Rethink how colleges
and universities
occupy workspaces

April 26, 2021

The world of work is changing, and while the office will remain the common thread that brings employees together, more higher education institutions are allowing flexibility in how and where work gets done. Today’s campus leaders will need new ways of thinking and new technology to support employee productivity and engagement. Considering 30–60% of space on an average campus is under-utilized, schools have a significant opportunity to plan and manage the physical workplace. How do you lay the groundwork for hybrid workplace success? Start by focusing on an approach that can help drive operating efficiencies while supporting a highly engaged workforce.

Existing trends, accelerated

Trends toward a hybrid, work-from-anywhere workplace began prior to COVID-19, with many institutions launching remote work strategies; the pandemic merely accelerated these trends. 

A recent JLL study highlighted that 67% of real estate decision makers are increasing workplace mobility programs post-pandemic. This means a portion of the employees do not have a dedicated work space, instead occupying common areas that consist of a variety of work settings. Individuals are free to choose the space that best works for whatever they are trying to accomplish. We’ve seen traditional assigned seating fast-tracked to open-work-environment offices in the last year. New technology is being incorporated to allow higher education leaders to have a clear, data-driven overview on how that space is being used.

Even with a new hybrid workplace mindset and new working habits, it’s become clear that the campus offices still play a uniquely important function as the prime place for collaboration, connection and celebration of campus culture. It enables the kind of interaction that’s essential for productivity and engagement. In fact, an overwhelming number of people – about 75% according to a recent JLL study – still see the importance of working in the office. The need to effortlessly connect people and teams when they choose to come to campus will be as important as ever. And, as college and university leaders rethink and reshape the workplace, they will need to establish a fluid workspace strategy that can support multiple workstyles simultaneously.

Dynamic planning for a dynamic world

As part of our tech journey, we’re experimenting with technology that helps us go beyond your ordinary space bookings and reservations system. We are turning space reservation and utilization data into “smart” data, that recognizes employees’ common needs over time and provides space that best fits those needs and preferences. Additionally, this data enables planners to efficiently manage and morph work zones to match employee needs on a day-to-day basis.

As real estate is typically the second-highest cost of campus operations, forward-looking institutions need an always-on space optimization solution that reduces real estate expense and environmental impact, while enhancing employee experience and human performance. As space needs change and how people work in the office continually evolves, precise, real-time response to those demands will become more critical to the performance of each employee, and to the campus community as a whole. The greater your ability to anticipate and respond to shifts in occupancy needs, the greater your long-term operational efficiency will become.