Reducing Office Space with Alternative Work Strategies
Finding the right ratio of open to occupied space is a tough balancing act. Some companies are growing out of their office space but, because of today’s economy and escalating construction costs, are wary about building or leasing new space. Others have built pricey new office space only to watch large portions of it sit vacant in recent years as workers telecommute. The solution for many of these companies is to build less and to “right-size” the workplace.
Organizations that want to improve space utilization over the long-term should consider alternative work strategies. Leveraging communications technologies and providing flexible work environments is the most sustainable solution for satisfying growth without adding space. Instead of assigning employees individual spaces, companies can provide the right spaces in the right places for each segment of the workforce. Flexible settings include home offices, cafés, conference rooms, telephone booths and touchdown desks.
Companies have realized significant results with alternative work strategies — building smarter, not bigger.
- One global financial company has projected annual cost avoidance of $17 to $20 million through alternative work initiatives to build space based on actual occupancy, not head count.
- Sprint shed 2.4 million square feet of space from 2005 to 2007 and 900,000 square feet will be released in 2008 using smart real estate planning and their “Work Anywhere” model. This creates an annual savings of $80 million starting in 2009.
- The “Integrated Work Environment” space planning program at Nortel has produced space 25 percent more efficient than the existing portfolio — savings that go right to the bottom line. Nortel’s recent relocation of its world headquarters in Toronto, Canada, realized a 50 percent reduction in space per person served. “Person served” includes the entire organizational population using a facility, which may include employees who are not assigned a permanent seat but use the facility regularly (such as teleworkers or “work anywhere” employees).
Most companies, however, do not embrace alternative work strategies for the entire organization. Instead, they determine which work functions are logical candidates to be untethered from a primary office.
Adopting alternative work strategies requires studying the workforce to select the best “work anywhere” candidates. Facility executives can begin by working with managers in each business segment to analyze employee mobility and autonomy. Are certain groups already on the move and using tools and methods that allow them to thrive outside the office? Are they comfortable with and capable of working outside a group setting? After that, the selection process involves filtering out potential operational, technological and cultural obstacles and giving people the tools they need to succeed.