Half of your office space is useless – and there’s a way to know which half
06/29/2017 - 10:46

Modern activity based workplaces keep changing at a rapid phase. So rapid, that unless you’re involved in making the changes, you’re likely to stop noticing when changes happen. One day you’ll just realize how well a particular space works, struggling to remember what it was like before.

At Martela headquarters, we used to have a large open space filled with workstations on the second floor. Many of the desks remained empty, or were only used for a part of the day. So we cut the number of desks into a half, and brought in cozy sofas and soundproof phone booths instead. As a result, the occupancy rate of the area increased significantly – and, interestingly, the occupancy rate of meeting rooms elsewhere in the building showed a reverse effect.

Meeting rooms are likely the most misused part of any office. They occupy huge amounts of space, presentation technology costs a lot of money, and interior design often includes expensive extras. Meeting rooms are thought of as windows to organizations, and they do indeed play a hugely important role in the experience of visitors.

I keep hearing about too few meeting rooms and how they’re always taken. While that may well be the case, building more meeting rooms treats symptoms and not the cause.

Measuring the real use of different areas of the workplace always brings up surprises. Measurements can be based on sensors, human observations or traditional questionnaires – there are so many methods that one of them certainly suits your organization too. Measuring occupancy rates certainly pays off.

Most often, surprises are about meeting rooms. That happened to us too. Our meeting rooms used to be fully booked, and it was really hard to find a suitable space. We even had to postpone meetings because we couldn’t fit them in. Even if we all felt the rooms were overbooked, sensor based analytics showed that the real occupancy rate was just 39%. Looking at the usage patterns more closely, we realized that a major part of bookings were for meetings of just two people, or for only one person taking a voice or video call.

It’s high time to rethink meeting rooms: let’s focus on how to decrease the need to use them. At Martela, bookings for one person ended completely after we brought in enough soundproof, nicely designed and air conditioned phone booths. Adding more sofas and open collaborative spaces replaced the need to book meeting rooms for internal meetings.

The end result? Even after decreasing the number of previously fully booked meeting rooms by a third, there are almost always free rooms available.

Measuring the workplace helps to understand not only how much different parts of the office is used, but also what they are used for. When this data is combined with the common objective of increasing collaboration, the result is a stronger basis than ever before to design an optimal workplace.

More interesting articles:

Designing together is half the work
Workplace as a service
Workplace Strategy, More Crucial than You Thought


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VP, Customer Supply Management
Martela Oyj
Director, Education
Vice President, Innovation to Market
Interior Architect, Physiotherapist, Physical Training Instructor, 11/2016 - 06/2019, Martela

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