The End of the Office Space Cubicle?
IBM has taken on the role of office space ΓÇ£evangelistΓÇ¥ ΓÇô leading the way, along with the likes of Google and Vodaphone in reshaping the traditional use of office space in order to accommodate new working practices and reduce the burden of property costs.
ΓÇ£Real estate for a lot of firms is their second-largest expense,ΓÇ¥ explained Jim Brodie, manager of IBM’s mobility and ΓÇ£workplace-on-demandΓÇ¥ program in an interview with Canadian newspaper The Star.
ΓÇ£The real estate industry for years has tracked density ΓÇö how many square feet per person do people need?ΓÇ¥ continued Brodie, ΓÇ£Which is fine, if everybody’s in the office. But what we were finding is we had great densities from a real estate perspective, but our space was 40-, 50-, 60-per-cent empty on any given day.ΓÇ¥
Given the high level of vacant desks highlighted by IBM, which one would assume may well be replicated throughout other large companies, the company took a pro-active approach to resolving the problem.
Initial trialled in their Toronto office, IBM introduced a desk-share system that has proved so successful that they have not only consolidated their office space requirements ΓÇô but reduced it to only 40% of its previous level.
With shared desks, the option of working from home and a culture of only booking an office or meeting room when it is actually needed ΓÇô this is the future of alternative office space in the eyes of IBM. In fact this process has proved so successful that they intend to role-out this new approach to office space to all of its locations by 2015 ΓÇô cutting 39% from its total floor space requirements in the process.
The availability of a desk or meeting room is currently tracked and booked by an online calendar and IBM employees will soon be able to check its availability and secure the office space they need simply by using their Blackberry ΓÇô allowing the utilisation of the office space to be optimised and avoiding large areas of a building sitting empty but still soaking up the companyΓÇÖs cash.
Streamlining office space usage and controlling the associated costs has long been an advantage enjoyed by firms operating out of serviced office space. Operated on an all-in-one cost system, serviced office space offers businesses of all shapes and sizes the chance to mould their office requirements around their actual needs. The appeal of this ΓÇ£alternativeΓÇ¥ alternative office space has helped to turn the serviced offices into a worldwide industry.
While the reduction of such costs is likely to be the primary driving force for businesses changing how their office space is structured, it would also appear that a growing number of employees prefer the new working practices open to them as a result of such change, with a 2006 survey by Canadian firm Telus revealing that only 30% of employees surveyed would opt to keep a dedicated desk system while all others would prefer to cut their office space umbilical cord.