Half of offices are empty but you still can’t find a meeting room

November 15, 2018
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We’ve all been there: The last-minute meeting with a crucial client. The team huddle ahead of a product launch. The frantic search for a space to convene. The passive-aggressive request, "Are you done with this room?"

In many workplaces, meeting rooms are reserved days or even weeks in advance, yet even with forward planning and complex booking systems, employees waste up to 27 hours a year looking for a place to meet—and 45% don't have access to the space they need when they need it.

More meetings, less space

Since the start of the new millennium, time spent in meetings has been rising 10%, and the trend looks set to continue. As the digital transformation develops, agile, group-based work is replacing old corporate structures. And with tech-enabled mobility ushering in distributed work, people increasingly go to the office to collaborate.

At the same time, ballooning real estate costs mean space comes at an unprecedented premium. Companies know they need to adapt to contemporary work patterns, but few are equipped with the insight and information to do so efficiently.

The empty office conundrum

While workers across the world scramble for meeting space, 40% percent of global corporate real estate sits empty. This underutilization is due in part to the rapidly changing way we work in offices. It’s also a result of inefficient and inexact approaches to workplace strategy.  

There is no universal standard when it comes to figuring out how space is used, and how offices should be designed. Approaches vary vastly across industries, with each employing different metrics and responding to trends. Calculating office space use is typically not an exact science—it involves a multidisciplinary team, and a lot of guesswork.

Then there’s the human factor. “If there’s a shortage of food, people want to hoard it. Conference rooms are the same way,” Mark Schliemann, vice president of technical operations at Moz told the Wall Street Journal. “If people see conference space as valuable and they need it, they do whatever it takes to get it.”

Focusing on employee behavior change, however, is not necessarily the solution. “In the workplace, we sometimes think we need a change management program so we can make employees use our building the way the architect designed,” said JLL’s Global Practice Lead, Darlene Pope, speaking at RealComm IBcon conference.  “What we really need is change management for decision-makers to design space that fits with how employees are actually using it.”

What we really need is change management for decision-makers to design space that fits with how employees are actually using it. - JLL’s Global Practice Lead, Darlene Pope

Better than your best guess

Knowing how space is actually used is key to developing an effective workplace strategy. Instead of relying on calculations based on estimates, businesses today can harness the power of new technology to revolutionize their approach to office design.

Armed with historical and real-time data, workplace strategists can accurately analyze how much—and importantly, what kind of—space their workforce needs. Plus, employees can see how busy a meeting room or lunch area is at any given moment, without leaving their desk.

As a result, companies are able to extract optimal value from their real estate, and increased productivity from their staff. Catering to the real and changing needs of office users also enhances employee experience, an important factor in attracting and retaining talent.   

As real estate firms morph into tech companies and businesses find a way to control property costs without dampening productivity, workers everywhere can finally relax, safe in the knowledge there’s a suitable space available whenever they need it.