Evolving work conditions are changing how employees do their jobs. Many staffers now work remotely, tackling tasks from home and other offsite locations. The flexible approach has advantages for both employers and workers, who often view work-from-home opportunities as an employment perk, facilitating better work-life balance.

Despite these progressive changes to the workplace dynamic; offices, meeting rooms, and other shared productive spaces still play prominent roles in daily business operations. Adequately accommodating these onsite needs can be tricky for small businesses.

Do workspace challenges interfere with growth and productivity within your organization?

Effectively Managing Workspace Concerns

A recent Inc. article explored how workspace requirements impact businesses.  According to the piece, workspace spending accounts for a substantial share of startup budgets, representing 10-20 percent of total costs. Author, Mark Suster, indicates the price of space trails only spending on human capital, which represents the lion’s share of startup expense, at 60-75 percent of total costs. With so much money assigned to providing adequate workspace, entrepreneurs can’t afford to miss the mark, furnishing offices and other productive areas.

Skimping on workspace can be tempting, particularly for businesses stretching startup resources. Many organizations overstuff insufficient spaces to accommodate their needs. But does inadequate workspace actually cost companies more in the long run, than properly outfitting workers with the space needed to maintain a high level of productivity?

Sprout Funding logoThe high cost of workspace and uncertainty about the future are prompting some companies to embrace shared spaces. How fast will your business grow? Is it possible you’ll need to downsize your workspace in the future? While these flexible alternatives may allow you to scale your businesses up or down, as needed, the approach also comes with decided disadvantages. Suster identified a few of the ways sharing space interferes with productivity, including:

  • Inadequate meeting space
  • Distractions from other users
  • Lines at security checkpoints
  • Busy elevators
  • Inefficient lunch arrangements

Problems Plaguing Workspaces

Whether you choose flexible, shared space, or set out to accommodate your workspace needs with a more permanent solution; common setbacks can decrease productivity and employee morale. Depending upon the needs of your organization, you may encounter some of these obstacles, providing space for staff.

Scheduling Irregularities

It is thought employees waste a lot of time looking for suitable places to conduct business. Surprisingly, it isn’t always because an organization is short on space. Often, it’s inefficiency within the planning and reservation process that interferes with workers’ access to the meeting space they need.

Imbalance in the types of available space presents another vexing concern, slowing the flow of workspace management. While they may have square footage on their side, lacking a suitable mix of small, large, and flexible meeting space can still leave staffers without workable options. According to the Inc. article, the phenomenon lends itself to squatters, campers, and phantoms.

Workspace “squatters” use spaces without booking them in advance, frequently utilizing areas designed to accommodate larger groups. “Campers” employ another approach, reserving space for blocks at a time, when their true need for the space is actually brief. The phenomenon limits others’ access to needed workspace, which can undermine efficiency and productivity across an entire organization.  Similarly, workspace “phantoms” reserve rooms for hours, only using them periodically during the time they’ve blocked.

Meeting Rooms Are Too Big

Organizations planning workspaces commonly focus on providing areas that are too big for staff needs. When a dozen places are needed at the table, only a 12-seat meeting room will do. But the big rooms are often used to accommodate smaller groups – sometimes as few as 2 or 3 individuals.

One study cited by Inc. contributor, Suster, showed how a Fortune 1000 company tracked its 8-person conference facilities, monitoring their use. Their research found that the rooms, meant for 8, were actually utilized for meetings of 3 or fewer people almost 80 percent of the time. Such data suggests the spaces would be much more functional and productive if split into two rooms, each accommodating a foursome.

Not only would downsizing the rooms potentially provide much-needed space, but splitting them might also reduce real estate expansion costs as the company grows, needing additional individual rooms.

Lunch Logistics

Each organization has its own set of requirement; not every company serves lunch. However, even small teams benefit from dedicated workspace areas reserved for meals. On a large scale, crowded lunch rooms and peak timing concerns can make it hard for staff to access areas set aside for meals and breaks.

Some companies are using technology to address the problem, tracking employees using lunchrooms. By identifying peak flow and communicating conditions to employees, it’s possible to reduce jams and staff facilities to accommodate the brisk flow experienced during certain times during the day. When utilizing shared workspace arrangements, it’s important to assess lunch logistics, so you don’t end up undermining productivity, aligning with an overcrowded facility.

Whether your company owns real estate, leases workspace, or shares facilities with other organizations; the link between physical space and employee productivity is clear. Distractions, insufficient access to flexible meeting space, and limited lunch facilities are only a few of the concerns undermining productivity in many poorly allocated working environments. If you expect your staff to procrastinate less and maintain consistent productivity standards, it’s up to you to provide proper tools, including adequate access to functional workspace.

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