Unproductive space is a business risk.

June 29, 2017    Tim Frankland     ,

The bigger your overheads the less nimble your business can be. Simple really. If there’s anything the last few years have taught us in economic terms, it’s that the survival of the fittest is about agile businesses flexing and changing as market conditions do the same.

In the UK only 62% of desks are used. With the average price tag of £498 per desk (as high as £613 in London ) it’s easy to see how businesses with vacant desks, half occupied floor plates, un-used corners or vast areas dedicated to low value activities such as storage, are bogging themselves down with unnecessary cost.

A business could find itself with under-used space for a variety of reasons – it might have recently moved to a more mobile and flexible way of working, with different shift patterns or home-working reducing office occupancy. It might be the result of redundancies, a decision to offshore certain business functions or perhaps a move to take storage offsite.

What’s clear is that under-used space is a business risk and it costs – not once, but twice. There’s the rental and utilities cost of occupying more space than you need, which over an average five-year lease can prove onerous, and also the impact that inefficient, poor performing space has on business performance and employee morale.

For some businesses sub-letting is a practical way to recoup some of the loss, for others it’s about capitalising on a lease break or office move in a bid to reduce overheads. For others, it’s not an option to move, sublet or renegotiate. In this instance it’s important to find new ways to breath new purpose into and derive value from that space. In other words, you need to make every square foot count.

It’s not uncommon to find huge swathes of inefficient space in the same organisation where several fast-growing departments are bursting at the seams. People complain of lack of meeting space or areas for team gatherings, yet there are countless pockets of space lying dormant that, with a new space plan, could be put to better use. Ignoring this issue can erode workplace happiness and goodwill, particularly if employees are working alongside a space where a now redundant department once sat or are working in conditions that aren’t really fit for purpose.

The importance of workplace wellbeing is now widely understood and so businesses now know the value of creating spaces with the physical and aesthetic features employees need to thrive. While the media may like to document the striking, sometimes wacky and creative spaces of the worlds’ biggest companies (think Apple, Facebook et al) the best workplaces are those that use space effectively and efficiently in supporting how work is done and that help to motivate and inspire.

Un-used space is often a sign of a poorly performing workspace, and by association, a business. By taking the time to unlock the value of under-used space, businesses gain a clearer understanding of how their organisation works and what it needs from the environment it occupies. A detailed appraisal of your spatial and behavioural requirements will reveal just how much you’re holding your business back. After all, you can’t improve what you don’t understand.

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