Understanding Space Management: An A to Z Guide for Office Managers

7 Jun 2022

Space management used to be simple. You had a physical space, and you put your stuff in it. But now that so much of our lives and work takes place digitally and hybrid is taking over both remote and 100% on-site work models, space planning and space management are becoming increasingly more complex. 

Even more, they are becoming increasingly more important too -- particularly from the perspective of employee satisfaction and engagement. 

What is space management (and what is space planning) in this new paradigm? What are the essential things Office Managers should know about managing spaces effectively? 

We've put together a quick (but comprehensive) guide to space management below. Read on to find out more. 

What Is Space Management?

Although the space management definition can vary from one company to another, most Office Managers would agree on a general definition, which goes as follows:

Space management is the practice of managing, tracking, and auditing a company’s physical space (e.g. the office space.) This activity frequently involves floor planning, room design, desk arrangements, and so on. In cases such as the pandemic, space management also involved making sure office spaces are safe for employees, as well as compliant with current regulations. 

The Evolution of Space Management

Space management isn’t a new concept. In fact, it goes as far back as the 1970s.

Arguably, space management in the ‘70s had a different meaning than it does today. What used to be an office-related activity mostly focused on reactive cleaning and maintenance to a business department with a seat at the leadership table, space management (and, together with it, facility management) have come a long way. 

The main goal of space management today is to know how to upsize or downsize office space to make it as cost-effective and productive as possible. A few years ago, the main focus lay on making spaces as collaborative (and comfortable) as possible. 

And if we go back to the 1990s and 2000s, space planning and reallocation strategies were the royalties of the space management world. 

In other words, space management has, in itself, responded to how the business world has changed and evolved over the decades. It’s easy to see how people mostly cared about having a clean space in the 1970s, how planning was ultra-important for the cubicle-vs-corner office paradigm of the 1990s, and how downsizing in an intelligent way is now the main focus of Facility Managers. 

What will the future look like? 

We don’t have a crystal ball, but with hybrid work becoming one of the main preferences among employees and employers alike, we can make a pretty educated prediction: space management will become even more an integral part of the day to day business ops, with office space software at the core of every Facility Manager’s work day. 

“Make flexibility a top priority.

This will allow the business to do many operations without the need for specialized space for each of them, saving time and money. Because of today's technology, workers can do their jobs anywhere, whenever and however they see fit in any environment. There are many examples of this, such as a break room that serves as a place for employees to unwind and refocus, but it also serves as a place for brainstorming and pontificating, thanks to the high-tech tools we have at our disposal. Meeting rooms can be used in the same way; when not in use for meetings, they can be used as private working spaces where people can focus without interruptions or hold private calls, for example.

Flexible office space planning can be demonstrated by the use of modular design. Combining many interior components into one unified, adaptable workplace is the idea behind this design concept. Anything that can be used to provide a degree of flexibility; this includes seating, tables, acoustic fittings, and even partition walls.”
Nick Jordan, Founder & CEO of Workello

There is nothing wrong with pen and paper when you’re drawing floor layouts. Just like there’s nothing wrong about spreadsheets showing head counts and resource usages. However, space management software can take the entire activity to a whole new level (as you will read later in this article too.) It can help you make things easier, more automatic, it can remove human error and, frankly, it can save you tons of time, energy, and money. Pen, paper and spreadsheets are simply not enough in 2022 – not when you have great tech at your disposal to help you create better floor layouts.empty office

The Link Between Employee Satisfaction, Office Environment, and Productivity

It’s no secret that we are influenced by our environment. For a long time, though, the connection between environment and mood/ state of spirit has been considered to be more anecdotal than actual science. Multiple studies now point to the fact that how well-lit a room is, as well as how well-organized and decluttered space is can influence a series of issues – ranging from anxiety to depression, cortisol levels, and stress. 

It should come as no surprise, then, that employee satisfaction, office environment, and productivity are closely connected. The equation is simple: a better office environment helps you keep your team happy. A happy team is a productive and loyal team. A productive and loyal team is a team that gives everything to the company and drives growth. 

To top it off, the less talent turnover you have in your company, the more productive your HR department will be in recruiting, onboarding, and engaging talent. Your employees are the brick and mortar of your business – so the more talented people you attract and retain, the more prosperous the business will be. 

In this light, it’s easy to understand that the facility management meaning has grown a lot from “the people making sure the office is safe and clean.” to “people who participate in making the office space a more productive place for everyone – both those remote and those working on site.” 

Furthermore, in this context, it makes more sense than ever to invest in a space management system (or space planning software) that helps you make the most out of your office space(s) and drive space optimization to a whole new level. 

What Are the Principles of Space Management?

What does space management involve, more specifically?

Modern space management revolves around some basic principles, like:

Regular Assessments Are Key

No matter what kind of company you work with and no matter how solid your current space plan is, keep in mind that things can change a lot. This is precisely why regular assessments are key.

You can run them twice a year, once a year, or even less often than that. Do it with regularity, though -- these assessments should go like clockwork.

Use The Same Planning Methodology With All Offices, Regardless of Size

Using the same planning methodology with all offices is important because it allows you to compare results and find similarities that can help you optimize your space management strategy.

Data and Mathematics Should Be More Important Than Graphics on Screen

It's not that graphic renditions of how the space will look aren't great (they are, check #4 on this list for that). However, in this day and age, data should take precedence.

Clean, reliable data will help you understand what's happening in your space and how you can optimize it to achieve better results. From knowing exactly which spaces are overutilized and which ones are underutilized to knowing which days of the week are likely to be more crowded and how office space utilization drives other metrics around the company, data is king.

And this is precisely why choosing the best space management software for your business is such an important decision -- not just for your sake as the Facility Manager, but for the success of the entire organization.

Have a Clear Space Overview

Here's where graphics come in handy: knowing how the entire layout of your office space will look like helps you understand/ predict how people interact with it and where you can make improvements.

A clear overview of what the space actually looks like will also help you make all necessary interventions before it's too late. For instance, if you realize an office cluster would be better placed in a different location around the building, but the construction manager has already started putting up walls between one area you're thinking of and another one, it might be more difficult to make changes.

If, however, you have a clear rendition of how the space will look like in the end, you can make these kinds of changes without repercussions on the overall budget and project timeline.

“Spaces should be varied.

Your employees require more than just a workstation. They will require, among other things, collaboration spaces, private places, tech-enabled areas, and lounges. Design rooms with the appropriate dynamic in mind, relative to how frequently they will be used. “
Tim Parker, Director of Marketing at Syntax Integration

Make Sure All Employees Will Have Resource/Room Booking Software at Their Disposal

Each employee should find it easy to find a spot around the office, particularly when your organization is based on a hybrid work model. This is where an office space planning tool can come in handy too.

Once the layout is set up, employees can use the space management software to visualize where they'd like to book a desk or a meeting room without having to waste too much time on this.

Of course, there is a lot more to office facilities management space planning than these five main principles. However, if you are starting from ground zero with your space management efforts (or if you want to adapt them to the necessities of the modern-day office), these five points will be a solid starting point.employees working in the office

The Benefits Of Space Management

Clearly, space management is important. Here are some of the more specific benefits of doing space planning and management (the right way):

Cost Savings

You don't want your organization to spend any more money than necessary on office space, do you?

Thought not.

Hence, one of the main benefits of space management is that it can help you save money by optimizing your use of space and making sure you're not paying for square footage you're not using. Here’s an ROI calculator you can use to measure and improve the ROI of your hybrid space.

Better Productivity

As mentioned before, human beings are very much influenced by their environment. If the space around them is not conducive to productivity, they won't be as productive as they could be.

However, if you carefully plan your office space and make sure it meets the needs of your employees, you can expect a boost in productivity levels across the organization -- which will have a direct impact on your bottom line.

Constant Improvements

Done right, space management can help you bring constant improvements to your office space plan and environment. By constantly analyzing how your employees use the space and making changes accordingly, you can make sure your office is always evolving to meet the needs of those who use it, when they use it (as opposed to having them wait for another yearly review.)

Furthermore, this too can help you save money and adapt on the go so that you use your office space to its maximum efficiency.

Higher Adaptability

Proper space management also makes it easier for your organization to be adaptable to change. After all, if you're used to making changes to your office space on a regular basis, it won't be as big of a deal (or take as much time) to make more significant changes, should the need arise.

“Make flexibility a top priority.

Creating a flexible space allows the company to execute many functions without having to invest the time (and money) in building a dedicated room for each one. This is made feasible by today's flexible technology, which allows people to work wherever, whenever, and whatever they want in any type of location they require. The innovation of a break room is a perfect illustration of this; it's a nice location in which people can relax and concentrate, but thanks to the technology we have, we can also have spontaneous meetings or collaborative brainstorming sessions there. When meeting rooms are not in use for gatherings, they can be used as private working locations for people to focus without being distracted, or to take private calls, for example.

A modular design is a superb illustration of adaptability in action in office space planning. 'Bringing together a variety of interior components to create a unified, adaptable workplace' is the notion. Seating, tables, acoustic fittings, and partition walls are all examples of items that can be employed to increase flexibility.”
Joe Troyer, CEO & Growth Advisor @Reviewgrower

Save Workplace Admins Time 

Good space management can help take some of the load off your workplace admins' backs.

By making it easier for employees to find and book meeting rooms and desks, you free up time for workplace admins to focus on more important tasks -- such as managing workplace technology or running employee engagement programs.

Better Collaboration and Higher Satisfaction

A well-planned space is not just good for employee mood and morale. It can actually help people collaborate better -- and thus, it can help them be happier at work AND more productive too.

All that is pretty much the goal of space management in itself!

These are just some of the most common benefits of proper space management. Every organization has its own goals – and space management can align with those. For instance, to Sara (Customer Success Manager @Onsiter.com), good space management gives organizations the opportunity to be a bit more environmentally friendly. 

“Make an effort to be environmentally conscious

A growing number of companies are prioritizing sustainability in their office space planning. Introducing a more natural feel to the workplace has been shown to improve people's satisfaction, teamwork, and production levels. Not only that, but becoming green can help you save a lot of money on your electricity bills by adding things like larger window displays or energy-efficient lighting.”
Sara Johansson, Customer Success Manager @Onsiter.com

collaboration between employees

4 Helpful Space Management Tools and Capabilities

Now that we've talked about the benefits of space management let's take a look at some of the tools that can help you with this important task:

Meeting Room Booking Software

As we were saying earlier, meeting room booking software can help you optimize the use of your meeting rooms and make it easier for employees to find and book them.

As opposed to a simple spreadsheet, meeting room booking software and space management software can help you look into in-depth workplace analytics. You know the drill: the more in-depth and clean your data is, the better insights it will provide, and the more likely it is you'll make better business decisions for the future.

Hot Desk Booking Software

Hot desking is the practice of having employees share desks on rotation, instead of each having their own personal workspace.

While it can take some getting used to (for both employees and managers), hot desking/ hoteling can actually have a number of benefits for your organization -- including freeing up space, promoting collaboration, and making it easier for people to find a place to work.

Furthermore, hot desking can also help you save money, it can help all employees to experience the "good spots" around the office, and it can help with overall productivity too.

A hot desk booking software can make it easier for employees to find a place to work, and it can also help you track desk usage and analyze workplace data.

Work Planning Software

Work planning software can help you not just with space management, but with a number of important workplace processes.

With work planning tools, you can manage projects, optimize resources, track time spent on different tasks, and generate reports -- which can come in handy when trying to make data-driven decisions about your office space.

Digital Reception

A digital reception is particularly useful for businesses that receive a lot of visitors, such as co-working spaces, hotels, some medical offices, or retail stores.

With a digital reception, you can track visitor traffic, book meeting rooms, and manage office bookings -- all in one place. And since it's all digital, it can help you save time and be more efficient too.man working on digital device

The Space Management Process: Step by Step

OK, so how, more specifically, do you do space management?

Every Office Manager will most likely have their own version of a space management process. However, the basic process goes like this:

Assess Your Space

The first step is to assess your space and understand what you have to work with.

This means taking a good look at your workplace -- both the physical space and how it's being used.

You can do this by conducting employee surveys, analyzing desk utilization data, and observing workplace activity. This will give you a good idea of how your office space is actually being used -- and what you can do about it.

Invest in the Right Tools

As we mentioned earlier, there are a number of different space management tools available -- and the right tool (or combination of tools) will depend on your specific needs.

If you want to improve meeting room utilization, for example, you might invest in meeting room booking software. If you want to promote hot desking in your office, you

Survey Your Employees

As part of the space management process, it's important to survey your employees and understand their needs and preferences.

This can be done through employee surveys, focus groups, or one-on-one interviews.

Outline and Measure Your Goals

Now that you have a good understanding of your workplace and your employees' needs, it's time to start setting some goals.

When outlining your goals, it's important to be as specific as possible. For example, rather than saying "I want to increase collaboration," you might say "I want to increase the number of people using the office space by the end of the next quarter."

Monitor and Improve

Finally, it's important to monitor your progress and make continual improvements.

This means tracking the metrics that are important to you, such as employee satisfaction, space utilization rates, or the number of people using the office space.

You should also be sure to survey your employees on a regular basis to get their feedback and ensure that your space management strategy is still meeting their needs.

With these tips in mind, you should be well on your way to creating a more efficient, productive, and enjoyable workplace for your employees. It's obviously not a walk in the park -- but good planning and setting your eyes on the overarching goal (employee satisfaction) will help you get through it!

woman greeting her colleagues online

Understanding Space Management: FAQS

What Are the 3 Factors in Space Management?

There are three primary factors to consider when managing your office space: 1) effective planning; 2) solid implementation; 3) regular office space data tracking.

What Is the Main Goal of Space Management?

The main goal of space management is to create a more efficient, productive, and enjoyable workplace for employees.

What Are the Principles of Space Management?

The main principles of space management revolve around making space management more than just a "happenstance", but a regular process within an organization. These principles are 1) assessment, 2) right-sizing, 3) re-configuration, 4) consolidation, and 5) monitoring & improving.

What Does a Space Manager Do?

A Space Manager is responsible for the efficient utilization of an organization's office space. This includes developing space utilization plans, coordinating space assignments, and overseeing the move process.

What Are the Benefits of Space Management?

The main benefits of space management are:

  • increased efficiency and productivity
  • decreased costs
  • improved employee satisfaction

Topics: Office of the future, Workspace Management Software, Workplace Experience, Space Management

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