Working Practices

A continuing theme of the BCO’s discussions over the years has been agile working as technology has evolved and the rapid pace of development has enabled us to work from almost anywhere at any time.  This in turn is having significant impact on workplace design.

A workspace is no longer just a desk. People work from a variety of places including meeting areas and quiet rooms, cafes and trains. Utilising space as flexible working areas encourages collaboration, teamwork and serendipitous exchanges of information and ideas. Furthermore, it is likely to offer a more attractive proposition to potential and current employees, making it easier for businesses to recruit and retain staff.

Flexibility has a substantial impact on the capacity for companies to be agile.  It allows employees to operate in an environment that best suits their personal working style and allows companies to respond to fluctuations in workload and to bring the best people and teams together to work as agile working morphs into activity based working. This in turn is seen as an important step towards improving workforce efficiency and productivity.

While one of the trends of the last 25 years has been the rising levels of densification in office as demonstrated by the BCO Occupier Density Studies (2009 and 2013), the future may see this trend levelling as employees become more demanding of technology and how their workplace enables them to be more flexible.  The rationale for designing offices to be occupied at 1:8 or even 1:6 is sensible from an economic perspective and supported by tenants and landlords.  If occupiers can pack more staff into less space – without harming comfort or productivity – higher rents can become lower costs per head.  However, unlike the past 25 years, the overriding trend of future years will be how to create a work environment that ensures a more productive workforce and this in turn could mean a fall in densities – especially in certain areas of the floorplate - due to the negative impact on productivity as employees complain about lack of space, privacy and noise.

BCO’s latest Occupier Density Study, published in February 2018, examines recent trends in workplace density and utilisation. The study has drawn on a sample of 6.6 m sq ft of occupied office space, spread across 84 occupiers and 314 individual floors.  Also recognising the growing importance of agile working, the study has supplemented the density data with an analysis of space utilisation by including data on 132 buildings, accommodating organisations from a range of sectors.  The report shows that while average office worker now has 9.6 sq m of working space compared to 9.9 sq m in 2013, density is showing signs of reaching its limit.  Other key findings include:

  • Desks are occupied on average 40-50% through the core working day
  • In terms of density and utilisation, historic differences between business sectors are reducing
  • The general direction of travel can be considered to apply across all building types, business sectors and geographical regions
  • The result of the study do not suggest a need to raise specification further to accommodate higher densities

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