space. Employees can book desks as needed, reducing the number of permanent workstations required. Additionally, platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet allow for effective remote collaboration, reducing the need for large meeting rooms.

Tune in: Phil Krischner from McKinsey & Company shares real estate trends in corporate spaces.

2. Find Spaces That Best Support Workplace Experience Activities

Workplaces today emphasize accommodating flexibility and a greater variety of work activities. According to Gensler, workplaces should support these five office activities: working alone, working with others in person, working with others virtually, learning, and socializing.

Because employees perform a greater variety of activities in a more flexible way in the office, CBRE has found that activity-based working (ABW) is best for the hybrid workplace. ABW is a design philosophy that provides a variety of space types for different work tasks. Common amenities include a focus zone, coffee bar, flexible team space, and town hall. Over 53% of CBRE’s 2023 Global Workplace & Occupancy Insights benchmarking program participants selected ABW as the design concept that best represents how their workplace is set up.

Source: JLL Global Occupancy Planning Benchmarking Report 2024

The spectrum of space types is also expanding across collaboration, individual, and focus spaces (JLL). Organizations are increasing alternative “seats” such as office hoteling, phone booths, and touchdown spots to accommodate shorter-term working (JLL). Employees’ desire to use the office more as a place for collaboration and socialization means that more spaces need to be dedicated to that purpose, with amenities like project/team rooms, work cafes, and outdoor workspaces becoming increasingly desirable.

Read more: What Is a Space? 10 Creative Ways to Use and Book Space in a Hybrid World

3. Ensure Your Office Space Metrics Measure Hybrid Work Patterns

Organizations should focus on benchmarking metrics and data collection methods that can address the challenge of measuring more diverse work activities and fluctuating occupancy patterns. As such, more companies than ever are now tracking utilization data, with 77% of companies doing it in 2024 compared to pre-pandemic levels of 61% in 2019. According to JLL, utilization data is now the highest-ranking metric in their global survey for unlocking the potential of hybrid workplaces.

Source: JLL Global Occupancy Planning Benchmarking Report 2024

When talking about utilization data, CBRE points out that there are two types: macro-level utilization and micro-level utilization. Macro-level utilization measures how efficiently space is used at the building and campus level, informing how much space is needed to support overall attendance. While this data provides insights into how full the office is in any given time period, it’s not granular enough to tell which space types are used the most.

That is where leveraging micro-level utilization data is crucial. Micro-level utilization data measures how efficiently individual spaces (or groups of spaces like office neighborhoods) are used, helping to inform which space types employees prefer and best support the desired workplace experience activities. Analyzing the micro-utilization of spaces will be crucial at a time when both employees and employers view office space as a means to create better workplace experiences.

“There will never be a fixed or predictable answer to a very flexible and dynamic problem, so we must embrace the chaos and learn from it.”- Phil Kirschner, Workplace Strategy Leader at McKinsey & Company

Optimizing Your Hybrid Workplace in 2024 and Beyond

Organizations need to shift focus from traditional ways of looking at the office in order to optimize their hybrid workplaces in 2024 and beyond. Today, office spaces are dynamic and support not just job functions but also great workplace experiences. To better meet the evolving needs of employees, sustainability goals, and business objectives, facilities leaders can turn to more technology-led utilization strategies, investing in workplace management systems to meet the goals of a future workplace.

If you’re ready to start optimizing your office space for your hybrid workforce, create your free Skedda account today.

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