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Encourage Employees to Experiment with the Space They Use

Being more flexible about how you encourage employees to use offices, meeting spaces, and all the other parts of a modern workplace can make them far more productive

The space usage policies that corporate real estate teams put in place often discourage experimentation with language that’s too prescriptive. And, while this many seem like a small problem to some, helping employees use their workspace in new ways can save millions of dollars a year at the average large company.

Not only that, it’s fairly straightforward for CRE teams to review existing signs and other documentation to identify and change this language. For example, official documentation — like signs posted in rooms explaining rules for how to use them—can leave employees reluctant to experiment with different ways of working. They can also discourage workers from trying new space uses if they think your policies prohibit these uses.

For instance, a room might have a sign saying “this meeting space is for two to five people.” But this is too limiting if it’s possible to use the space in other ways.

The solution is to allow freedom within certain parameters. For example CRE teams can create a sign that says, “use this space for any occasion when noise is a concern,” for instance. This suggestion-based guidance can help employees envision alternative ways they can use the space.

To do so, you’ll need to look for and remove wording that explicitly states what to do, as well as terms that imply limits on use (see chart 1). Use the checklist in chart 2 to identify this kind of language.

Reviewing real estate policies

Chart 1: Reviewing real estate policies  Source: CEB analysis


Checklist to identify explicit and implicit direction in CRE policies and language

Chart 2: Checklist to identify explicit and implicit direction in CRE policies and language  Source: CEB analysis

Click chart to expand

Once you’ve eliminated prescriptive language from your policies, use these tips to develop new guidelines that encourage employees to try innovative ways of using work areas:

  • Limit restrictions on space use to those that would violate higher-level policies (such as the fire code).

  • Include multiple uses for each space type.

  • Include scenarios describing when employees can ignore the policy (for instance, if the room is unoccupied five minutes after a meeting was supposed to start, or at certain times of the day).

  • Note when you last updated the policy on the document. This will indicate your intent to revise it in the future as necessary.

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