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Spaced out

With many companies growing faster than the region can construct to accommodate, FMs are left with the task of either sourcing larger offices or making do with the space they have. facilities management Middle East asks the industry: With office space in high demand, how can FMs utilise the space they have to create more room?

ANALYSIS, Facilities Management

In any organisation, space management is crucial. Wasted space means wasted costs and wasted costs could impact on profits.

In the Middle East, companies are expanding at such a rate that finding affordable and suitable office space can be difficult. It would help architects and designers if they were made aware of the sort of space that is in demand so they could design the building more effectively.

Also, because most buildings are multi-tenanted instead of big corporates occupying one building, it�s important for the architects and designers to think about the sort of companies who will be buying/leasing the space (if known) and how they will then want to utilise this space.

 

This kind of information is difficult to capture. However, for FMs, space management technology can track usage over a period of time and provide them with the data needed to plan an effective office move once office space becomes a problem.

Another area in which technology is now playing a part in helping create more space is storage. Before the era of email, correspondence between people was written and paper work was filed in cupboards and kept for a certain amount of time for reference.

These days, most communication between people lies on computers via the form of email. The advancement of technology has also meant people can now pick up their emails when they are away from their office on their laptops or blackberrys allowing them to process information quicker. This also means that less time is needed in the office.

With this in mind, it�s understandable why people now share desk space. This international concept is referred to as hot-desking. The UK and other advanced FM markets are well aware of the term hot-desking, but the Middle East region has yet to catch on.

In basic terms, hot-desking is a concept that allows a company to create more workspace or reduce occupying costs by reducing the number of desks in the office.

Some companies find their staff spend a considerable amount of time away from the office so by allocating desk space as and when needed, the company do not need one desk per employee and can therefore save on space and utilise resources in a more efficient and cost productive manner.

When it comes to furniture, manufacturers are always thinking of new and innovative ways they can design furniture to not only suit the needs of the individual, but also the needs of the workspace.

The use of laptops within companies is increasing. Because of this, manufacturers are designing things like funky fastenings that elevate the laptop on the desk creating more work space. With a trend towards a more open plan office with less isolated rooms, designers are also producing moveable office furniture allowing for meetings to take place within the office. This also helps with internal office moves.

But all the above and the advice from the industry on the following two pages is all relative to the company.

Company culture needs to be taken into account as what works for one, may not necessarily work for others.

The type of business the company conducts, the number of people it employs and the impression it wants to give to both internal and external customers are also key factors when considering the best way to utilise space.

When thinking about space management it�s also important to remember that the working environment effects employee productivity. People who feel comfortable in their surroundings will inevitably be more productive.

Other areas to consider that have not been discussed are lighting, air-conditioning and employee facilities.

Utilising office space effectively can help reduce costs, improve staff productivity and help prevent relocation costs.

Name: David Rand

Job title: Managing director

Responsible for: Running the businesses in Morris�s office group which include Morris Office, ROC (which supplies primarily to the public sector) and Diamik (an educational furniture specialist)

Company: Morris Office Furniture

Based in: Glasgow and London

Background: David was previously operations director for Morris and is now responsible for all aspects of the company�s business in the commercial furniture markets

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum may well have shaped Dubai�s business and financial districts on the global financial centres such as the City of London, but there are developments under way in London that may provide other lessons for the development of Dubai.

In many ways, there is a stark contrast between the London property market and that of Dubai. For a start, whereas developers in Dubai are working as hard as they can to keep up with demand and prices have been rising accordingly, in the City of London there is still a great deal of space empty; by current estimates up to 10m sq ft of vacant and under-utilised office space, around half of which is Grade ‘A� quality.

Because this over-supply has followed several years of strong economic performance and full employment, there is clearly something structural rather than cyclical happening within the office market.

According to many commentators, the inhabitants of the buildings are changing the way they use them by using new technology and new working practices to take up less space. Until recently, densities averaged around 15-16m2 per person but now many organisations are using 10m2 or less per person as a benchmark.

Such space savings represent very large cost savings. The economist, Roger Bootle has shown that dealing with property more efficiently can increase gross trading profits by up to 13%. In the UK, new working practices could save on property costs to the tune of £6.5bn a year and an equivalent saving of 10% on FM costs could save £1.3bn annually.

Of course the issues for Dubai are different, driven to a large extent by how to deal with explosive economic growth without letting the local property market overheat. What the City of London example demonstrates is that the solution may not just be to put up more buildings, but also to get more out of what you�ve got through good management, good FM and good design.

Name: Ulysses Papadopoulos

Job Title: Workplace Solutions Manager

Responsible for: Managing client relationships.

Company: CitySpace

Based in: Dubai, with client projects throughout the ME

Background: Over 25 years experience of living and working in the Gulf. An active member of IFMA, CoreNet Global and Dubai Quality Group

With vacancy rates at less than 1% it is not an option for many companies to move immediately. Around 25 million m2 of new office space is scheduled to be delivered by 2010, for the next few years we recommend FMs take a fresh look at their existing space and re-plan to optimise it.

We plan for about 15–18m2 a person, but we can see this figure is decreasing. Workplace design trends focus on creating more open workspace, minimising private offices, with greater proportion of space allocated to group areas at the expense of shrinking individual workspaces. The savings in space can be allocated to group break-out areas, but could also be converted to additional workstations if required.

A company based in an office tower in Dubai�s CBD, was recently challenged with doubling their headcount within the same space, with densities of just 9m2. A total re-plan of the space was the only option; shuffle departmental adjacencies, reposition conference suites and reduce reception area size, office sharing, compact file storage system, clusters of compact workstations and more glazed partitions to allow natural light to flow were some of the solutions. Accommodating increasing staff densities is also determined by furniture manufacturers, who are actively developing products such as compact systems, multi-functional and modular furniture.

The main challenge for FMs is to achieve a healthy balance between open areas and privacy in the re-designed space. They should create a variety of workspaces designed according to the task, whether it be individual or group work, or simply taking a regular break in a soft seating area. They also need to think about the company�s unique ‘work-style�; their corporate culture, work process and ways of working.

Perhaps offer the option to work from home or a remote location for part of the week (an increasing trend in other countries) reducing commuting time and allowing for a better work/life balance.

Name: V. Vijayendra Babji

Job title: Operations director

Responsible for: FM operations at Dubai Festival City

Company: Emrill Services

Based in: Dubai

Background: Mechanical engineer with 20 years of experience with Ford Motors, Jones Lang LaSalle

FMs around the world, especially in high growth markets like India and China or high cost markets like Singapore and Australia, are often challenged with the dilemma of catering to constantly growing workforce numbers. The traditional solution of design audits - involving review of real estate occupancy (density) and consequent redesign - is still widely utilised. However, this approach has distinct disadvantages - predominantly investment requirements and impact on employee morale as a result of diminishing workspaces.

Therefore, more innovative solutions are a strong need of the hour. Many corporations are adopting alternative workplace strategies, and hot-desking is the most successful amongst them. A leading corporation was able to reduce its overall leased portfolio by over 20% by implementing a technology-based hot-desking system - which was user-friendly and at the same time, catered to traditional workspace requirements of certain functions/positions (eg. marketing professionals requiring fixed spaces in a presentable location).

Many corporations actively encourage work-from-home cultures, some offering financial incentives to employees who choose to work from home. This concept ably supports need-to-use workspace strategies. Several other revolutionary initiatives can also be implemented as solutions:

• Workforce operating on a shift system;

• Transforming from traditional offices to open spaces;

• Back-office/front-office concept (eg. support functions operate from a separate facility, maybe even business centers that allow upscale/downscale flexibility);

• Employing external warehousing for storage (thus adding more usable space).

At the heart of developing any solution, however, is fostering a culture where facility managers play a strong role in organisational strategy as owners of space; rather than being at the receiving end of space requirement mandates. It is only then that their strengths of innovation, forecasting and proactive initiatives and increasing use of technology will be of maximum value to the corporation.

Name: Mehdi Nosratlu

Job title: Managing director

Responsible for: Business development

Company: Sirocon

Based in: Sharjah

Background: MBA. International project management

Businesses are employing more flexible and mobile workforces, so what are customers really looking for from property? Are property owners innovating and providing the right infrastructure and facilities? How can the gap be bridged between traditional space and required services? How can the layout, design and service provided within buildings make a more valuable contribution to corporate productivity?

Office productivity is influenced by a number of factors, one of which is office layout. Its importance to organisational efficiency should never be underestimated. Efficient layout results in a number of benefits, including: employee satisfaction; first impressions of the organisation�s work areas; the effective allocation and use of the building�s floor space; providing employees with efficient, productive work areas and effective expansion and/or rearrangement of work areas.

A number of factors need to be thought when designing an office, including: work flow; organisation chart; communication network; space requirements and perhaps the most critical decision to be made is whether private, general or a combination of both areas will be used.

The trend is toward a minimum of private office areas and maximum use of general office areas. Typically, the general areas make use of the openplan concept, which overcomes a number of the disadvantages of conventional private offices.

Three alternatives are used in designing space around the openplan concept. These include: the modular workstation, the cluster workstation and the landscape approach.

The preparation of the layout is carried out using a variety of tools, including templates, cut outs, plastic models, magnetic boards and computer-aided design (CAD). CAD is used for more complex projects.

Regardless of which tool is used, a primary concern is making sure every aspect of the layout (perimeter, structural features, equipment and furniture components, etc) is scaled properly and consistently.

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