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Driving down office costs

How to assess your real space requirements


HOP Associates has developed an online tool to help those responsible for office accommodation make the most of the space available.  

Using this tool in the context of a flexible working programme can reduce dramatically the demand for office space, whilst improving productivity and motivation.

Click here for details of the tool and an online demonstration.

To arrange for a personal online  demonstration of the tool, please contact Bob Crichton at HOP

Tel: +44 (0)1223 264485

Understanding how space is used

HOP Associates has developed an online tool to support facility managers and space planners as they seek to optimise their office space.

The tool starts by collecting basic information on all buildings, rooms and workplaces - size, equipment, main  users, etc. It then collects workplace utilisation data each half-hour from 8.00am to 6.00pm, determining whether it is:

  • occupied 

  • unoccupied but claimed 

  • unoccupied and free

The data collected is correlated with information on buildings, rooms, workplace facilities, departments and job functions.

Numerical and graphical analysis of this information allows office space to be specified more optimally and the facilities impact of flexible working to be assessed. 

Why is this important?

In most organisations space is under-used. And in an age of flexible working supported by new technologies, this under-utilisation will increase.

After salaries, accommodation accounts for the highest costs in most office-based organisations.  There is constant pressure for more space, but this is often because current space is poorly used:

  • workspace is cluttered with storage for paper - shelving, cupboards, filing cabinets, etc.

  • standard issue desks have grown in size to accommodate safe working with large PC screens

  • workplaces are empty - not only outside office hours but often during much of the working day

  • space is considered a perk, with the most space allocated to the most senior people, who tend to be at their desks the least.

The assumptions that have led to current office space planning arrangements no longer hold true:

  • electronic storage and communications are replacing paper as the primary medium for most business processes

  • flat screens and small profile PCs (coupled with paper-free working) are eliminating the need for large desks

  • staff need to visit the office less, as they can access information and business applications from wherever and whenever is most effective.

But it's an uphill battle to make the case for change unless you can provide the evidence. Nothing makes the business case like numbers. By gathering comprehensive data about space use, managers can analyse current usage, and plan to use space more effectively.

What can be achieved?

There is no simple answer to this question.  The aim of the exercise is to improve business performance - reducing the demand for office space is just part of the equation.  Other factors include productivity, service, staff recruitment and retention and so on.

Theoretically, many employers could reduce office space needs by well over 50%, whilst guaranteeing that everyone always had somewhere to work.  In practice, the reinvestment of some of the potential savings into "unproductive" space - relaxation areas, water features, extra meeting rooms, staff facilities, etc. - can pay dividends in terms of staff motivation.

A useful, but non-scientific, "rule-of-thumb" is to re-invest half of the potential space savings back into improved staff facilities.  In practice we have found programmes such as that outlined above can deliver typically a 30% reduction in office space per employee and a substantial improvement in the overall working environment.

For more information on office space issues, please see the seven-part Flexibility tutorial article on Flexible Facilities.

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