The status quo of how industries and organizations conduct business is being upended – and office space management is a clear example. Two years ago, most employees expected to work in their dedicated place of business. Then last year, companies with no previous plans to enable employees to work from home were forced into making that a reality almost overnight. And this year, a substantial new trend has emerged. People don’t want to give up the flexibility and freedom of working from home, with at least 60% of employees preferring a hybrid work model.

This has many wondering: What will our new office environment look like?

As it becomes safer for employees to be back in the office and the landscape shifts yet again, companies are exploring how to best manage space while accommodating employee expectations, keeping workers safe, cultivating efficiency, enabling collaboration, nurturing deep thinking and making the most of expensive real estate. It’s an endeavor that requires significant planning and effort on multiple fronts, including by office managers, HR and higher management.

As your organization works to achieve a successful return to office, tackling these three key challenges at the outset will help smooth that path.

hot desk bickering

Challenge #1: Determining Optimal Office Space

Should you reduce your office space? 

At first glance, the answer is a resounding “yes.” It seems intuitive. After switching to a working from home model, fewer employees will want to spend time in the office, so there is no reason to invest as much of your budget as you previously did into office space.

However, there could be some serious drawbacks in cutting down on office space prematurely.

Health and safety

First and foremost, consider health and safety. We have all gained an increased appreciation for social distancing over the past year and having enough space to continue applying that precaution – even while at work – will be an important factor in creating a safe work environment. You might want to use workspace management software to help you estimate exactly how much office space is necessary to allow your employees to come into the office while still being able to keep a safe distance.

Employee preference

It’s also important to remember that you are now competing not simply with other companies for top talent, but also with your employees’ own homes. If you want to encourage employees to come back into the office, therefore allowing for increased teamwork and a tight-knit culture, you have to make the office environment an inviting one. Cutting down on space might save you some budget, but it could mean losing employees who don’t want to be cooped up in small spaces.

So instead of making any big decisions about your office space based on arbitrary guesses, use a data-powered workspace management software to help guide you. By utilizing a tool such as EMS, you can monitor how much your employees are using space and make informed decisions about whether you can reduce your office footprint.

Room utilization

How is space actually being used? Without looking at correct data, it is possible to jump to the wrong conclusions. For example, suppose you rely solely on Outlook to understand how frequently your conference rooms are being reserved. This can tell you when rooms are reserved, but it doesn’t tell you the actual space usage. To determine this, you will need a room reservation software that measures when people are using a particular space, perhaps by requiring them to check in or through sensors that detect their presence.

Flexible workspaces

For those planning to implement a flexible workspace, in which employees can choose to either come to the office or work from home, there will most likely be days when the office might be mostly empty and other days when the office will be over capacity. How can you make sure there is enough space for everyone on peak days?

Many of our clients have solved this problem by grouping their employees into various segments that have designated days for working in the office. Making sure that everyone abides by this model of work can be easily achieved through a workspace management software, which will also help you maximize the amount of people you can have in the office at any given time. Check out these practical tips for using EMS to adapt to flexible workspaces.

 #2 Using the Workspace to Attract New Talent

What does your workforce want?

On one hand, it seems like it should be easier for companies to attract new talent these days. 42% of people are willing to change jobs for 10 percent less pay if it meant getting flexible work hours. The obvious conclusion seems to be, that as long as you offer a flexible work model, you will be an attractive employer.

But in reality, millennials have high expectations when it comes to new job offers. 75% of millennials consider an engaging and fun workplace, including work perks like social events, important or very important. They expect the office space to be dynamic, social and engaging.

This means that many companies need to move away from the old school “cubicle” workspace and create a modern environment, which goes beyond an open floor plan. Today’s talent likes variety: hot desks, desk hoteling, cozy communal areas, and easy-to-book conference rooms.

But non-purpose-built room booking tools such as Outlook aren’t equipped with the necessary functionality to turn this into reality. With an increasingly dynamic workforce constantly on the go, sometimes switching between different offices in various locations, you need a room booking system that can keep up with them.

Tools for the modern workforce

A platform like EMS can help your new employees immediately feel at home in all your offices with features like:

  • Interactive kiosks. Kiosks can help them navigate the layout of the office as well as track down where their colleagues are sitting on any given day.
  • Support of various types of space. EMS has the functionality to connect your employees to the different types of office space you have set up. For example, they can check into their hot desks so their colleagues know where to find them.
  • Space usage visibility. Employees can see how much office space is being booked and used on any given day so they can assess whether they feel comfortable going into the office.
  • Collaboration tools. Employees can plan to sit in the same area as their team so they can work together and they can make sure they have all the equipment they need.

Not only will EMS help you create the kind of environment which will attract new talent, but EMS itself is the kind of modern tool which can catch a millennial’s attention. With an easy-to-use mobile interface, your employees can interact with their new office space without ever having to seek assistance. This is a surprisingly important aspect, as 59% of people do not feel comfortable reaching out to someone for assistance at the office. (Find out more about EMS Mobile Demo!)

Get additional insights into how millennials interact with the office space.

#3: Ensuring Buy-in for Your Space Management Model

How can you help employees adapt to your space management model?

As the office space keeps modernizing, and the traditional personal desks are being replaced by hot desks, desk hoteling, communal areas, etc., employees can feel overwhelmed by these changes. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reports that nearly 80% of workers state their workplace stress affects their relationships with friends, family, and coworkers.

One of those changes lies in office space “ownership.” Until recently, a personal desk was an important bonus and something that people had come to expect from their workplace. It provided employees with storage space for personal belongings, a permanent area they could personalize with photos and souvenirs, an implied social circle formed by the people who occupied the surrounding desks, and sometimes even a nice view.

The new workplace model takes away a lot of that comfort and familiarity. Hot desking can make people nervous. Some people might forget to book a hotel desk ahead of time. Others might feel uncomfortable in communal working spaces and need a quieter area to focus on their work. And let’s not forget the importance of having your team close by, which can be tricky if your hot desks are spread across a large open space.

To help your employees navigate this changing environment, you can give them tools that empower them with a sense of control and afford them a sense of ownership over the spaces in which they work.

Giving employees control over their workspace

Room booking systems such as EMS go far beyond just booking rooms. Not only can your employees reserve, check in, request equipment, etc. for all the different areas of your office, but even their lack of activity is a way of communicating. If they consistently avoid using certain spaces, their usage data will show you which spaces they like and which they avoid, so you can offer them more of what they need.

Empowering employers with data

And EMS is a two-way street. While your employees feel that they have regained ownership of their workspace thanks to an interactive tool, you as the employer can also benefit from our workspace management software by regulating the way in which people interact with the new space:

  • You can restrict your employees’ access to the office to certain days of the week.
  • You can set and enforce policies if employees book meeting rooms and don’t show up repeatedly.
  • You can require your employees to sign in when using a desk to make sure that the space isn’t being wasted.

Software such as EMS can bridge the gap between employer and employee, allowing employees to interact with their space, vocalize their needs and feel empowered. At the same time, the employer has the ability to seamlessly regulate the usage of space, enforce certain rules and make data informed decisions to improve the employee’s experience.

For more tips, check out our blog on understanding desk hoteling software!