The office isn’t dead, but will be 20% smaller says Unispace

Oct 14, 2020
  • Article by Tili Bensley-Nettheim

Workplace design specialists Unispace have created a predictive tool that models expected office re-occupancy levels post-COVID-19 and provides space allocation recommendations. 

The Predictive Analytics Tool (PAT) leverages 3.2 million data points from the Bureau of Labour Statistics to help businesses across industries prepare for their return to the office. 

The tool is able to forecast the specifics of how many people can be expected back (i.e. headcount), when and how often they’ll be in the office and as a result, the spatial requirements of the office down to the square metre. 

“PAT provides us with additional data to create meaningful and sound briefing scenarios for the future work environment in a post-vaccine world,” says the Unispace team.  

“Based on predictive analytics results, we prepare a space budget which describes all the components required within the new workplace and adds in factors such as circulation and fit-factor to give a total space requirement.” 

“This can then be used to test current leased areas or help brief a real-estate professional about how much space should be the foundation for a property search if new premises are required.” 

Across all industries, Unispace’s PAT suggests 37% of the workforce will continue working from home for 3+ days a week even post a COVID-19 vaccine being available.

The PAT also reveals that between 10-30% of office space will remain unoccupied, that is in addition to the 40-50% that was already typically unoccupied in the typical office. Therefore, at any given time in the future, an office workpoint could remain unoccupied 60-80% of the time. 

Unispace says that they regard  COVID-19 as simply quickening the changes to the workplace that they had already predicted were coming down the pipeline.  

“As a result of the COVID experience we have seen an acceleration of five to 10 years of change in the work practice and process flows within organisations.”  

The firm offers their ‘Propellor Model’ as a possible response to this data. Released earlier in the pandemic, the model is a hub and home hybrid that that coalesces the collaborative physical office space with the familiarity of home. 

“Propeller is an evolution of the workplace continuum that captures the new skills and behaviours adopted in the past 6 months and adds these to the lessons we have learnt from the past 60 years of working in the modern office,” explains the Unispace team. 

“Recognising that most of us were productive and happy working remotely, the three fins of the Propeller create ideal spaces for side-by-side Problem Solving, zones for fostering Community, and flexible technology assisted spaces for Innovation.” 

The team are translating the PAT data to into space allocation recommendations that determine the size and configuration of each propeller zone to match the intent of why employees are in the office.

“Taking a client through this methodology typically saves about 20-30% of space, while giving back 20-30% better utilised space that supports shifting mobility and collaboration practices,” says the team.

Last month, Unispace announced the appointment of a new CEO and Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) to grapple with the short and long-term impacts of COVID-19 on office fit-outs, commercial tenancies and real estate portfolios. 

Graphics courtesy of Unispace. Lead photo: Woodside Energy headquarters in Perth designed by Unispace and Cox. Photo by Shannon McGrath.

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