Alison White, Co-Founder of PLACEmaking reveals her thoughts on office rationalisation and smarter working
The Government Property Unit (GPU) is tasked with ensuring that all public bodies make better use of their real estate assets, releasing surplus buildings and land for development and/or regeneration. Initially focused on the extensive central London office estate, few public-sector bodies are isolated from the pressures being applied: do better, do more and at significantly less cost. Rationalisation of their extensive office estate, in particular, is under scrutiny.
Is office rationalisation enough?
With rationalisation therefore regarded as an attractive source of both capital and revenue savings, the challenge is deciding what to get rid of and what to hold on to. Making that decision is made more difficult as modern ways of working challenges traditional assumptions of what we want an office estate to look like. Without recognising that ‘going to work’ means something very different now to what it did just a few years ago when the ‘office’ was the Monday to Friday and 9 to 5 destination, is increasingly outdated.
Accelerated evolution and roll-out of mobile technology, remote access to digitally generated and stored information enables smarter ways of working and has increased expectations of choice about when and where we work. Going to work no longer means going to the office. So, if we don’t need to go to the office, can we better optimise how we use the reduced office space.
So, what does optimising office space mean?
Optimising a reduced office estate demands a re-rethink of the purpose of the office and a change of expectations by building providers and users. Users need to reappraise what they expect to personally ‘own’, instead focusing on what sort of experiences they want when using the office, in the context of them having alternative workplace options. They need to consider space as a shared commodity used by them occasionally frequently but more often sporadically.
Building providers need to rethink their attitudes towards building users, from them being static occupiers to being temporary consumers of space, facilities and services. Building owners need to provide better quality space solutions that directly support their customers’ productivity, which in turn increases the desirability and value of space. When most office buildings sit idle for 40% of the time they are officially open for use, facilities managers need to rethink how space is operated and if it can be used out of hours by others, focusing on design solutions that motivate and delight people not just what minimises operating costs and asserts operational control.
We may need to rationalise the total volume of office space, but what we hold on to needs to be used more efficiently and effectively. Otherwise, people will simply find better places where they can work and the value of social interaction will be lost.
How do we rationalise and optimise space?
There have been several attempts to describe the changes in the way we work and the design of rationalised and optimised workplaces. New Ways of Working, Flexible Working, Agile Working and the GPU’s own The Way We Work (TW3) to name but a few. Smart Working though has emerged as an accepted term as it refers to the adoption of modern working practices and the key constituents of the transformational programme of change that together enables optimisation and office rationalisation to be achieved and successfully sustained.
- PLACEmaking support our clients deliver Smart Working solutions. Our expertise is in addressing the four key elements of change:
- PEOPLE – transforming working practices and attitudes to how space, facilities and assets are used and provided;
- PLATFORMS – maximising use of technology, access and use of digital information;
- PLACE – providing efficient and economically viable workplaces that supports changing working practices and;
- PROVIDERS – repurposing customer focused support services to better meet Smart Working requirements.
PLACEmaking expertise and skills enable us to deliver end-to-end professional services, developed to support our clients achieve their change objectives, including:
- Workplace change, communications & engagement;
- Interior architecture & design;
- Strategic asset management;
- Digital and technology advisory and;
- Programme management.
A recent case study, the 2017 TW3 award-winning Bristol City Council project is regarded by the UK Cabinet Office as an exemplar for local government: reducing the office estate by 75%, increasing utilisation of retained estate by 250% and delivering £125 million savings over 5 years. The retained estate included a Grade 2* heritage building was refurbished and remodelled with English Heritage approval, reflecting changes of the council’s way of working.
Now, only 30% of the workspace includes desks with the remaining 70% including multiple innovative, collaborative and interactive settings solutions. Increasing the proportion of the building to public access and increasing income generation opportunities has increased use of the building beyond normal corporate hours and provides a valuable asset for the cities Business, citizen and other agency use.
PLACEmaking’s change approach is scalable to suit our clients’ workforce headcount, a recent project included over 7,000 users. With a toolbox of over 135 change tools and methods deliverable via internet online, internal intranet communications networks or through structured face to face interactions. Our tried and tested approach is a 4-step transformational programme of change, profiled engagement and communications, sequentially supporting people through;
- Raising awareness – relating the organisational programme objectives with personal self-navigated change journey;
- Familiarisation – enabling people to explore and understand the proposed new space, facilities, assets and operational support service;
- Preparation – pre-implementation induction, minimising operational disruption and maximising desired business benefits;
- Aftercare – measuring results and ensuring desired objectives are achieved, reported and acknowledged.
Now is the time to update and upgrade expectations about the workplace, how it operates and how we function in it. If more than 30% of your office space has desks in it or meeting rooms are the only alternative spaces available to get away from the desk then it’s time to review how your workplace is holding you back from achieving your future vision and business expectations.
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Please note: this is a commercial profile
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