Consultants Paul Bartlett and William Fawcett from Cambridge Architectural Research told October’s Working Trends conference that simulation can help tackle “the challenge of how much workspace is optimum in a ‘non-territorial’ office world”.
They said: “There is unrelenting pressure to reduce business costs and a consensus that 1:1 desk space is wasteful. Average utilisation is below 50%, but there is anxiety from users about insufficient numbers of shared desks.”
Airlines use simulation to decide how many seats to sell given the waste when passengers fail to turn up for flights. If they oversell passengers need to be compensated for their delay but if they sell conservatively they have empty seats. “In a workspace you don’t want empty desks but you don’t want people queuing. You have to get close to the optimum but not too close.”
Fawcett told delegates businesses could discern the right number of desks by trial and error but this is an expensive and time consuming way of working. Instead, employees can be surveyed on their time in the office and the kind of space they require. CAR’s computer programme can then work out the extremes in demand.
“In many offices the meeting spaces are squeezed and the desks are half empty,” he said.
The company has already used the programme to help employers such as GSK and Mott MacDonald plan their workspaces. “In all of the sites it was remarkably easy to generate the data about how people worked. The potential allocation of workstations was approximately 15% higher than it needed to be to ensure no queuing.”
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