The usage levels of work stations in traditionally arranged offices during the week rarely exceeds 70 per cent , as shown by CBRE data. Naturally, depending on the industry and the firm's specialisation this percentage varies, but in general it means that three out of ten work stations are not being utilised. The biggest turnout is on Tuesday afternoons, whereas on Fridays after the lunch break it drops down to as low as 30 – 35 per cent. Why do so many desks remain empty? In the era of Internet and mobile technologies development we can work anywhere and at any time. Although employees still come into the office for meetings, consultations or to perform routine tasks, in many sectors coming to work every day is no longer required.
These trends have significant consequences from office space lessees' point of view– says Jonathan Steer, Director of Construction Advice Department, CBRE in Poland. Ever more often they are looking for offices enabling flexible space arrangement, allowing for significant savings. Lessees also consider public and own transport connections and ease. More and more companies, especially international corporations, are starting to appreciate the benefits of decreasing the leased space and the costs, which can be achieved by implementing an innovative strategy of a workplace taking into consideration the new way of working. Lowering the costs of a lease may reach 20 per cent - he explains.
Many firms decide to join operational units and to make savings related to the property's costs. It creates better financial results. It is the source of the increase in the popularity of new business strategies, relating to limiting the space used. Simply speaking: a smaller office means lower costs. In addition, many lease agreements are being renegotiated now, which were signed five years ago, during the so called 'peak' on the market. It creates the ideal conditions for companies to reconsider their strategy in terms of work stations allocation and work space requirements– explains Jonathan Steer.
Innovative office – what is it?
Modern offices are supposed to be mainly flexible and allow sor quick changes depending on the needs. An 'Innovative office' arrangement aims to improve the communication between departments and employees. It focuses on a more informal atmosphere and a modern design. It is also connected to creating a company's image, as the office is its flagship on the outside, as well as between the workers.
Outside specialists may help to create a modern office. The CBRE company provides consulting and advice on those matters. Creating an innovative office arrangement begins with a thorough analysis of a given firm's situation. During a series of interviews the issues of the organisational culture, business processes, future visions and mobility are discussed. Next, workers' behavioural patterns are observed, for example what time the majority and minority of them arrives at the office, what are the rules of cooperation between departments and what meetings or break times look like. The next phase is building the principles defining among others: who works outside the set working hours and which departments would work best in the specific areas of the office.
Usually implementing the new office arrangement means decreasing the work stations number by even 30 per cent. Sharing desks is implemented, as well as project-based work and equipping the desks with the latest technological developments. Within the office more meeting rooms are organised, which assists with building relations and informal meetings, as well as spaces intended for quite work and relaxing areas.
So called 'hot desks' are becoming increasingly popular. Employees arriving at work sit down by a desk that is currently free. If there is no division for particular departments, it may create chaos related to mixing up workers from various departments, which creates a communication barrier. This strategy works in companies in which the employees often go out to meetings or work from home. As part of this solution there are lockers in the office in which the workers store their belongings.
Is it worth it?
At first, changing the office arrangement disturbs the working routine. It may also create tension between workers. However, according to the experts, in the long term it introduces more dynamism, as well as better communication and cooperation. The is more knowledge and ideas exchange between workers. The can also feel more relaxed and independent.
The success of implementing the new strategy depends on its skilful management. A lot of time and attention have to be paid to the management and the workers. They have to know why the decision has been made, what changes are planned and how they will impact on the personal circumstances of all the employees. The process requires time and effort, but it's necessary. Communication has to be skilfully designed, the aims clearly presented and the correct training organised at the right time – comments Wouter Oosting, Senior Director, Strategic Department for Work Environment and Design at CBRE in Holland.
Innovative offices are becoming a more and more popular trend on the modern office space market. The reason for it is mostly the pressure to lower rent and to increase savings. Although the cost of arranging one square metre in this system is bigger that in the traditional system, it helps decrease the costs of managing an office and potential moving costs.
Even if a given organisation is not convinced that the new strategy is necessary for their office, they might use some elements of it and solutions, which will improve efficiency – says Ireneusz Gawędziński, Deputy Director, Construction Advice Department, CBRE in Poland. Introducing more open spaces in the office, arranging more attractive common spaces or installing more coffee points with a modern design may be enough. Even those simple techniques may increase the interaction in the office and encourage knowledge and ideas exchange. Exposing corporate culture associations in the building and using corporate identification elements may encourage the employees' pride and the feeling of association and belonging. Because of that, they will be less likely to leave the job for a competitor, and more efficient at work – he says.