2023 is shaping up to be a busy year in the workplace. With return to office policies in full swing, organizations are looking to solve one important pain-point: space.
With offices and workplaces feeling busy once again, companies must seriously assess whether their space can accommodate the number of employees, both now and in the future. Optimizing space is crucial. And for many, that means working with the space they’ve got–especially as economic conditions tighten budget belts across industries. Employees need enough space (and enough of the right space) to be productive. And businesses need to ensure they are saving costs and getting a return on investment on the space solutions they implement.
Enter smart space solutions–technology that knows your workplace inside out and can automate and assist people in getting the most out of their office space. Think meeting room technology that automatically frees up a room if people don’t check into it. Or a hot desking tool that automatically assigns you a desk near coworkers, managers, or teammates. Or even interactive maps that enable you to see where everything and everyone is–helping you create a collaborative environment that people want to be a part of.
In this ebook, we’ll explore different smart space management solutions that can help you optimize your workplace in the right way for your company. We’ll cover how to utilize smart space solutions to find efficiencies in processes and harness the power of automation. Finally, we’ll leave you with the know-how to transform your office into a smart workplace powered by automatic solutions.
Keep on reading to learn:
1. What are smart space solutions?
Picture your living room. Imagine you’re hosting an event with friends and family and you suddenly realize you don’t have enough space for folks to mingle, eat and drink, and enjoy themselves without being cramped. You have two options: cancel the event (no fun at all) or get creative with your space. Optimizing your space for your guests might mean rearranging some furniture, getting some extra tables and chairs, or opening up another room for people to use.
Now take that same problem and magnify it to match your workplace. Think about all of your employees heading into the office this year. Do you have enough space for everyone? Do you have enough desks and rooms for folks to use? When your employees return to the office, whether it’s full-time or part of a hybrid schedule, it could be chaos. No rooms or desks, and no way to understand how people are using your workspace.
To optimize your space, you must first understand what solutions are out there and how they work. In this chapter, we’ll dive into smart space solutions and why you need them to improve your office space.
What are space solutions?
The goal of space optimization is to find ways to make the most of the space you currently have. That means avoiding empty desks, ghosted meeting rooms that have been reserved but sit empty, and unused social spaces. It also means setting your space up in a way that empowers your employees to do their best work.
In today’s world, it’s almost impossible to optimize space without smart space technology. Smart space solutions help you utilize your existing workspace more efficiently through automation and insights. In turn, this helps to create a positive employee experience onsite.
Smart space solutions will not only improve your workplace with automation and make your space work better for employees, but it also helps you manage your resources and costs through visibility into usage data. An ultimate win-win.
What makes space solutions smart?
The term “smart” actually comes from an acronym for “self-monitoring, analysis, and reporting technology” according to NetLingo. And while smart technology is a broad field that is difficult to define, smart space solutions are more niche.
Smart space solutions are smart because of their ability to be intuitive and automatic when it comes to making your space as efficient as possible. Think room booking technology that suggests the right room based on in-office attendees and tech needs. When people go to book a meeting on their calendar, a suggested room shows up based on how many people are invited and what kind of amenities they need. If the host wishes to switch to a different room, they can by using a drop down list.
Smart technology does a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to the manual, day-to-day tasks of sharing an office space–giving everyone more time and mental capacity to focus on what matters most at work.
The benefits of smart space solutions
Currently, 46% of businesses only use half of their physical office space. Of those companies, 73% are looking at measures like space optimization to cut costs, improve employee experience, and make their workplace more agile. Here are five common benefits of smart space solutions that you can expect.
1. Cost saving
Reducing your office footprint cuts costs. Smart space solutions help you understand how your space is being used, so you can decide if and where you can cut.
2. Space optimization
If you cannot reduce your office footprint, then optimizing the space you’ve got is a great way to continue growing your company without the need to upsize your office space.
3. Better employee experience
When tedious tasks like booking meeting rooms become automated, it makes the employee experience more slick. According to our recent At Work report, 34% of employees cited slow technology as a major deal breaker for returning to the office. The more technology helps make peoples’ lives easier at work, the less frustrated folks are about finding a space, and the more they will enjoy returning to the office.
4. Workplace agility
As organizational priorities shift, so must your office. How your workspace adapts to you and your way of working is crucial. Smart space solutions help you pivot when the time comes by transforming spaces quickly and easily.
5. Time saving
By automating manual tasks, your people get back precious minutes and hours in their roles. This is beneficial both to employees that experience smart space solutions, and admins who control them.
4 different types of smart space solutions
Now that you know the definition, here are four types of space solutions that should be on your radar. In the next chapter, we’ll get into the features that make each piece of technology smart.
1. Room booking
According to LinkedIn, demand for meeting rooms has skyrocketed by 73% in 2022 across flexible workspaces. It’s no big surprise. As offices begin to fill back to their original capacity, the demand for space to have team meetings, 1:1 discussions, or a private space to focus has increased as well.
Room booking software enables you to find and book the right room for your meeting when you need it. It also frees up any unused rooms if folks are no-shows or if they cancel a meeting and forget to release the room. (We’ve all been guilty of this.)
With room booking software, the tedious work of scheduling meeting rooms is automated. Display screens outside the room are color-coded to show you if a room is busy, free, or pending check-in. If nobody checks-in, the room automatically releases after a set period of time. This gives the space to others who need it. It also gives your organization important data on how employees use different meeting rooms throughout the week.
2. Hot desking
Hot desking is a flexible seating arrangement that enables folks to book a desk on an ad-hoc basis, depending on when they are coming onsite. This is particularly popular with hybrid work, where employees can switch between home and the office throughout the week. Hot desking technology gives you valuable data to make informed decisions about your space. For example, if you know that 50% of your desks currently sit unused, you can right-size your layout to minimize wasted space. You might replace those empty desks with couches. Or you could even open your office up to a co-working space to really make the most of your real estate.
3. Space analytics
Space utilization insights are your secret superpower to improve your workspace. Smart space solutions should provide analytics and data to help you analyze how your space is used. You can look at things like office attendance rates, which rooms are booked most often and at what time, and the number of people booking desks throughout the week. If you are an organization spread across multiple floors or locations, you can also use insights to understand which office space is used most. Based on the data, you may decide to reduce your real estate to bring people closer together, while simultaneously saving on cost.
Interactive maps give you a bird’s eye view of your office layout. It helps you see which meeting rooms are available and where they are within your office layout. It also helps you locate where coworkers are sitting throughout the office. This benefits everyone in your office. No more walking around the office searching for people or rooms. Instead, folks can check the map and know exactly where they’re going.
Smart space solutions come in different shapes and sizes for all types of organizations. Maybe you only need a hot desking solution as you refine your return to office policy in 2023. Or it could make more sense to invest in a workplace platform that includes everything from smart meeting room technology, to hot desking, and detailed analytics across your entire office.
Whatever it is, it’s easy to see why smart space solutions can help transform your workplace. But the question remains: is it worth it? We are living in a time of economic downturn, which means companies are looking to tighten budgets and are scrutinizing investments even more. That’s why the next chapter delves deep into the features of smart space solutions, so you can understand how they drive office efficiency, save cost, and increase productivity and output.
2. Features of smart space solutions that can transform your workplace
Now that you know what technology makes up space solutions, let’s take a deep dive into some of the must-have features that make them smart. Remember, just like your smartphone, it’s the apps and features that make it unique to you (whether you have Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok on your phone, your apps say a lot about you). The same goes for smart space solutions, where features help you understand what your organization needs on a unique level. Let’s dive in.
Space optimizing features of your room reservation system
Room space saver
If you are a party of two looking for space for a 1:1 discussion, then meeting room etiquette says you shouldn’t book one of the only meeting rooms that can host 10 people. However, when meeting rooms are booked, canceled, and rescheduled on a daily basis, it can become difficult and time-consuming to keep searching for a room that accommodates the right number of attendees.
With smart space solutions, this manual task is automated for you. For example, if you accidentally booked that 10 person room for your 1:1, the room resizer feature will automatically prompt you to book you a smaller room for your needs. This then gives other teams and groups the ability to still use the large room if they need it, and no space has been wasted in the process.
In today’s hybrid world, people have more flexibility to come onsite or choose to work from home. That inevitably results in some folks booking rooms in advance and then forgetting to cancel them. It can be frustrating for employees who can’t book a meeting room even though they see empty ones, otherwise known as “ghost rooms.”
With an auto-release feature, folks have a set period of time to check-into a meeting before the room automatically releases. This might be five minutes before the meeting start-time and five meetings after the meeting start-time, giving people ten minutes in total to check-in. If no one checks in, that room is freed up for others to use.
Recurring meeting clean-up
We’ve all had that recurring meeting in our calendars that inevitably begins to trail off after multiple cancellations and busy schedules. With a recurring room clean up feature, you can ensure that rooms tied to recurring meetings are automatically removed from the calendar event after attendees miss check-in multiple times.
Plans change, which means meeting rooms will change too. With a room rescheduler feature, you can reschedule your meeting room and be automatically assigned a different room if the original one is no longer available. It will also take into account how many people are invited to the meeting to ensure you have the right size room for your needs.
Color-coded display screens
Having an iPad or tablet outside each meeting room makes it easy to know if a room is sitting empty, occupied, or pending check-in. Folks can quickly assess available meeting rooms by looking at the colors. For example, if a room is free then the tablet will be green. If it’s pending check-in, it’ll show yellow. If it’s occupied, it’ll be red. For folks who want to book a meeting room on the fly, looking at screens outside helps prevent any awkward interruptions or accidentally stealing a reserved room.
Space optimizing features of your desk booking system
This feature enables you to utilize your desks more effectively by automatically releasing desks that an employee no longer needs. For example, if you book a desk in the office but decide not to go in, then the auto-release feature will free up your desk if you haven’t checked in by a set time. This allows you to optimize your space by offering the desk to someone else onsite.
Having to go through the same process again and again to book a desk is annoying. That’s why a smart desk feature that remembers the last desk location you booked is helpful and plays a huge role in making your employees’ lives easier when coming onsite. Default desk assignments are pretty simple. It remembers the desk you booked previously and assigns you the same spot if it’s free the next time you book. If you want to change it, it’s easy to do so on an app.
Booking desks by the hour gives you and your employees even more flexibility. If your organization offers flexible working hours, you might find that some folks prefer to start early and leave in the afternoon. Others may plan their day around school drop-off and pick-up. Being able to book a desk by the hour helps admins save space and get a more granular picture of people’s desk needs.
Giving employees the option to book multiple days in advance helps them plan their hybrid week ahead, and helps you know how your space is being used for longer periods of time. For example, those who visit the office three days a week can book a specific or different desk for the week ahead, rather than on a daily basis.
Everyone has favorites, whether it’s a cookie or a coworker. With a favorites feature, your employees can mark certain coworkers or teams as favorites so they can easily see what days they are coming in and they can plan to be there as well. Folks can see where their favorites are sitting and are able to reserve a desk near them to collaborate in person.
Neighborhoods is a feature that allows you to designate sections of your office, or office floors, to specific teams or groups based on capacity. This feature allows you to seat teams or cohorts together, while being mindful of the available space per team.
Interactive maps help you and your employees navigate your office with ease. It helps folks be productive by offering a birds-eye view of everything in your workplace, from rooms, desks, people, and deliveries.
With interactive maps, your employees can look on the map to understand who’s booked a desk on a certain day and where their desk is located. They might choose to book a desk near certain people, or choose to sit away from people to focus. (After all, 33% of people chose chatty coworkers as the biggest deal breaker in returning to the office.)
Folks can also see if others have checked-in yet, or whether the desk is still reserved by seeing their status. When someone checks into the office, they will have a green dot next to their picture–much like Instagram or Slack. That makes it easy to know if folks are in the building yet or not.
Real-time meeting room and desk availability
Using interactive maps, your employees can see where each meeting room and desk is located in the office. They can also see if each room and desk is free or not via a status dot, which shows green when available and red when booked. So if you’re feeling focused at your desk but need to hop into a room quickly, simply looking on your map for availability is much easier than walking around.
Folks can also book or switch to different desks using interactive maps. Much like coworkers, available desks will show up as green and you can choose your desk based on things like availability, neighborhoods, or next to your work bestie.
Other office areas
Printer room. IT and tech support. Delivery area. Depending on the size of your office, it can sometimes be tricky to find out where these places are. Using interactive maps, you can quickly locate it by zooming out and seeing different rooms around your office. Easy peasy.
What’s the use of smart space solutions, automation, and a ton of fantastic features if you can’t access the valuable insight you need to make informed decisions about your workspace?
The most accurate way of optimizing your space is understanding how folks use it. To do that, you must track usage metrics. Space analytics help you spot preferences and trends in how your employees work. They’re also key to justifying investments in space changes and workplace design. Analytics can help you answers questions like:
- Where do my employees like to work in the workplace?
- How many desks are used on average and how spaced out are they?
- What is the office’s average capacity on a weekly basis?
- How many people are booking meeting rooms?
- How many people are canceling meeting rooms or not showing up?
But data alone isn’t the answer. You also need ways to translate it and understand it. Smart and insightful charts help you do this and answer your most pressing questions about your space For example, when it comes to analyzing your room usage, smart analytics gives you answers to questions like:
- Which amenities and room sizes are being booked more frequently than others?
- Which rooms have the highest no-show rates?
- Do certain departments prefer different rooms to others?
- How many minutes has the room space saver feature given us back?
- How much excess capacity was in a room?
The smartest space solutions integrate with your other workplace tools, and allows employees to reserve spaces in the tools where they already spend their time, like Slack and Google Calendar.
Ensuring your smart space solutions can integrate easily within your tech stack is crucial. Integrations are important. For example, when implementing a room booking system, you’ll want to ensure it can talk to your calendar and visitor management system. That way, you know how many people attending a meeting are onsite versus at home.
Phew! Still with us? Getting a handle on features may feel overwhelming but when baked into your workplace operation, both you and your employees can depend on them to make your lives easier and your office operations more seamless. In the next chapter, we’ll take everything you’ve learned about smart space solutions and apply it to improving the employee experience.
3. How to improve the employee experience using space
Employee experience has always been a priority for workplace leaders. When folks went remote during the pandemic, it was a huge focus to ensure their wellbeing and experience of remote work was positive. Now, as people return back to the office, companies are looking for different ways to create a great employee experience onsite.
Smart space solutions are a key way to achieve this. In fact, more than 53% of companies plan to increase their investment in employee experience technology next year–including those that help optimize the space they use to work. In this chapter, we’ll explore how to harness the power of your space to improve the experience folks have in your workplace. Let’s get started.
4 ways to encourages productivity using space
For those who know Marie Kondo, an organized wardrobe is representative of an organized life. Her famous motto is: “Keep only what sparks joy.”
The same sort of thought process can be applied to the workplace—especially when it comes to space optimization and office design. Does your current space spark joy? If not, why? What’s contributing to a negative experience?
When your employees feel positive in your workspace, they’ll be more productive. For example, by ensuring your room booking process is a positive, streamlined, and easy experience, your people can keep focused and happy onsite. Here are four creative ways you can use your space to encourage productivity and a great employee experience in the office.
1. Color-coded desk lamps
You might consider adding desk lamps or lights within your desks as an easy way for employees to show they are open to chatting. After all, we’ve all been in a position when a coworker comes over to ask a question or chat right in the crucial moment of being in the zone. While impromptu interactions are a benefit of the office, sometimes those interruptions can disturb your workflow. By having a desk lamp system, employees know when their coworkers are in heads-down space versus lighter work, helping to avoid awkward moments and promote spontaneous collaboration.
2. Office design
Imagine walking into an office with color schemes that work, plants that calm, desks that don’t look crowded, and different rooms for different needs dotted around the floor. It smells clean and fresh, and the temperature is just right. Instantly, you feel ready for your day ahead.
Office design is a small but continual effort that has a huge impact on how your people feel onsite. The difference between thoughtful office design and a space that feels empty, whitewashed, or messy is employee experience, productivity, and retention.
3. Convertible spaces
Take a critical eye to your space 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 get creative. Think convertible spaces, like moveable walls, that enable you to transform a private area into a social space. Also moveable whiteboards and screens to make open spaces more accessible for collaborative meetings. You can also add tables with wheels to your kitchen space so they can be easily moved in and out or swap out lighting features to fit specific moods.
4. Different types of spaces
Your employees have different roles and by nature require different types of spaces to do their best work. The sales team, for example, might need to feed off the energy of others and so need to work close to their team. The engineering team, on the other hand, needs to focus more and may require a quieter spot in the office. Having different types of spaces is necessary to ensure everyone feels supported at work. Examples of different types of spaces are:
- Productivity zones. Your productivity zone might include banks of desks, individual work stations, or small pods for people to work away from noise. People are productive in different ways, so this might vary across each office.
- Collaboration spaces. These are collaborative areas in your office where folks can talk freely about something at work. This could be a meeting room for a more structured conversation, or it could be a more noise-friendly part of the office where people can chat on the fly.
- Quiet zones. Some people like to chat, some people don’t. Ensure your space has a quiet zone for people to focus without having to rely on noise canceling headphones.
- Social areas. This could be couches and a TV screen. It could be a games area. It could be an extension of your kitchen. Whatever it is, having space for socialization is crucial to ensuring a positive employee experience onsite.
- Wellness spaces. Things like nap pods, massage rooms, and mothers rooms are an increasingly important staple in modern offices.
How to implement the right tools to drive employee happiness in your workspace
Tool fatigue is a very real problem in today’s world. In our personal lives, we use an average of 30 different apps each month. Combine that with our professional lives, where we use up to 35 applications a day, it’s no surprise that folks feel overwhelmed by technology.
It’s important to think about this when choosing new additions to your tech stack. In the past, a lot of leaders haven’t got it right. According to PwC, 90% of executives implement technology based on what’s best for their people. But that isn’t translating lower down–where only 53% of employees say the same.
Here are some ideas to make sure you’re implementing the right tools that make employees’ happier in their space, not more tired.
- Survey your employees (regularly). Get their perspective on what they need at work. While you might think fancy motion sensors will entice folks back, the novelty wears off overtime. Ensure you get employee input and buy-in for new tech.
- Communicate (always). If you suddenly switch up peoples’ permanent desks with hot desks without context, it’s likely employees won’t take it too well. After all, we’re all creatures of habit. Communicate why you think this tool will make everyone’s experience of the office easier and more efficient.
- Consider an all-in-one approach. Instead of adding multiple space solutions to your employees’ tech stack, consider a workplace app that has it all in one place. Want to check into your desk for the day then find the nearest available meeting room? Easy—it’s all on the same workplace map. The more you can keep everything you need for the workplace in one place, the better for your employees.
It pays to invest in employee experience. According to Inc, investing in employee experience increases productivity by 21%, profitability by 22%, and decreases absenteeism by 37%.
But employee experience goes beyond just fun and games onsite. Sure, everyone likes to be able to grab a coffee and sit on the couch with a coworker. It offers valuable time away from the screen. It also drives workplace culture when folks can catch up as friends.
With that said, the larger portion of creating a positive employee experience is about the technologies you use and the space you create for folks. Think about everything we’ve covered in this chapter–the power of different types of spaces, the impact of office design, and using that space with technology. It all adds up to a positive employee experience onsite.