On a typical day at your office, how many desks are empty?

For many businesses, the answer is “enough to make me question why I’m shelling out so much cash for all this vacant square footage.”

According to Global Workplace Analytics, half of the US workforce holds a job that is compatible with at least partial telework, and about a quarter of the workforce teleworks at some frequency.

This is a number that will likely grow at a steady pace over the next several years. Overall, 80% to 90% of the US workforce says they would like to telework at least part time. This number jumps to 95% when you focus in on Millennials, who will make up a full two-thirds of the global workforce by 2025. And according to a recent SHRM survey, 91% of HR professionals state that flexible work arrangements “positively influence employee engagement, job satisfaction and retention.”

As more and more of us are working from the field or from our homes, the traditional workplace is, as one of my clients put it, becoming the place where people are not. The logical next question: Why have this big, expensive office if it’s hardly being used?
 

Increasingly mobile workforces means smaller, “revamped” office spaces

The bottom line is that, in many cases, traditional office spaces just don’t make sense anymore; offices function not as our primary place to work, but as a place to meet and collaborate before you and your teammates once again go their separate ways.

Global Workplace Analytics reports that Fortune 1000 companies worldwide are “entirely revamping their space” in response to this shift ‑ employees, they found, are not at their desks between 50-60% of the time.

I’m seeing a growing number of my clients downsize and redesign their spaces for similar reasons. Some have eliminated their physical office altogether. My own company is about to begin a remodel that will better accommodate the more transient nature of our team.

As the nature of our workforce changes, it makes good sense so adapt our workspaces to accommodate and facilitate this new style of work. But before you sign off on those new blueprints, make sure your company leadership works through the following.
 

What to consider before shrinking your office

While there’s much to be gained by transitioning to a smaller (or nonexistent) workspace, there’s also much to be lost if you move too hastily.

First and foremost, consider your people. Regarding your remote workforce, take the time to evaluate:

  • What policies you need to have in place for remote work, and how you plan to disseminate and enforce these policies.
  • What technology you need to have in place to set your remote workforce up for success, to facilitate effective collaboration, and to maintain the security of your data.
  • How your corporate culture will translate to those with limited exposure to their coworkers, managers, and company leadership (technology will be your main vehicle here).
  • What other measures you need to take to make sure that your employees don’t feel isolated, unsupported, or otherwise disengaged.

If you decide that a smaller workspace makes sense for your company, consider the following:

  • Having the necessary mobile devices, cloud-based systems, and wireless connectivity to allow your people to pick up, move, and productive from anywhere in your space.
  • Incorporating “huddle spaces” that will allow small groups to spontaneously congregate collaborate.
  • Balancing open areas with spaces for private meetings.
  • How else you can make sure that as the quantity of your interactions decreases, the quality of those interactions increases to compensate.

All told, this is a transition that needs to be approached strategically, deliberately, and with careful attention to maintaining your corporate culture.

Cheers to your success!
 

 
As originally published in the American City Business Journals.

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