How many times have you tried to book a meeting room in the office only to find out that they are all occupied? Office layouts are usually divided into areas for specific tasks: cubicles for individual work, private rooms for executives and meeting rooms for group gatherings. But these prescriptive spaces can result in areas that are often left unused or rooms that are usually unavailable. It's not only a waste of expensive real estate but it can also impact employee productivity.
Remote working is on the rise but many organisations still prefer to keep their employees on site. Hot desking is a trend that has gained momentum as well but that still requires designated areas in an office.
While companies are increasingly adding a variety of workspaces for their workers, these areas often end up serving a single purpose.
"More variety usually comes at the expense of fewer areas assigned to specific employees and this tends to make it harder for employees to find the right space at the right time, and can harm productivity," according to global technology and management consultancy firm CEB.
I can see it in my own office; we moved premises over a year ago and now we have more meeting rooms along with some hot desk spaces. The problem is, I'm still struggling to book into a meeting room whenever I need to since I usually need one during 'peak' hours, even though at various times during the day those rooms are often empty. Hot desk spaces are often occupied as well.
So does that mean companies should completely redesign their offices? Not exactly. But they should encourage employees to change their mindset about how to use the space.
"Resourceful use of space comes from a change in employee mindset, not a change in the design of the space itself," CEB said. "Most companies have anecdotal examples of employees using the workspace in multiple ways: the aim here should be to make this a common, everyday practice across the employee base.
"The Swiss army knife approach to the working environment shouldn’t just take place in high-profile spaces with new, innovative designs but everywhere across the office."
For example, employees can use individual workstations for their own work, impromptu collaboration or small team brainstorming sessions. Private offices can also be used for individual work by the person whose office it is, team meetings or team collaboration work. A dining table can work for morning meetings or quick catch-ups as well.
While some employees are already doing this, it's not being done consistently and organisations should step in to encourage workers to re-imagine how they can use different spaces. Signs and policies related to using specific areas like meeting rooms should be reviewed as they maybe discouraging workers from experimenting with the space.
"For instance, a room might have a sign saying 'this meeting space is for two to five people'. But this is too limiting if it’s possible to use the space in other ways," CEB said. The solution is to allow freedom within certain parameters. For example [organisations] can create a sign that says, 'use this space for any occasion when noise is a concern'. This suggestion-based guidance can help employees envision alternative ways they can use the space."
Do you see a lot of wasted space in your office? What is your organisation doing to fix this? Let us know in the comments.