Organisations across every businesses sector are constantly searching for ways to boost staff productivity and lower operational costs. Making more effective use of office space is one way both these goals can be achieved.
The need for a re-think stems from the fact that traditional working patterns have changed. This means the office designs of the past are no longer the most appropriate fit for many organisations. As a result, growing numbers are beginning to rethink how their spaces are best used and deploying technologies to maximise their return on real estate spending.
The challenge becomes obvious when you look at industry research. There are estimates that the average utilisation of workspace in Australia is now just 60%. Rather than spending all day at their desks, staff are out visiting clients or working from other locations, leaving desks empty.
Utilisation rates can be even lower in sectors such as consulting and telecommunications. When you add in associated facilities such as meeting rooms and collaboration spaces, the challenge becomes even greater. Considering that the annual cost of a meeting room in a central business area can be more than $26,000 a year, it’s clear new approaches to office fit outs and layouts are required.
One strategy being evaluated by rising numbers of organisations is the adoption of a policy of activity-based working. Rather than having rows of cubicles assigned to individuals sitting idle for long periods, desk space is allocated to staff on a needs basis. When staff members are in an office, they can book workspace to match the activity they need to complete.
This might be desk space for making calls or checking email, a small meeting room for a group conversation, or a larger room from which they can connect with colleagues in other locations. When staff are working from another location, the shared desks and rooms can be utilised by someone else.
Used effectively, such an approach can enable an organisation to decrease the amount of floor space required in a given location. Reduced floor space equals reduced rental costs, and this can be achieved without any detrimental impact being made to staff productivity.
To support an activity-based working approach, an organisation can take advantage of a number of tools. These include:
- Room booking tools: These tools can automate the task of booking meeting rooms and ensure all staff can see the status of rooms at all times. Bookings can be made either via a dedicated terminal in the office or through an intranet portal.
- Desk booking tools: Automation can also be applied to the task of assigning shared desk resources. This allows staff to book a desk remotely and be confident that space will be available when they require it. Small digital displays on desks can also automatically indicate whether a particular desk has been booked or is free.
- Digital signage: With staff regularly working from different offices and locations, deploying digital signage in offices can assist them to find their way to departments, meeting rooms and other facilities. The signs can be instantly changed should facilities need to be shifted.
- Occupancy sensors: These tools can monitor activity levels in offices and provide real-time data on spare capacity levels. This can aid in forward planning and capacity allocation.
An agile workplace can be further enhanced through the introduction of digital collaboration tools. For example, meeting rooms can be equipped with video conferencing facilities that allow staff to meet face-to-face even when in different physical locations.
Interactive white boards can also be deployed that allow easy sharing of information and presentations across multiple locations. Meeting participants can interact and exchange ideas as effectively as if they were in the same room.
Meanwhile, staff equipped with smart phones and tablets can also join meetings from almost any location. Software tools can be installed on their mobile devices that make connecting and participating in collaborative sessions simple and seamless. This can save the time and costs associated with gathering teams in a single place for update meetings and management briefings.
With staff in many organisations becoming increasingly mobile, having streamlined workflows in place is another important part of an agile workplace strategy.
Rather than relying on tedious paper trails, the digitisation of documents and workflows can ensure processes can be undertaken regardless of where staff happen to be located. Tools can be deployed that allow digital documents to be accessed, manipulated, signed and forwarded to the next person in the workflow process.
The business benefits of workflow automation are significant. Rather than having to spend time on tedious and repetitive processes, staff can instead focus on more value-added activities. Customer service levels can also be improved through faster response times and improved processing accuracy.
By taking advantage of these strategies, organisations can create an agile workplace that maximises the use of assets, reduces costs and boosts staff productivity. The future of work can be achieved – today.
About the author
Ragavan Satkunam is the Product & Marketing Manager, Communications & Workplaces at Ricoh Australia