The office-based, 9-5 workforce is a thing of the past. Remote working is on the rise with 1 in 5 of us working away from the office every day. The rest of the mobile workforce is reported as spending less than 60% of their working week in ‘their’ office. Under-utilized office space is becoming an increasingly costly challenge.

Hot-desking and hoteling offer one solution, allowing workers to use the office as and when they need to without the business paying for a permanently allocated space for everyone. And open plan spaces, designed to fit more into less space, allow costs to be cut further. Even though a reported 70% of offices have adopted this style, it gets terrible press with claims that productivity drops due to increased noise and distraction; workforces become demotivated as a result of sharing space; and sickness is 62% higher in employees regularly working in open plan buildings. So should you return to individual assigned offices for everyone in the hope that employees with personal space, privacy and better health will be sufficiently productive to compensate for the cost of the additional and under-utilized space?

Not necessarily. What is becoming alarmingly apparent in this debate is the lack of consideration given to which workplace design works best in the context of the business using it. A recent FMJ article claims that one reason for poor utilization statistics is a tendency to follow a ‘data-less’ approach to design; starting with what people want, not what the business needs (http://www.fmj.co.uk/offices-waste-space-time/).

If you want to achieve effective workplace design that optimizes space utilization, reduces property costs and doesn’t compromise productivity, we recommend putting industry trends aside and looking within your own organization for answers. Take time to understand your current occupancy and space utilization stats and identify what you aim to achieve through a design change. Determine what your business needs from your workers and what your workers need from you. Think about the most productive way of arranging your workforce in the space available to you, and where best to place the equipment they need to be effective. Analyze your business’ work type, patterns and workforce preferences and understand that one design style may not suit everyone all of the time. You might just find that you can offer hot-desking and hoteling in a combination of open plan space, private offices and collaboration rooms, all while still encouraging a flexible workforce, maximizing productivity, reducing your office space and saving money!