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Make informed decisions with spatial intelligence

Remove the guesswork from office redesign or hybrid transformation projects with space utilization data and behavioral analysis that defines exactly how your indoor space is being used. Download our whitepaper: The Science of Indoor Space, to learn more.

How Office Space Affects Team Morale and Productivity in a Hybrid Remote World

Hybrid Workforce, Workplace Experience

Every company’s two most valuable assets are real estate and people. Individuals—working together in some way—create all the intellectual property, processes, systems, and technology that leads to profit and growth. And real estate—offices, virtual set ups, and at-home set ups—is where they do it.

So how do you maximize both in a hybrid remote work world? How do you know how much office space per employee is the right amount to get the results you want?

As companies look to “right size” office space for the future (which often means reducing office space), here’s what to keep in mind when it comes to building offices that work for hybrid remote employees. 

People want the office… kind of

The simple reality is not everyone wants to work remotely. And even among those who love remote work, it doesn’t mean they don’t value the office in some way. For instance,

college-students-and-remote-work-stat-1-min (1)

But this doesn’t mean you can just announce an all-office return and expect it to go well (it’s already not going well).

This is because of why people value the office. 

They don't love it for the ping pong tables. Or the conference room with a coffee maker. And they don’t love the commute for its own sake and most people are more productive working from home. Instead, they love the office for the work community it provides (74% say so), mentorship opportunities (41%), and getting those office amenities back in their lives (33%).

This creates a problem for company leaders. 

While operations and finance teams want to understand square footage requirements so they can plan for cash flows (and hopefully find ways to need less office space to save money), HR and employee experience teams are focus on per employee needs, how much employee growth is expected, and whether things like large private offices even make sense based on available floor space, necessity of private meetings, and how much common area square footage they can snag.

It's no longer as easy as calculating square footage per person and setting a budget for it. Now companies need to consciously think how many square feet are needed to achieve work goals and an attractive office environment.

The old world: how much space you can afford

spice girls gif - so tell me what you want, what you really really want

What people really want is an office space to work from, but not an office space they are forced to commute to every day. And this needs to be part of not just into work processes (that’s a different conversation) but into office design itself. 

Office space planning is critical for success with a hybrid workforce, perhaps more than it was when everyone worked in the office from 9-5, Monday to Friday. When daily office commutes were the norm, office space planning and the traditional office layout revolved around how much office space you had. Simply put: how many employees could you fit into a space without making it too cramped? Did you have enough square footage? What about a conference room the CEO can use? Or private offices for the c-suite?

An office space calculator could handle most of the work in this case. Even when Google and other companies pioneered the myth of the productive open office (which has been debunked over the years), it was still mostly about capacity. 

From square feet per employee to employee productivity planning

With a hybrid workforce, it’s far more about how people use the new office space rather than simply how much office space do you have. It becomes about the office environment rather than how much square footage you have.

That means needing new and novel office spaces for every use case: 

  • Conference rooms for large gatherings.
  • Meeting rooms for private conversations.
  • Private offices for confidential work.
  • Lounge spaces to relax and be comfortable.
  • Common spaces and communal spaces to create employee connections.
  • A quiet room for thoughtful work or reflection.
  • How the reception area welcomes people.
  • … and more. 

And don’t forget about connectivity! 

Within that conference room or those private offices, virtual connectivity (like a camera for remote meetings) will inevitably impact office layout, how you utilize desk space, or how much space per employee is available.

You’ll also have to think about how much office space you have overall compared to how many remote employees you have (and how many will show up to the office on any given day). This is all changeable, of course, based on anticipated employee growth versus the occupancy limits in your space. 

In short, hybrid workforces demand dynamic offices that are less about square feet and more about how much space will be used for maximum connectivity, mentorship, and all those other things employees can't get remotely. This will be a tall order for businesses, especially since typical commercial real estate leases don’t often mesh with a hybrid, flexible reality.

The best offices use spatial intelligence

Office space is usually the second most expensive line item next to employee costs like salaries and benefits.  This has led to numerous changes—open offices, hoteling, hot desking, dedicated desks, and more—but these changes don’t actually solve the core problem: office space is not being used properly and does not account for future growth in a flexible hybrid world.

Over a quarter (27%) of office space isn’t being utilized at all—and this was before a hybrid reality set in. On top of this, there’s significant under-utilization in offices built for capacity rather than utility. While some unused portions can be cut from leases, companies still need to be careful about growth plans and how much office space they will need—it’s hard to get that space back once you’ve given it up. 

the science of indoor space

All this amounts to one thing: you need spatial intelligence for your office. You need to understand office utilization metrics (how much space you're using properly) so you can make the right office space utilization plan. You need to understand the science of your overall indoor space. This includes raw data like square footage per person and different types of rooms, but also a quantitative understanding of movement patterns inside your office. 

With the right space utilization data, you can make better decisions. And “better” isn’t just about spending less money—it’s about making an amazing place for your employees to do their best work.