Hybrid Working and the New Math

Written by Celeste Tell, Senior Associate.

I was always really good at math. I could get solid B’s without much effort all the way through Algebra and Geometry, because I could puzzle through it. And then came Trigonometry. I didn’t get it. Some math is just harder and more complicated than other math.

As the economy begins to open up and we emerge from our 15 month long pandemic hibernation, workplace transformation is a reality and everyone is talking about “hybrid work”. Typically, what that means is that most office workers in an organization work from home 60-80% of the time and come to the office 20-40% of the time.

So where should organizations start if they’re looking to move towards a hybrid model?

We know how to plan for a workplace where most full-time employees have an assigned desk. It is true that pre-pandemic, many progressive, forward-thinking organizations were already experimenting with things like agile working, hot-desking and non-assigned seating. But the adoption of hybrid working at scale is another thing entirely and a clear outcome of 15 months of forced remote work.

Which gets us back to the math problem. Pre-pandemic, headcount, square feet per person, and amenity ratios drove demand, while test-fits, space plans and lease negotiations drove capacity. The math was mostly straight-up multiplication, ratios and percentages – with a little geometry thrown in. Let’s call this “static occupancy planning.”

Two new variables, however, were not really accounted for in pre-pandemic calculations – individual employee preferences and time.  

After 15 months of remote / virtual working, individual employees are demanding some control over when, where and how they work. Teams are the critical unit of work in a knowledge economy, and teams are made up of individual employees – and often consultants or contractors. In a hybrid world, teams will determine when and how much they come into the office and how much they will each work at home to optimally achieve performance goals.

According to a data review we (AWA) released  earlier this year, if given the option to work from home two days a week, most office workers will likely opt for Mondays and Fridays, resulting in peak workplace utilization across the other three days, Tuesday through Thursday. In the UK, our latest report findings issued in June, suggested that 2 in 5 London workers (800,000) could continue their job remotely full-time, enabling them to prioritize personal preference over proximity to the Central office.  

So what does this mean for effective occupancy planning in a post-pandemic workplace?

With teams demanding when and how much time they spend in the office, and what activities they are focused on while there, how do we forecast space requirements on a daily basis without having either too much or too little space? Let’s call this “dynamic capacity planning.”

In dynamic capacity planning, sophisticated technologies can assess capacity – space quantity, space typology and standards, asset, tool and services availability and flexibility variables – against demand – team space requirements based on a complex analysis of individual employee needs and preferences for activity-based work, time variables and team performance goals.

Managing that complexity for multiple teams over business weekday hours is complicated math indeed! This is where AWA’s Space Forecasting Tool comes in, which uses these technologies and analytics to help organizations create the conditions for peak people performance, team connectivity and optimal business outcomes.

Shifting from simple to more complicated math doesn’t need to be difficult.

With the right tools, technologies and analytics, we can learn to easily manage the complexities of hybrid working in smart and effective new ways. 

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