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Space management is how businesses plan, monitor, control, and optimize their physical space. Through strategic space planning, companies can reduce the size of their real estate portfolio or use it more efficiently, facilitate hybrid workplaces, and improve employee satisfaction.

The more real estate your business uses, the more critical it is to manage it well—and the more difficult that becomes. Real estate represents one of your largest operating expenses, so wasteful or inefficient uses of space can unnecessarily drive up business costs. And when you operate on a larger scale, it’s easy to miss areas you may be overpaying and opportunities to make better use of your space.

Whether your workforce is mostly virtual or in-person, space management helps you meet your employees’ demand for space using the supply you have. It requires you to create a strategy for space utilization, a system for monitoring occupancy, and, ideally, processes for optimizing your space and forecasting future demand.

Due to its complexity, scale, and potential benefits, most large organizations rely on specialized software to handle space management across all of their locations. Space management software, which is part of larger Integrated Workplace Management System solutions, helps you see the space you have and make adjustments according to how it’s being used.

More advanced space management software, like Tango Space, integrates other useful information such as your lease portfolio, real-time occupancy data, space reservations, and maintenance requests. By combining these inputs with machine learning and artificial intelligence, this space management technology shows what you can do with the space you have and helps you adapt to what your workforce needs in-the-moment.

Effectively managing your workplace can reduce costs and help you reach key business goals. In this guide to space management, we’ll examine:

  • Benefits of space management
  • Components of space management
  • How modern enterprises should manage their space

Let’s start by exploring why space management is so valuable to your business.

Benefits of space management

While there are many reasons to take advantage of space planning and space management, for most businesses, it comes down to four key areas: efficiency, alignment, savings, and satisfaction. Space management helps you maximize the utility of your real estate and create a more comfortable, productive work environment.

Increased efficiency

In a poorly planned space, it’s difficult for employees to be productive. Often, the space they need isn’t available when they need it or isn’t conveniently located. They may have to compete to reserve collaborative spaces or workstations, while other spaces go unused.

Space management helps ensure that your supply of physical space meets your workforce’s demand for it. With a more comprehensive understanding of how your space has historically been used—and how you foresee using it in the future—you can allocate more room toward the purposes that have greater demand, or vary how it’s utilized day-to-day.

Imagine if a conference room suddenly became out of commission due to maintenance needs or was reserved for multiple days. At the same time, you had another space set aside for another purpose, but was rarely occupied. You might find that this space would be better utilized as a backup conference room or collaboration space for now.

Real-time occupancy management[9]  takes this even further, incorporating data about how your space is being used right now. Using this data and machine learning, your space management system can actually recommend when remote employees should come in so that they work with the people they’re most productive with.

For example, suppose four teammates are coming to campus on Tuesday. When a fifth teammate starts looking at the available space and planning their schedule, your space management software could recommend they reserve a space next to their teammates on the same day.

Space management isn’t simply a matter of putting people in seats; it’s also about putting the right people in the right seats during the right times to maximize synergy.

Your ability to efficiently utilize your space ultimately depends on how well you monitor occupancy and workspace optimization metrics[10] . But if you’re being intentional about using this asset in the ways your business needs, rather than ignoring waste and unmet demand, you’ll create a much more productive workplace.

Better alignment

It’s a lot harder to reach your business goals if you haven’t intentionally planned your space around them. Depending on how you allocate your space, it can inhibit or support your larger initiatives.

If your plans for the future include scaling certain kinds of work up or down, growing as an organization, adding new departments, or downsizing, you need to evaluate whether your current space can meet those needs. That could mean things like:

  • Creating more hoteling spaces so employees can work from home or on campus as needed
  • Increasing individual workstations dedicated to a specific department
  • Repurposing amenity spaces for virtual collaboration
  • Finding new storage solutions for equipment that rarely gets used
  • Investing in more office or warehouse space
  • Responding to unforeseen external events, like the COVID-19 pandemic

Space planning helps you connect your space to your business goals and think about not just how well your space meets current needs, but how well it meets your future needs. Keeping tabs on utilization will help you identify waste or opportunities to reorganize so that your current facilities continue to align with your business plans.

Cost savings

Your space management solution should help you identify waste and reallocate space, and prevent you from getting into positions where it looks like you need more space to continue growing and keeping up with demand, when you actually have unused or poorly utilized space that could work instead. Space management gives you a clearer picture of the solutions available to you, so that you don’t pay for new space you don’t need.

With a robust IWMS system, you’ll also avoid hidden occupancy costs[16]  related to your space, such as maintenance work you aren’t responsible for according to your lease.

Greater employee satisfaction

When you don’t have enough space for employees to work in the ways they need, it doesn’t just inhibit their productivity—it decreases their satisfaction, too. It’s frustrating when the rooms, equipment, and workspaces you need aren’t available. And if working around your lack of space causes delays or negatively impacts their life outside of work, that frustration is only going to grow.

Even if a space is available, it can still decrease employee satisfaction if it consistently feels overcrowded. In a post-COVID workplace, employees will be even more sensitive to crowded spaces than before. People are hyper-aware of health concerns and more attuned to the potential for diseases to spread. And that’s on top of the simple fact that it’s less comfortable to work when it feels like you don’t have any personal space or only have limited access to the things you need.

Now, employees have more varied expectations and desires for what work looks like. Some want a full-time return to the office. Others would prefer staying fully remote, and some want the flexibility to do both. Space management software gives you the tools to manage these (at times conflicting) desires and build a plan moving forward that increases employee satisfaction.

Managing your space well—especially with real-time occupancy management capabilities—helps you identify congestion and address the underlying problems before it starts affecting how employees feel about where they work.

Components of space management

In principle, space management is fairly straightforward: you just need to adjust your space according to how it’s being used now and how you’d like to use it in the future. But in practice, doing this well depends on many interrelated components. You don’t want to simply make changes on a whim or wait for people to bring their complaints to leadership. Enterprises need to invest resources in and dedicate personnel to space management to reap the benefits.

Here are the key components of space management and what it takes to implement them.

Space planning

Space planning is about considering how your space can align with your goals and envisioning how the supply you have now can meet the demand you expect in the future. Space management is like a puzzle, where the pieces are your various spaces, your employees, and your business goals. While your pieces are fixed, there are often many ways to fit them together and “solve” the puzzle.

As you collect more data, you’ll become better equipped to see how changes could affect peak occupancy and vacancy rates for individual spaces, floor plans, and locations. This enables you to forecast demand and configure your space to meet those future needs.

Space planning is an ongoing process, but it should also take place before you make significant changes to company policies—such as your WFH policy —or introduce new initiatives. This will prevent you from making commitments that would require investments you can’t make (like leasing a new floor or building) and ensure that you have (and can set) realistic expectations about what will need to change on campus to make those things happen.

Monitoring space utilization

Arguably the most challenging component of space management is actually monitoring your space utilization. In the past, companies have collected very little utilization data, and what they’ve gathered hasn’t been particularly useful.

For example, if your space utilization data relies on badge-in and badge-out data points, some sort of manual collection (such as a person checking rooms), or even a reservation system, that’s not enough for you to make major plans around. Without sensors that track badges around campus, your badge data only tells you when someone enters or exits a building, and doesn’t account for multiple people entering with a single scan. Manually checking only gives you information at specific times, and a reservation system doesn’t account for no-shows or the number of people occupying a space.

As companies adopt the real-time occupancy management imperative, technology plays a critical role in collecting space management data. Modern organizations have deployed a variety of IoT sensors, including blurred vision cameras and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) units.

These sensors each provide different data that helps create a fuller picture of how many people are actively occupying a space, where they’re located within the space, and what direction they’re heading. Feeding this data into an advanced Space Management system like Tango Space lets you create live floor plans, detect crowds, anticipate pain points, and identify available spaces (including areas which are reserved but unoccupied).

Data integration

With something so important—and costly—as your real estate, you don’t want to make decisions without all of the relevant information. Your space management software should incorporate data from your reservation and booking system, your lease management and accounting software, facility maintenance software, survey tools, geospatial platform, and anything else that could impact your decisions about how to reconfigure and utilize your space.

Any gaps in integration could result in your company paying for maintenance and other costs you aren’t responsible for or making decisions that negatively impact other aspects of your business. The best IWMS software brings all these pieces and systems together without making it overwhelming, pulling in data in ways you can actually use.

Automation

When handling vast amounts of data, numerous inputs, and dense documents like leases, there’s only so much humans can do—especially with time constraints. Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, software can recognize patterns in your data and quickly organize or flag it according to specific parameters.

With Tango Space, machine learning and AI turns space planning into a plug-and-play process, letting you define your goals and intentions for a space and then seeing a variety of solutions that comply with building codes, lease clauses, and other restrictions.

This technology also lets Tango recognize how your individual employees prefer to work, and then make recommendations that help them replicate that environment more often, suggesting particular days, times, and spaces to reserve on campus.

And you don’t necessarily want someone staring at live floor plans all day. With AI, your space management software can flag potential problems and create notifications when there’s an issue that needs your attention, such as an overcrowded space or an occupancy rate that’s too high.

Space optimization

Space optimization is the process of continually refining the way your space gets used and allocated, eliminating waste and adapting your supply to meet your demand. If you want to manage your space well, you need to modify your plan as new information becomes available.

Maybe you intended it to be used a particular way, but your employees just don’t need dedicated space for that activity—or not as frequently as you originally thought. Perhaps your hotelling space is completely occupied on particular days and remaining vacant on others, indicating a need for more flexible space.

You have a fixed supply of space. But demand for different types of spaces is going to vary. So it’s important that your plans evolve and adapt in kind.

Manage your space with Tango

Tango Space is part of a purpose-built IWMS solution trusted by hundreds of the world’s leading brands. Whether you have a few dozen locations or tens of thousands, we have the cutting edge solutions you need to make the best use of the space you have, identify wasteful or poorly utilized space, plan for future demand, and explore your locations in real-time.

Want to see what Tango Space can do for your organization?


Schedule a demo today.

Contributors

Bart Waldeck

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