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The Pandemic Driving Change: how the workplace utilisation study gave rise to a workplace planning application

October 1, 2020

Making best use of space in work environments has changed since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Prior to the Covid 19 pandemic, the focus was very much on maximising use of space. It included the introduction of smarter working practices to allow employers to accommodate more staff in a smaller estate footprint. To assist in this, organisations may have commissioned workplace space utilisation studies. The objective being to use these studies, using a rather crude term, to ‘sweat’ office, training, teaching, clinical, or meeting assets more efficiently. Invariably organisations would be looking at reducing their physical estate and optimise the way their staff use the remaining space.

This would often require either the deployment of sensors to measure occupancy levels in buildings, or tasking individuals to count the occupancy of either desk spaces or rooms at specified points through the day over a typical week or weeks to determine actual space use for a given period. This method has often proven most useful in ascertaining actual space utilisation. Indeed, the National Audit Office has identified that using a measure of the frequency of use, and occupancy of space when in use, is the preferred method for determining overall utilisation. This formula is ideal for certain space types such as meeting rooms or training spaces, whereas the frequency of use is sufficient for measuring the utilisation of single occupancy desk spaces. These have become the standard measure for understanding utilisation. This approach allows you to develop robust utilisation statistics.

It is true to say that the recent pandemic has turned the rationale behind the utilisation study, to some degree on its head.

What do we mean by this?

Well put simply, at the moment, the focus is not so much about reducing overall estate size (although this driver may return with the move away from fixed office allocations), but to artificially reduce estate capacity. Organisations have been engaged, in taking existing estate and trying to configure that space to accommodate social distancing, effectively reducing capacity, within a static footprint.

Interestingly, the tools used to calculate utilisation have a place in understanding how best to manage current space needs. EventMAP has a variety of tools designed to audit and optimise the use of space. These types of application were created to understand, model and plan, various estate scenarios. One such tool that we use is Planner. This application is deployed so that organisations can model and plan their own scenarios, without the need for external consultants to undertake the work for them. This is preferable for a number of reasons, including the constraints on visiting client sites during the pandemic. It also reduces costs to the end client because of a decreased need for consultants and their expertise to be used to commence and complete the work. It effectively gives the user the tools to undertake the planning exercises locally. Some of our recent blogs have shown how various scheduling applications have given rise to innovative ways of managing new problems. The use of tools developed to help organisations optimise their use of space, are now proving themselves in helping organisations manage the provision of workplaces even in the current climate, for themselves.

It makes me think of the words attributed to Plato, in Latin translated as ‘Mater Artium Necessitas’, or more familiarly, ‘Necessity is the Mother of Invention’. Certainly, we see how the curved ball thrown by Covid 19, is driving innovation in various sectors. In the way we plan and manage the workplace moving forward, it is good to know that the tools we have at hand, can assist us through this period of change. Tools designed to help organisations reduce estate and effectively model their remaining space, or to identify capacity to accommodate growth without acquiring additional buildings, can now be deployed to help them manage the reduction in capacity caused by the need to make workspaces Covid secure.

At EventMAP we have a wide experience of managing these issues across multiple sectors. If you have a particular issue adapting to the changes the current environment is imposing, we would love to hear from you.

Vernon Chapman


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