Employers increasing office density to cut costs, survey reveals

Employers are actively trying to reduce the amount of office space they occupy in an attempt to cut running costs, research has revealed.

In a survey of more than 250 facilities managers, conducted by research firm Leesman for the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM), 58% said that their organisation is actively trying to condense space used by increasing office density.

The study also shows that 61% of organisations are “actively encouraging” remote and flexible working for all staff. Increasing numbers of employers are looking to displace their teams away from expensive corporate environments, perhaps as a further way of releasing yet more space, according to the BIFM.

Ian Fielder, BIFM chief executive, said: “We are clearly seeing a trend amongst those organisations responding to our survey. Each square metre of the workplace is having to work harder.

“It will have to both house increasing numbers of staff and act as the ‘mother ship’ to those nomadically displaced to home or elsewhere, when they do need to return for face-to-face activities or a simple corporate re-charge.”

Tim Oldman, managing director at Leesman, warned that compressing occupant densities and dispersing teams with remote or flexible working will bring new challenges in terms of infrastructure and workspace design.

“Whilst most employees accept the trend for the loss of their solo office, or the increase in occupant densities, they expect a range of other spaces that they can seek out to support their varying work,” he said.

“Therefore, it is patently no longer acceptable to throw in some unallocated desks to a plan and refer to them as the ‘hot’ or ‘hotelling’ desks and think your dispersed teams will be catered for.”

In the survey, 84% of respondents agreed that the quality of a workplace impacts on the productivity of its occupiers, but only 52% recognised the differing needs of the oldest and youngest users.

“The oldest and youngest employee groups look for very different things in their workplaces,” said BIFM strategy director Stephen Bennett. “So those responsible for the workplace are going to have some big issues to address in the way that they create effective office spaces for an increasingly diverse workforce, not to mention an increasing mobile one.”

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