Vacant Offices Open Doors for Workplace Improvements
By Nai Kanell
Director of Marketing
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has turned once-bustling workplaces into ghost towns. Employees are under self-imposed or mandatory isolation as businesses join the cause to halt the virus’s rampant spread. Remote work is allowing many businesses to operate as usual, even with the office lights off.
Despite the impact COVID-19 is having on day-to-day business, those empty offices are a unique opportunity to improve the physical workplace. Facilities professionals can evaluate current space use, plan new designs, move employees or entire departments, and improve workplace technology—all without disrupting employees.
Optimize Existing Space
Revamping your workplace starts with understanding the space you have and how it’s used. The right technologies are a must. An integrated workplace management system (IWMS) and computer-aided facility management (CAFM) platform are valuable tools for space optimization and asset management.
Design options using data from an IWMS or CAFM provide a starting point from where you want your workplace to be and how to get there:
- What’s the total available space utilization from this design?
- How many total workspaces support how many total workers?
- What is the breakdown of space type and occupancy?
- What is the cost per workspace vs. the cost of your lease?
With that information in hand, you can determine whether to optimize the space you have or add more. New arrangements using hot desks, hotel desks, neighborhoods, or collaboration areas can maximize underutilized space and provide employees with activity-based options that fit their unique work styles.
Make Meaningful Moves
Moving individual employees from one desk to another is disruptive; not to mention the impact of uprooting an entire department to a new location. With employees working from home, facilities professionals can evaluate and make moves without interrupting workflows.
Regardless of move type, it’s imperative to plan each step. Again, technology is key. Move management software allows you to evaluate different scenarios, spot potential gaps, identify what new equipment is needed, and see the final outcome—all before packing the first box. When a move is planned, it’s important to communicate with affected employees. People may not want their belongings moved by someone else. Apps like Slack are great for keeping remote employees updated on what’s happening and what to expect when they return.
On a grander scale, facilities professionals can use stack planning for a macro view of the workplace and how to best use space on a floor-by-floor or campus-wide basis. Automated stack planning allows you to:
- See high-level, current views of every floor, department, and team configuration
- Drag-and-drop entire departments or teams from one floor—or building—to another
- Accommodate for forecasted growth
- Create and compare unlimited stack plans using live data from across your enterprise systems
Plan for Employee Productivity
In many ways, office environments are like their own ecosystems. There’s a natural flow to how things move and change, and the environment tends to grow over time. But one thing never changes: your workplace should enhance productivity.
Productivity is a function of how well employees can do their jobs. The main driver of productivity is the workplace. Whether it’s a classic concept with individual offices or a modern amalgam of different workspaces, what matters is employee interaction. The workplace should be a support system—something that allows work to get done, no matter the circumstances (even a pandemic).
Look at your empty office as a blank canvas, of sorts. What types of workspaces do employees need to do their best work? Consider not just types, but where workers spend the majority of their time. Is it easy to find a quiet place to work or a collaborative area to brainstorm with colleagues?
Again, the key to uncovering productive designs is enterprise-wide data and analytics from your IWMS and CAFM system.
Turn a Negative to a Positive
For all the fear surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s a silver lining for workplace managers. The opportunity to plan and execute workplace-wide changes without employee disruption is one that shouldn’t be passed up. This is a perfect time to tackle those onerous tasks every facilities manager loves:
- Cleaning carpets
- Scrubbing grime from air vents
- Spackling dings in the walls
- Installing furniture
Ultimately, it’s the time spent optimizing space that will have the deepest impact. It will take time for businesses to recover from lost revenue. An optimized workplace can lessen the financial burden by maximizing existing space in ways that address how employees want to work. In return, they’ll give you their best effort to breathe life back into your workplace.