The Future Office – II – Solution #7

We cannot view the future as some distant ideal that we have little or no say in.  Instead we need to – we must see the future as the best practices of our industry today, being amplified throughout the entire industry as a whole.  Then, with a solid foundation we can trend forward, increasing our productivity, efficiency and the bottom line.
One study blows away the negative perceptions of change, because through simply using ‘Solution #7’, HP was able to make ‘tangible’ and ‘measurable’ (two of the most important terms in marketing) total cost of ownership improvements with significantly higher than just nominal results.
This is called ‘Working outside the Box.’
People increasingly work in places other than their workstation or office.  A case study prepared by Hewlett-Packard and a major office furniture manufacturer, using a technology developed by HP and tested at the HP facility in Melbourne, Australia, indicates that employees were utilizing their dedicated space only 38% of the time.  Such under-utilization of space in the office is comparable to the cost of downtime at a manufacturing facility.  “Picture a manufacturing head going to the board and saying ‘I’ve got a great idea.  Let’s build a manufacturing plant that targets 40% utilization.’  He would be laughed out of the boardroom, yet we are doing this right now in FM.” (1)
In today’s top-performing companies, workers spend more time collaborating and learning – gathering in meeting rooms, training rooms and team spaces, as well as lounges and cafés.  Yet, many companies have not taken into consideration that dedicated workstations are being used less and less.  The result is less than optimal use of an important physical resource – space.
The Hewlett-Packard study used motion sensors called “motes” to capture occupancy “at the seat.”  Researchers could then identify what seat is being sat on and when, in order to accurately read how space was being utilized and if savings could be achieved.  The conclusion?  HP workers were utilizing dedicated space only 38% of the time, a number that HP to reconfigure the facility and to use offices and meeting rooms differently.  Now utilization averages 50% and at times reaches 90%.  The company has reduced its real estate cost per employee by 55%!  (2)
The new reality is that people move around at work and are more productive when they do.  Information gets passed along in brief, casual exchanges just as much as during formal meetings.  The challenge for those charged with creating the office plan is to balance the need for dedicated spaces that support focused work with the need for immediate access to shared spaces for collaboration.
The ideal of the future office is taking the above fundamentals and applying them across the board as Solution #7.  Rather than just seeing how we can reconfigure the spaces inside the box, we need to take ourselves out to about 50,000 feet high and take an objective look at the space being utilized and what the ultimate goal of achievement is.  Is it 40% utilization of space or is it 50-90%?  Or do we dare to dream and say that we’re going to utilize 95-100% of the space that we’re paying for?  We can’t do that by just reconfiguring a desk or buying an ergonomic solution, we need to do that by not buying anything but by tapping into the resources available to us to plan and execute brilliantly, far before the purchasing stage. Until next time – go change the world.P.H.
Sources cited:
(1) Mark Golan, Cisco Systems (
(2) (
(3) WorkPlaceOne

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