Rethinking Workspaces: the Impact of Work Flexibility on Real-Estates - What Facility Managers Should Know

6 April 2021

Workplace flexibility has been a key draw for workers for some time. Workers have repeatedly emphasized the importance of that flexibility and what it means for them as they choose jobs, decide whether to remain in a given position and try to balance work with their everyday lives. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, not only has workplace flexibility risen in importance, more businesses have realized that offering that flexibility is both possible and realistic.

Offering workplace flexibility, while a viable and even critical solution, does have a substantial impact on the physical real estate that belongs to your business. From keeping track of who has been in the office and when to ensure that you have the right physical solutions, including conference rooms and workstations, on hand to meet the needs of your employees, there are many things that facility managers must consider as they continue to maintain that critical flexibility in their workplaces.

Many Large Companies are Planning Selling Real Estate

Many large companies, including companies like British Airways, are considering selling their facilities in an effort to cut costs and improve efficiency. The shift to remote work, these companies note, will not simply be a measure that helps companies get through the events of 2020. Instead, many companies are considering the need to allow their employees to remain remote long-term.

Before selling existing real estate, however, it's critical for companies to have a solid idea of what their employees and facilities actually need. 

Changing Real Estate Needs in Light of Workplace Flexibility

Increased workplace flexibility means immense changes within many workplaces. 

1. Many businesses, especially those with large offices and establishments, may find that they need less overall real estate.

Since many employees are conducting their work from home or virtually, facility managers may find that their employees may need less actual physical space in their workplace environments in order to conduct their usual job tasks. This may result in several changes to the status quo.

The Need for Fewer Offices

When employees come into the office every day to take care of work responsibilities, they may need their own spaces in order to make it easier for them to complete workplace tasks. Some employees need privacy due to the need to deal with confidential customer data. Others need separate spaces in order to make it easier for them to focus on the job at hand, rather than getting distracted by others in the environment.

With many employees working from home, however, many businesses have found that they need fewer actual offices in the workplace. They may need only a handful of individual offices, mainly for employees who work primarily in the office environment or those who need to conduct private client meetings. 

Instead, many employers are making the shift to hot desk setups: instead of having a specific desk or office that belongs to a particular employee, the workplace contains multiple workstations that can be used by any employee, as long as they book it on time. This changing setup means that employees can quickly come into the office and make use of available space to complete their regular tasks wherever they are.

Flexibility can mean several things for employees and their workspaces. Some employers, for example, are allowing employees to stagger their schedules so that they will have fewer employees in the building at a time. Others are permitting employees to work from home part-time, but require them to be in the office a set number of times per week. Still others are making a permanent shift to a virtual environment. The specific needs of your business may depend on how your office is handling that flexibility and those needs. 

Changing Needs for Communal Spaces

With meetings, including client meetings, taking place virtually, many facilities managers are finding that there's less need for communal space within the office. Meeting rooms may not need to be as large, since many people will be connecting with the office via a virtual connection. The virtual trend is likely to continue even as facilities resume a new "normal" of operations, since many employers have learned the benefits of conducting work virtually and have found that they can hire people from anywhere. 

The shift to virtual workers, or flexible work schedules, also means that many facilities have smaller break room needs. If employees aren't in the building, they aren't gathering in break rooms or other spaces together. Overall, this means that the facility can get by on smaller communal spaces. 

On the other hand, it may mean that facilities managers need to carefully consider where people will gather when they are present within the physical office environment, and make sure there is adequate space for employees on the days when everyone needs to report for a specific reason. The needs of an individual business may vary based on the type of business conducted and the specific needs of a given employer. Monitoring and tracking occupancy in those spaces can make it easier for many employers to keep up with their space needs.

2. Meeting space needs are changing. 

In addition to decreasing physical space needs across many businesses, facilities managers are learning that they need different types of meeting spaces. Many businesses are now conducting client meetings virtually as the standard, rather than bringing their clients into the physical workplace to take care of those meetings and interactions. If your business has made that shift, you may no longer need large meeting rooms to take care of client or shareholder interactions.

On the other hand, some offices are using physical, in-person meetings as team-building exercises, or plan to include more of those activities once the business is back to normal. As a result, those buildings may need less individual office space and more communal space options that are available to employees and management team members. 

Occupancy Tracking Needs are Changing

In addition to actual physical space needs changing, increased workplace flexibility is changing the specific needs of employees across the business. Effectively space occupancy tracking contact tracing to the building has become more critical in light of workplace flexibility. 

1. Increased flexibility changes security needs. 

As flexibility increases across the workplace and employees spend less time in the physical building, security needs are changing along with those demands. Your on-site security and reception staff might not have the chance to get to know every employee personally. They won't see them coming into the office every morning or have a chance to get to know their needs on a personal level.

Tracking and monitoring software can make a huge difference in your overall security. With contact tracing software and devices, you can better keep track of exactly where employees are and who is in the building. This strategy can also make it easier to continue to stop security threats at the door, rather than mistakenly allowing them to get through. 

2. Employers need to know more about how employees are actually utilizing available space.

As you allow increased flexibility across your workplace, you may also need to know more about how your employees are using that available space. Some businesses are choosing to track their space needs before moving to a smaller building since that simple strategy can make it much easier for them to determine their real space needs. Others will find that they need continuous occupancy tracking to help them determine how their employees are actually using the space available within the office and make changes accordingly.

Suppose, for example, that you have opened up specific meeting spaces within your office, then set up a hot desk environment for your employees to complete their daily work tasks. Occupancy tracking can let you know several key things:

  • How many of those desks/workstations are actually being utilized at maximum building occupancy. This may occur only rarely or on specific days when all employees may be expected within the office. 
  • How many of your meeting rooms are actually being utilized on a daily basis.
  • How many employees and guests are actually in meeting rooms during a given meeting. For example, you may find that you have very large, 15-person meeting rooms that are only being used by an average of 8-10 people. Conversely, you might find that your employees and guests are cramming into too-small meeting rooms, which may mean that you need to expand your available meeting space. 

By keeping up with how employees are actually using available space, employers can determine what spaces they need to keep and which ones they may need to alter. 

Start Tracking Your Space Needs Today

Monitoring your space occupancy can help you determine what real estate you actually need for your business. Kontakt.io solutions are here to help. Our simple, self-service software, Kio Cloud-driven Portal Beam for occupancy tracking, air quality monitoring and more delivers real-time insights inside your office without infringing on privacy. Portal Beam is equipped with a thermal camera, so no face recognition is possible! Book a 30 min demo with our experts' team today and get your starter kit today!

Aneta Ciurkot

Director, Product Marketing

Beacon Buyer’s Guide

Struggling to choose beacon?
Download our free guide to learn more on Bluetooth LE products and select the one that will fit your project needs.
Free download

Active Monitoring in Healthcare

Download our free white paper to find out how data gathered by RTLS can be leveraged into greater efficiencies and cost savings.
Free download

Subscribe to the Kontakt.io Insider

Get the latest industry news, thought leadership, 
and tips straight to your inbox.