Workplace for the future

What is the role of the office in the new world of work?

Over the last year we have heard many tales that tell the death of the office and its obsolescence in a post Covid world. Some of the largest companies, including the likes of Facebook and Spotify have announced their staff would be working from home indefinitely, putting a big question mark to the role of the workplace in this new era.

Beyond the spectacular announcements and reactive approach to what has been the largest remote working experiment in history, we have tried to understand what is actually happening for people and companies and what employees are really wanting from their employers when it comes to providing a place to work.

Firstly, it is important to outline that the inadequacy of office space to suit company’s objectives is not something new. Prior to COVID-19 there was already heavy scrutiny on the inefficiencies of the workplace, especially since the introduction of new accounting rules IFRS 16, CFOs around the world have started questioning the need for a large office footprint which are half empty most of the time. 

According to data, office space pre-Covid was unoccupied 48% of the time with meeting rooms and other enclosed collaboration facilities used at only 12% on a seat to headcount ratio. Considering the cost of office space is the second highest following staff and represents on average 7% of total company cost, it is only evident that further research into making this asset more productive is indeed much needed.

So how can companies work to improve the utilisation and productivity they get out of the workplace? We have tried to answer this question here.

Workplace strategy – why is it important?

First, companies should focus on developing a robust workplace strategy before anything else. By workplace strategy we mean researching and putting parameters around how, when and why people do the work they do to understand how to best structure the workplace framework around people’s ways of working rather than trying to fit ways of working around the office.

In today’s world, work is no longer a place we go to but is all encompassing. Places that people work are now shared between home, the office and anywhere else the employee is which means the office has no longer a function of providing a base but rather needs to be a catalyst for promoting companies values, culture and fostering social interactions between employees. It is also critical to involve employees in the definition of workplace strategy to ensure there is no leadership bias, as the ability to work from home will vastly depend on the personal situation of each employees. 

The workplace overall plays a key role in ensuring wellbeing and satisfaction at work. When we consider that happy employees are on average 55% more productive it seems clear that a well thought through strategy will eventually significantly impact the bottom line.

Flexibility in design – the DB methodology

Secondly comes the design. The most important thing when looking at design for your office is to ensure that the functions meet the requirements outlined in your workplace strategy. In this regard working with a partner that not only specialises in spatial & concept design but also have in house resources around technical design, quantity surveying, project management and delivery will prove highly efficient compared to a fragmented approach.

The advantage of approaching spatial design in combination with the other workplace construction disciplines means that the design output will not only align with your desired look & feel but will also meet your functionalities, budget and timing requirements.

At DB Interiors we have developed a unique methodology which combines the various workplace disciplines to ensure that each design we create meets all requirements and is not just a pretty outline. Having the ability to work across multiple disciplines is a key point when selecting a workplace partner as it creates healthy tensions and ensures the final delivery meets all business objectives.

An opportunity to save on costs

As we mentioned earlier the office has been for a long time, a highly under-utilised asset. With the home working experiment brought about by the pandemic, companies have realised there is a significant opportunity to optimise the use of this asset and take advantage of upcoming lease expiries to reconsider how much space they need. In terms of numbers this is what we have seen speaking to our clients:

On average the amount of m² per headcount in Auckland is close to 15m². For comparison an efficiently designed office typically achieves a 10m² per headcount ratio pre Covid, sometimes even lower. Moreover the opportunity that comes with aligning ways of work and workplace design is even larger when we start to look at the granularity of how people work in one organisation. 

As an example we recently finished a workplace strategy for one of our client and the outcome is a drop from 1,500m² to 600m² for the same amount of staff which will result in circa 60% savings in workplace operating costs. The office they will coming out of had an efficiency of 12sqm per headcount which twelve months ago would have considered a good number.

Equally for some companies the opportunity is not to generate savings but instead to relocate to higher quality premises while retaining the same level of workplace cost. If you were previously renting from a B grade office with a density of 20m² per person, by redesigning your workplace to suit ways of working you might be able to reduce to 8m² per person which means you may now be able to afford the best buildings in town and fund the entire project together. 

In a time when staff engagement is paramount to getting a competitive advantage, these considerations are definitely on every executive’s mind.

So what is next?

If you have an upcoming lease expiry start now with defining your workplace strategy. This will help you understand quickly the potential for optimising your current workplace. At DB interiors we have developed a simple tool, drawing on data for hundreds of past project to help you identify what office footprint you need for your style of work. 

Once this is completed, start to identify buildings that would support your objectives keeping in mind the need to conduct technical due diligence on each location to understand the variations in fit out budgets and enable an accurate comparison of leasing terms between options. One option might offer higher incentive but the base build condition may mean that the same fit out will cost a lot more which will result in a higher overall cost.

Once the budgets associated with each option are identified you can then confidently secure the right space and align the delivery with your current lease expiry. Speed of delivery in this sense will be critical as it will ensure that you have minimal disruption to operations, avoid any double rent and optimise the executive time spent on managing the project.

If like many others you are thinking about your workplace, get in touch with us for a free assessment and initial workplace strategy. The business benefits that may come out of this process will certainly surprise you. Ultimately companies are a mix of three things: People, Place and Culture. Each are closely intertwined and if combined well together they can deliver a significant competitive edge in your industry.

For more information please contact:
Pierre Ferrandon 
+64 212227566

If you are interested in understanding how your workplace can work better for you contact us and mention “Barfoot & Thompson promo” and one of our consultants will be in touch for a free assessment session. 0800 999 000