Everyone needs a workspace manager

The way we define workspace is changing. Work is no longer associated with a physical location, or rather, can be considered as a number of activities to be performed. Nowadays, a good workspace must support these activities. To succeed in identifying cost-efficient, and functional, workspaces, a growing number of businesses are creating a new role with overall responsibility — a workspace manager.

The evolution of workspaces is currently entering a new era, partly due to new technology, but also because people collaborate in new ways. Often, new working methods mean half-empty office spaces, with, on average, half of all workstations empty on any working day. Staff are at meetings, with customers, traveling or working from home.

Erik Sörnäs, who heads up the Space Management Centre of Excellence at Coor Service Management, thinks that regular open-plan offices seldom fulfill people’s needs.

“They’re sterile, people are in boxes and their workspaces are often unoccupied. Considering that cost of premises is the second-biggest expense for a lot of knowledge-based businesses after payroll expenses, there’s a lot to save by identifying ways to utilize premises more effectively.

The solution is to create a kind of flexible office or activity-based workspaces. This means the whole office is a person’s workspace, and space for different activities and needs is created, for example, desk zones, touchdown spaces, quiet spaces, conversation rooms, meeting rooms and project rooms. People work flexibly, spending part of their working-hours in different places. Only a few have personal office workspaces.”

“To get a good solution, someone has to make sure areas are used better, tailored according to their business, a workspace manager. The best person for this job is someone from internal facilities management, who has in-depth knowledge of your premises. To succeed it’s also important that you use a good project manager who can execute small or large change projects,” adds Erik.

Often, new working methods mean half-empty office spaces, with, on average, half of all workstations empty on any working day.

Erik Sörnäs, Head of the Space Management Centre of Excellence, Coor Service Management

Usually, there are different departments on a single floor, but who have altogether differing needs in their daily work. Some functions require privacy, such as legal services, HR and accounting, while the development function needs a creative environment with a lot of shared space, and a sales department could be more densely laid out, but probably needs more room for phone calls.

“One key precondition for a workspace manager to succeed in this role is a clear mandate from management. You also need a good communicator to explain why changes are being made, and what’s going to happen. Companies that want to implement more active workspaces must also be serious about involving their people,” continues Erik.

Changing working methods and reformatting old open-plan offices takes a lot of work, but if correctly planned and executed, will contribute to higher productivity and significant cost savings. Erik Sörnäs recommends starting by measuring.

“It’s important to find out how things look right now. We do this by recording which spaces are unoccupied for a period, which are used, or which are showing signs of life. You can take these measures manually or using sensors.”

Once you can verify all your numbers, and get a feel for occupancy in the workspace, you produce supporting data for dimensioning. This demonstrates how many people can work in the area if you implement an active office. Then you continue by piloting the concept on a small scale, such as part of an office floor level. Measuring before and after is important, but first and foremost, finding out what people think, and what their needs are. Involving affected people is important for change to succeed.

“We’ve got our own lab at Coor, Concept Office, where we test different versions of the flexible office ourselves. We involve the affected staff early, and continue to discuss job satisfaction issues after implementation. New spaces require a new approach, and it’s important to arrive at the rules of the game together."

Savings potential exists for all operations with office workspaces, and in those cases were in the office area per employee is large, it’s over 30%. In addition, employee satisfaction often increases, simultaneous with sickness absence reducing, which are benefits offering big indirect gains.

“If we assume that a workspace in a major city region costs SEK 90,000 a year (including expenses for premises and services), the savings we could make are huge. This money could be invested in core business instead, and is full justification for having a workspace manager,” concludes Erik.

Success factors for workspace managers:

  • A clear mandate from management
  • Close awareness of the possibilities offered by premises
  • Involving people and understanding their needs
  • Communicating what’s happening and why
  • Initiating a good dialogue with unions
  • Ensuring that all unit managers are involved and can manage their people during the change project

Success factors for transition to an activity-based office:

  • Clear goals and clear leadership
  • Dialogue—involvement
  • Respect—patience
  • Trial—develop
  • Evaluate
  • Design the office according to needs
  • Ensure that technology solutions support a flexible working method

Read previous articles about concept office

Feel free to contact Erik Sörnäs

Erik Sörsnäs

Erik Sörnäs

Head of the Workspace Management Centre of Excellence

+46 (0)10-559 52 74