Space management tips to help your people thrive in a hybrid workplace

Hybrid work has changed how people use the workplace. Not only are employees onsite less often, they’re more intentional about how they spend their time when they're there. People want to use the workplace to collaborate, meet up with work friends, and use onsite resources. To build a place employees want to be, companies need to adapt their physical spaces.

In today’s flexible workplaces, increasing space efficiency and usage is a must. Poorly managed spaces can lead to overcrowding and excess noise. On the flip side, it can also bring about empty-feeling work environments if people are too spread apart. Worst of all, it can hinder employee productivity and cause people to avoid coming into the workplace altogether.

So how do you provide a workplace that’s efficient, flexible, and a joy to be at? It starts with space management.

In this ebook, you’ll learn:

How hybrid work has changed the physical workplace
Actionable tips for understanding how people use your space
How you can optimize your space to support employee productivity and happiness

In today’s flexible workplaces, increasing space efficiency and usage is a must. Poorly managed space can lead to overcrowding, noisiness, and not providing the support employees need. On the flip side, it can also bring about empty-feeling work environments if people are too spread apart. Worst of all, it can hinder employee productivity and cause people to avoid coming into the workplace altogether.

So how do you provide a workplace that’s efficient, flexible, and a joy to be at? It starts with space management.

What is space management?

Space management is how you audit, track, and manage your company’s physical space. This is simple enough in concept, but can be more complex in practice. For example, you may oversee multiple spaces for your company. This may include several floors, buildings, or locations. These spaces may serve different purposes and have unique requirements.

Using space management tools will ensure your space is used efficiently and supports your employees. These tools will help you spot preferences and trends in how people use your workplace. With these insights, you can make data-driven optimizations to your space that’ll spark joy and increase productivity.

In a hybrid work environment, managing your space well is key to encouraging employees to come back to the workplace. It can mean the difference between an empty workplace and a lively one. Now that you know what space management is, let’s go over how hybrid work has impacted how workplace teams approach it.

3 ways hybrid work is driving space changes in the workplace

The numbers are clear—people are back in the office. With many employees demanding flexible work options, it looks like hybrid or distributed work is here to stay. To meet people’s changing expectations, companies need to rethink their physical workplaces.

In a hybrid or distributed work environment, you need to prioritize flexibility, efficiency, and workplace experience. They each play a role in enticing your employees to work onsite rather than remotely. Today, the workplace isn’t only competing against work-from-home environments. It’s competing against the “third workplace”—cafes, hotels, and co-working spaces.

To win, your space must offer an experience employees can’t get elsewhere. In a hybrid work model, this means enabling your employees to use the workplace in more collaborative and immersive ways. Let’s look at four ways hybrid work is shaking up the workplace.

1. Onsite work schedules look different across companies

There's a wide range of company policies that fall under the "hybrid" umbrella. At some organizations, employees are mandated to come into the office a certain number of days a week, while at others, employees aren't required to be in the workplace at all. Instead, they go in when they need to be there. In some cases, employees will set their own onsite schedules. Other times, schedules may be set by team or department. In any case, thanks to these varying onsite schedules, it's become incredibly difficult to get a clear picture of how your space is being used.

With the increased flexibility of hybrid or distributed work, for many people the workplace is no longer a place they have to be all week, so you have to work harder to make it a place they want to be. For example, some teams or departments may only work onsite certain days a week. To support who’s in the workplace, you can reconfigure the space depending on those schedules. For example, you can rearrange desks so there are enough grouped together to accommodate a team you know will be onsite for a weekly or monthly event. Better yet, ask your people what they need. When you make changes employees actually want, they’ll feel seen and welcome in the workplace.

The workplace is no longer a place employees have to be all week, so you have to work harder to make it a place they want to be.

2. Employees want to choose how they'll use the workplace

Employee choice is at the core of the hybrid workplace. According to Eric Gannon, Workplace Studio Leader at Gensler Chicago, hybrid work will shift companies toward a “‘worker-as-consumer’ mindset, with the workplace as their central marketplace.” This means you must be more responsive to your employees' needs and preferences. Otherwise, they could—like consumers—choose to work somewhere else.

Now, the workplace has primarily become a place to collaborate and build connections. But your employees also want their onsite experience to be flexible. If employees have heads-down work to do, they want to be sure they can book a desk to power through it. If they have loads of one-on-ones, they’ll need to reserve a meeting room to collaborate with coworkers. To support people’s changing needs, your floorplan, furniture, and technology must all be adaptable. This means implementing more moveable and adjustable features, like retractable walls or moveable partitions. It may also mean dividing large conference rooms into smaller meeting spaces and using more modular furnishings.

3. Collaboration between remote and onsite employees has never been more important

In a hybrid work model, employees need to be productive despite not always being in the same room as their coworkers. To enable this, companies need to be more deliberate about their workplace tech. Flashy new tech can be exciting but also a hassle to use. At the end of the day, employees need tools that simplify the workday rather than complicate it.

Under a hybrid work model, many employees come onsite for key meetings and presentations. Technology is a great place to lean in to support collaboration for a distributed workforce and to entice people to come into the office.

To do this, you should consider where to install screens, cameras, and other equipment that enables virtual collaboration. Think beyond your typical meeting rooms. For example, you may want to install screens in informal gathering spaces. Employees may want to use these areas to have a virtual lunch or coffee with colleagues who remotely or from other locations. Better yet, prompt employees to use these spaces in this way. One way you can do this is by placing a note by your drink station that says, “Got a few minutes? Invite a teammate for a coffee or tea in the lounge.” Don’t forget to think about noise levels since remote/onsite collaboration often results in more chatter, which can be disruptive.

In a hybrid work environment, the onsite experience is more important than before. Employees don’t necessarily have to go into the workplace five days a week anymore. Now, they need a reason to leave the comfort of their couch or favorite local coffee shop for the workplace. Think about how you’ve adapted your workplace for each of the priorities above. What changes have you made for hybrid work and how do they support your people? When you craft your space to meet the needs of employees, they’ll feel safe, empowered, and excited to turn up to the workplace.

Today’s workplace needs to compete with spaces like coffee shops, coworking spaces, and restaurants that know how to create a welcoming environment. For workplace and HR leaders, this is an opportunity to attract employees by offering a more enticing onsite experience.

4. Deciding the best space types for your workplace

In elementary school, walking into your new classroom at the start of the school year was exhilarating. There were new spaces and areas to explore. And they were all designed for you and your classmates. In the hybrid workspace, you have an opportunity to make your employees feel that same sense of awe, curiosity, and excitement.

Nailing the right spaces will improve the workplace experience and encourage employees to come in. The challenge is that there’s no limit to the different ways you might configure your space. You can select any mix of personal, collaboration, and social spaces. So how do you know which kinds of spaces are the best ones for your workplace? Here’s a foolproof way to uncover the right combination of spaces for your people.

Step 1 - Spot preferences and trends

The first step to enticing employees to choose the workplace is understanding how they prefer to use it. The most accurate way to accomplish this is by tracking space analytics. You can do this via different space management tools. They’ll help you spot preferences and trends in how your employees work. They’re also key to justifying space changes and investments in workplace design. Here are some of the things you can track with space management tools and the challenges they will help you address:

Where people like to work

This will show you which areas of the workplace are most in demand and which spaces you can improve.

Desk placement and spacing

This will help you ensure there’s enough space to create floor plans that improve productivity and reduce disruptions.

Capacity and desk usage

This will help you provide the right number of desks and spaces for heads-down work for your employees.

Meeting room usage

This will ensure people have enough collaborative spaces to take meetings.

These tools will also help you identify real estate expansion or consolidation opportunities. They’ll help you answer important questions, such as:

  1. How can we improve our office layout based on how employees use the workplace?
  2. Which areas of the workplace can we convert to maximize the use of our current space?
  3. Do we need to add more space based on utilization?
  4. Should we renew our expiring lease?

Having data to back up your real estate decisions will ensure you can plan future space requirements with more accuracy. You’ll be able to be proactive about acquiring new space and think long-term about your company’s real estate portfolio. Just as important, data will help you make a solid case to key decision makers for how you approach important real estate decisions.

Step 2 – Survey employees

To make data more powerful, pair it with employee feedback. This will deepen your understanding of how people use the workplace and how you can improve it. After all, employees are the ones using the space each day. What they think and how they feel should matter as much as what the data shows. Hearing from your people is also a great way to discover issues that may not appear in the data.

For example, survey results may reveal that most people think meeting rooms are an issue. Worse, since they’re worried about finding a space for their meetings, many employees avoid the workplace. So what do you do? Dig into your room booking data to learn how many people are showing up to meetings. If many are no-shows, you might refresh your meeting policies. Or, you could enable your booking system to release a room five minutes into the meeting if no one checks in.

Here are some questions you can ask your people:

  1. What draws you to work onsite?
  2. What space types do you need to be productive while onsite?
  3. Which spaces do you use least? Why?
  4. Which spaces do you use most? Why?
  5. What do you enjoy most about being in the workplace? Least?

The results of the survey should reveal the space types employees need and desire. Remember, productivity is important. But to inspire people to come onsite they have to enjoy being there. As you go through the survey responses, be sure to pay close attention to the small things you can do to your space that’ll spark joy in people’s daily experience. For example, say employees enjoy workplace food perks. You might provide snack stations throughout the workplace so food is never too far from any space. Survey employees on a regular basis—at least once a quarter—to ensure you have an up-to-date understanding of their needs.

Step 3 – Plan out your space

With the space usage data and results of your employee surveys, you can plan your hybrid workplace. Start with identifying your workplace space goals. The most common goal for hybrid workplaces is space efficiency. This means converting underused spaces into more sought after ones. But you should also focus on making the workplace an enjoyable place for employees to be. For example, you may aim to increase employees’ use of collaboration and social spaces in the workplace. Another goal may be to increase employee adoption of your space management tools so you have more data to work with.

Once you know what you want to accomplish, the next step is to identify space planning constraints. Constraints will help guide your plans and ensure you’re building a workplace that meets the needs of your employees and business.

Here are some constraints to consider:

  • Budget: What is your budget and how might that impact your investments and planning outcomes?
  • Departmental and team needs: Do certain groups have requirements in order to be productive? (e.g., the design department may always need access to whiteboards and collaboration spaces. Sales may want to work in clusters to inspire camaraderie but have access to phone booths to take calls with customers.)
  • Square feet: How much wiggle room do you have? If you’re tight on space, consider which elements of the workplace can flex to serve more than one purpose. Considering hybrid employees desire flexibility, this is a good call even if you’re working with sufficient space.
  • Time: Is this an ongoing project or are you building a workplace from the ground up? In either case, it’s important to set a timeline and milestones to meet. This will keep your team inspired and on track toward your end goals. It’ll also ensure stakeholders and executives are in the loop and aligned on your timeline.
  • Capacity: Have you identified how many people can work onsite each day? And how many people each space can accommodate? Identifying this information will ensure each space is equipped to support the max number of allowed occupants.

Once you’ve defined your constraints, list the changes and updates you want to make. This can be as simple as creating a spreadsheet and listing every space you have onsite. Then track whether you want to make changes to the space or keep it as-is. Describe any changes you want to make and include important information like:

  • Cost estimates
    This should be informed by your overall budget.
  • Why you want to make changes
    Use space data and employee survey results to inform this.
  • Expected outcome
    Draw from the goals you’ve established.
  • How you’ll measure success
    This could be higher space adoption rates, increase in employee sentiment, increase in the number of people who register for work, or any other metric that matters to your company. (More on this in the next section.)

Focus first on the most in-demand spaces. Collaborate with your facilities team to understand what spaces are possible and where. If your budget will support it, you may want the help of an interior designer. Either way, be sure to collaborate with your design team to ensure changes you make to your space are in line with your company’s brand.

Step 4 – Monitor and iterate

Once you’ve implemented changes to your workplace, it’s time to see how they impact your employees’ use of the space. There are three steps to this process:

  • Observe your space by collecting occupancy and space usage data
  • Collect feedback from your employees
  • Analyze your space data

You should also continue to collect feedback from employees after you roll out changes in the workplace. Having a space where employees can share their thoughts on an ongoing basis is smart. An “always-on” survey or a dedicated Slack channel are great options.

Finally, you can gauge the accuracy of employee feedback using real-time space management data. Here’s what your tools should allow you to track:

Capacity versus occupancy

Capacity indicates the number of people allowed in the workplace and in individual space at one time. Occupancy reflects the number of people occupying different areas of the workplace. For example, the capacity of one of your meeting rooms may be set at 15 people, while the average number of people who use it at once may be nine.

Overall space utilization

This is how much of any given space people use. Space planning tools can calculate this for you on a daily basis. For example, you’ll be able to track how many desks and meeting rooms employees book. With this information, you can see if it’s necessary to expand these spaces or downsize them.

Demand for space

This is how much space teams and departments need. You can calculate this based on how much of their space they actually use on a weekly basis. This will help you right size these spaces, enabling their productivity and optimizing your overall workspace.


Density tells you how much of your space is used at any one time. You’ll be able to glean information on the most crowded and least crowded areas of your workplace, which will help you make better use of each of those spaces.

Daily variables

Don’t forget to consider how your headcount fluctuates throughout the week. What are the busiest days in the workplace? What changes to your space might you need to make on busier days?

Getting your space right will probably take a few tries. Stay true to the process and don’t get discouraged. When you roll out changes to your space, monitor space analytics to see how people engage with it. Do the changes in how they use your space align with your goals? If the data shows progress, keep making incremental changes to your space to optimize it for your people. Continue to keep an eye out for their preferences and trends, too. Encourage your employees to share their feedback often. As you continue this process, your workplace will improve to meet—and even exceed—the expectations of your people.

The measurable workplace: tools you need to manage your hybrid workspace

Optimizing your space takes more than a good eye for design. To build a space that meets business and employee needs, you need data. Real-time and historical records will help you spot usage patterns, justify space expenditures, and improve the workplace experience for employees.

When you understand how people use your space, you can improve it to suit their needs. With space management data, you’ll be able to understand the areas of the workplace you can make more efficient and desirable. You’ll also be able to optimize your space more accurately than with manual planning and scale your efforts to other locations. Here are the tools you need to run a space-efficient workplace your people will enjoy being at.

An employee and visitor sign-in system

In order to plan your space, you need to know who’s coming in and how often. In a hybrid work model, there may be specific days that whole teams come in to work together. It’s also important to know which teams are most likely to have visitors in the workplace.

You can collect this information using your visitor management solution. You can break this data down even further to understand which teams are in the workplace most often. Resourcing and preferences in space types can vary by team. This data will help you plan ahead to have enough space and resources for these teams.

Meeting room booking software

In a hybrid work environment, there are typically fewer people in the workplace than in a traditional work model. Still, employees run into issues booking the right meeting rooms for their needs. And they often need to use meeting spaces more often than in a traditional model to take calls with remote colleagues.

Use a room booking solution to help employees easily find and book available rooms. You’ll be able to view analytics on room usage, such as how often each space is booked. You’ll also be able to see how many booked rooms are no-shows and free up that space for someone else to use.

Hot desk booking software

Many flexible or hybrid companies have chosen to implement hot desking, where employees can book a desk for the day instead of having a permanent desk that goes unused most days. Assigning desks manually can be a pain. With employees coming and going from their desks, it’s hard to know which desks are in use and which aren’t. There’s nothing more frustrating than setting up your workspace just right only to find out you have to move because someone was already sitting there. Doing desk booking manually also means it’s unclear which desks need to be sanitized, which may put employees off using them.

To make the most of your flexible seating space, use your desk booking solution to understand which desks employees prefer most. You’ll be able to see how many times each desk is booked, when they’re booked, and who booked them. With this information you can reconfigure your desk setup so it’s tailored to your people’s preferences. You can also ensure that every desk someone books will be clean and ready for use.

Space planning software

As you work out the space types that your employees want and need, you’ll have to test them out. After all, a new space isn’t necessarily a better one. A flexible workspace requires testing new space configurations and iterating on an ongoing basis.

To help you improve your workplace, you need a space planning tool. Start with a mockup of your current space. From there, you can explore layout variations. Space planning tools give you a birds-eye view of your workplace so you can explore layout options before making changes to your space.

Great workspaces aren’t formed by accident. They’re planned with specific goals in mind and evaluated on a regular basis. To that end, space management isn’t a “one and done” project. Expect people’s needs and expectations to change as they learn what works for them in a flexible work environment. With the help of space management tools, you can understand how people use your space and adapt it fast.