Thanks to technology, work is something employees can do almost anywhere. And they are. So much so that traditional offices are starting to look like ghost towns. So why are businesses paying for all that space when they’re not using it? Increasingly, they’re not, and you shouldn’t be either.
Studies by large companies including HP, IBM, Sun Microsystems and others suggest that space utilization of only 35 to 40 percent is common in business today. And these aren’t just wild guesses, either.
Space utilization measurement techniques range from low tech “people-with-clipboards” approaches to Orwellian presence-detection devices that sense “butts in seats.” Either way it’s clear; the employees have left the building.
Through telecommuting, desk sharing, office hoteling and other changes to the office footprint, progressive companies are cashing in on the exodus to the tune of $10,000 in savings per employee.
What follows are some of the more common ways companies are reducing their costs with remote work arrangements, some of which may even work for you.
Research shows that allowing your employees to substitute technology for commuter travel not only substantially reduces your real estate and carbon footprints, it increases employee loyalty, engagement, productivity and wellness.
And telecommuting doesn’t have to be a full-time thing. The average telecommuter today works remotely about half of the time.
With desk sharing, one or more people coordinate the use of a single assigned space.
Office hoteling allows employees without assigned desks to reserve a desk, conference room or other area at one of the company’s traditional offices, based on their hourly or daily needs.
Drop in spaces
Drop in spaces are unassigned offices that are available on a first-come-first-serve basis to employees who need them. Distinct from office hoteling, there’s no guarantee one will be available when you get there.
Companies are finding that by reconfiguring their spaces, they’re able to increase collaboration, innovation and interaction. Cubicle farms are giving way to a combination of team spaces, private “huddle rooms”—phone booth-like spaces suitable for small meetings, conference rooms and areas intended for socializing.
Shared office space
In this context, shared office space refers to places other than the company’s owned or leased premises that are purpose-built for occasional use by a wide range of small business owners, freelancers and telecommuters. They can typically be rented by the hour, day, week or month and include a variety of on-site services and add-on options. Some creative entrepreneurs have created apps that help road warriors find the closest available space wherever they are.
A Jelly is an informal meet-up that’s typically hosted by one or more teleworkers or small business owners in their home, place of business, or “third place.” It allows fellow nomads to occasionally gather, brainstorm, share, or just work in the presence of other human beings.
A virtual office is a generic term that refers to a collection of technologies that are used in combination to communicate, collaborate and work remotely.
Lest you worry about managing all those shared and unassigned spaces and being able to find your employees when you need them, rest assured that problem has been solved. Companies like Agilquest and others offer high-tech solutions for managing both people and spaces. Their office hoteling system is a kind of Travelocity for office workers—except there’s no little mint on the desk when employees check in.
And while management gurus have been telling us for decades that the key to maximizing employee performance is to manage people by what they do—rather than where, when or how they do it—the majority of managers still manage by presence rather than results. For them, there are technologies that can monitor what they’re working on in real-time. One I’ve used, called Timing, is actually free. There are even services that can provide screen grabs and photos of people while they work available from companies such as Elance, Odesk and vWorker.
We have the technology to make work more efficient, effective and enjoyable. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to send your people home! Both you and they will be happier and wealthier as a result.
Over the past thirty years, Kate Lister has owned and operated several successful businesses and arranged financing for hundreds of others. She’s co-authored three business books including Undress For Success—The Naked Truth About Making Money at Home (Wiley, 2009) and Finding Money—The Small Business Guide to Financing (2010). Her blogs include Finding Money Advice and Undress4Success.
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