Functional Program

Space Needs Assessment - the first step on the path toward a better workplace.

You're a CEO/CFO or VP Facilities of a successful organization and the lease on your current premises is due to expire in the next three years or less. Your existing space has met your company's needs well but you've experienced sustained growth over the last several years and it's now bursting at the seams with staff working in repurposed meeting rooms, storage rooms or aisles. Clearly your company needs more space but there are some fundamental questions to be answered such as how much space and at what cost?

It could be a no brainer if your landlord has space available on other floors within the building and he's prepared to lease you additional space in the building in return for your signing up for another ten years. More probably however, you will engage the services of a real estate brokerage firm to conduct a feasibility study on options such as go vs. stay, lease vs. own, existing stock vs. build to suit and the best location based on your staff demographic. In order to do this the broker will ask some initial high level questions to assess your needs and then apply space standards for your industry to give you an initial indication as to what your options are.

At this point you will most likely have a choice, either A) pay for a comprehensive Space Needs Assessment to flush out your space requirements in detail or B) work with the number that your broker gave you and sign a lease on a property with only some inexpensive 'test-fit' space plans for confirmation that your needs will be met. Of course you've reviewed the space plans yourself and you're pretty happy with them so you share them with your executive team to get their approval but unless you run your company as an autocracy you'll probably receive a less than favourable response because they weren't engaged in the process and they can see a number of flaws with the assumptions that the plans were based upon.

For example, you may find that the 'standards' didn't apply to your unique company after all and now you have either too much or too little space to accommodate the other project goals that your talent acquisition team was hoping for as well as insufficient space for that long term IT project and the associated contractors that you weren't aware of because they didn't appear on the org chart that you were given when your establishing your company headcount. In short, you're off to a really bad start and you've set yourself and your team up for a less than positive experience which could've been avoided had you elected to conduct a Space Needs Assessment.

So what is a Space Needs Assessment and why does your company need one? A Space Needs Assessment is essentially a process that you go through to mitigate the risk of the potential worst outcomes of scenario B with the associated impact on employee morale, operational effectiveness, recriminations and ultimate effect on the bottom line. It consists of a number of investigations, activities and reports that when viewed together will give you a blueprint for your new office space that is both comprehensive and based on your company's unique mission, vision, values and culture.

A full Space Needs Assessment would consist of the following:

Workplace Envisioning (WE)

This comprises separate workshops for senior management and staff to investigate better ways of working. One of the other deliverables from the senior management workshop is the development of the Guiding Principles or brief which is both the roadmap for the duration of the project and the reference guide to gauge it's success upon completion.

Functional Programming

Involves the deep and detailed investigation into what your team actually need to do their work. It can be based upon interviews and/or surveys and the outcome is a comprehensive space summary report that is a starting point for senior management to use to model the effects of various initiatives and see the effect that they could have on your space needs.

Time Utilization Study (TUS)

It's well known that most 'owned' workspaces sit empty for on average 30% of the working week. A TUS allows this percentage to be measured specifically for your organization and also the identification of areas where some degree of agile working initiative could be implemented with the potential for better use of your existing space instead of simply leasing more. Staff engagement can also be positively affected by such programs as employees appreciate the increased choice as to how and where they are able to work.

The cost of a Space Needs Assessment can vary greatly with some fit-out specialists offering them for free as long as you commit to working with them. If your program is simple then this may be adequate for you but if you have a larger organization with many similarly large divisions or departments then you'll need something more exhaustive. With a comprehensive SNA carried out by an impartial consultant you may in fact find that you don't need more space because your existing space could be used more effectively. On that basis it may make sense to engage the services of an experienced workplace design consultant some time before you actually need to and definitely as early as possible before you start the process of looking for new premises so that you're ahead of the game.

Alan Hancock, Principal, Workplace Design Consultant, Space at Work

Space at Work are specialists in conducting Space Needs Assessments. They take the time to understand their client's requirements and by asking the right questions and listening to the responses they provide solutions that incorporate best practices, current and emerging trends to create spaces that are agile, adaptive and ready to accept whatever change is around the corner.