If you asked folks a decade ago to describe a typical workplace, they would have mentioned cubicles or assigned offices. Today, flexible setups like open floor plans and shared workspaces are more common—especially as more companies embrace hybrid work. As a workplace manager, you may find yourself in the challenging position of enabling both on-site and remote work while also creating a workplace employees want to come to. That’s where space management comes in. Space planning is how you audit, track, and manage your physical office space. Using business space planning tools, you can create a flexible workplace and gather insights into how folks prefer to use the space so you can improve it. In this post, we’ll cover office space planning basics and how you can use space planning tools to create a place where your employees thrive—no matter how they choose to work.
Why is office space planning important?
Office space planning involves understanding how employees use your space and making strategic design decisions to accommodate their needs, from layout and lighting to seating setups and meeting rooms. The result:
- Less wasted office space
- A more pleasant and responsive work environment
- Increased collaboration
- Creativity and productivity
- Energy efficiency
- A thriving on-site culture
Effective office space planning is a win-win-win for employees, workplace managers, and your company’s bottom line. In an increasingly flexible working world, traditional offices are now competing with home offices, co-working spaces, and even coffee shops. In the next section, we’ll show you how to create a space employees want to use—one that is responsive to employee needs, productive to work in, exciting to come to, and fosters company culture.
Office space planning tip #1: Assess your space
As you consider all of the floor plan and space design options, you need to have a good sense of what’s realistic. That comes together by both understanding how employees are using your existing space and what realistic changes you can accommodate. You can track how employees use your workplace over time with data from tools like hot-desking software, conference room booking software, and your visitor management system. (More on those tools later.) This information will inform how to make office improvements to accommodate your team.
For example: It’s time to make some space changes if your kitchen takes up half the floor but no one’s using it, and the huddle spaces only take up a quarter of your space but they’re getting booked up every day.
Take a critical eye to the space itself and think about what’s realistically possible. While you might not be able to knock down a bunch of walls in your first year of space planning, you may be able to swap out lighting features to set a better mood, or replace cubicles with tables to provide more flexibility.
Office space planning tip #2: Use the right tools
Space management tools should integrate with your other workplace tools to provide a seamless, flexible working experience for your employees. As you plan out your physical office space, think through how tools can complement the environment for employees—and enhance your understanding of space use. Here are four types of workplace systems that should work together seamlessly:
- A visitor management system adds security to your front desk, keeping employees safe while providing your company insights into who’s coming in and when.
- Conference room scheduling software makes it easy for employees to find and reserve meeting rooms, for a responsive on-site experience. It also shows you how rooms are being used so that you can optimize the spaces. (Is it time to divide the big conference room into smaller huddle rooms? To open smaller meeting rooms to accommodate bigger meetings?)
- Hot desk booking software ensures employees on-site have a place to work, plan, and collaborate. It also gives you insight into where and how people prefer to work.
- Space planning tools help bring new workplace layout ideas to life with floor planning and 3D modeling.
Want to dive deeper? We discuss how these tools work together to create a seamless flexible working environment in this blog post on space management.
Office space planning tip #3: Engage employees
Not sure how to make your workplace somewhere employees want to work? Ask them! Before you make any decisions, send out a survey to understand employee preferences. Proactively communicate any space changes. You can even involve interested employees in the decision-making process. The more you can engage your employees in reimagining their own space, the more they’ll want to work in it.
Office space planning tip #4: Document your space plan
Office and business space planning can be a fun and creative exercise. But without hard data and benchmarks, you might be shooting in the dark. A thorough, metric-driven plan ensures your business needs and space planning strategy sync up.Write down your plan and attach key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure your success. For example, if you’re planning to remove all closed offices and add 20 hot desks, document a goal to assess whether that change drove more collaboration or better attendance. Here are some KPIs you might consider in that example:
- Increase the average number of employees in the office by 50%
- Increase employee-reported collaboration and satisfaction by 25%
Remember: Tangible goals and metrics will keep you accountable and encourage you to continually assess what’s working and what isn’t. Clear measures of success can also help make the case to leadership by highlighting improvements and the need for continued support.
As you design and report on your KPIs, remember to account for:
- Occupancy and density: How many people are using your space, and which spaces are they using most? Space planning tools can calculate how many people are working on-site and where they’re choosing to work.
- Demand: Does workspace supply match demand? Ideally, there’s space for everyone without much waste. Regularly documenting space usage and occupancy will give you a sense of how well your office is meeting employee demand.
- Variables: Monitor your space over at least three weeks to account for daily and weekly fluctuations in work and schedules. Accounting for hybrid work variables also provides insight into demand: When are most people in the office? How might you accommodate for busier days?
Office space planning tip #5: Monitor and iterate
The final steps to a successful space management plan are monitoring what’s working and iterating on what’s not. The point of a flexible workplace is that it’s, well, flexible. No workplace configuration is permanent. The layout and decisions you make should change as employee preferences change. Be sure that workplace design is a living, breathing process. Collect regular feedback from employees about how the changes are affecting their work experience, and cross-check feedback with your KPIs.
For example: If your goal was to increase the number of employees on-site by 50%, and after six months you’re only calculating an increase of 10%, it might be time to check in with employees. What barriers are keeping that number low? What further changes should you make to your space to accommodate employee needs?
This sort of continual assessment and improvement will keep the workplace from feeling stagnant. —There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to office space planning. Sure, there are office space planning guidelines—basics like synchronized technology, flexible layouts, space planning software, and data to inform decisions. But ultimately, you need to be ready to accommodate shifting employee needs at any time. Learn more about how to set your workplace up for hybrid success in an ever-changing work world.