How to Prepare for the Shrinking Office

Julie Shenkman
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Increased demand for real estate is often a good thing, but it's actually one of the biggest HR challenges facing businesses today. Due to rising costs, many HR professionals now have to deal with a shrinking office, which refers to a reduced amount of space available for employees. Utilizing space efficiently is important, but a shrinking office can impact productivity and cause employee satisfaction to suffer. Here are some ways to cope with this challenge.

Be sure to set aside some private space for workers, even if space is at a premium in your building. It is important to have a private space for conducting performance appraisals and meetings with managers. Some employees are also more productive if they have the opportunity to work in a space that is free of distractions, and if you don't make any private space available for these employees, the quality of their work may suffer. A shrinking office makes it difficult for management to find room for private offices, but you should at least have one meeting room that employees can book when they need a distraction-free place to work.

If you are dealing with a shrinking office, be flexible about giving employees time away from their desks. Employee engagement is likely to suffer if your workers have to spend eight hours in a noisy environment. Consider allowing employees to take an additional break or move around their work areas. Movement can help stimulate creativity and increase productivity, while allowing employees to escape the noise of a crowded area helps improve job satisfaction.

Allowing employees to telecommute is also a great way to cope with the problem of the shrinking office. If you don't have enough space to accommodate everyone, then an easy solution would be to allow some employees to work from home a few days per week. Telecommuting works best for employees who don't need to put in a lot of face time to succeed in their jobs. Programmers, graphic designers and copywriters could all do at least some of their work from home. Telecommuting is not ideal for secretaries, receptionists and other employees who need to be on hand to answer telephones, greet customers or handle clerical tasks.

Giving employees the tools they need to succeed in a shrinking office is another way to overcome the lack of office space. Crowded offices are very noisy, making it difficult for employees to concentrate. If your employees report having difficulty staying productive, invest in noise-cancelling headphones to block out the sounds of copiers, office chatter and ringing telephones. Encourage employees to use email or instant messaging to contact each other. Doing so can cut down on the noise produced by the telephones in your office.

Coping with HR challenges is one of the most difficult aspects of working in human resources. If your company is dealing with the challenge of a shrinking office, consider creating private space for employees or allowing workers to telecommute. Doing so can increase productivity and help employees maintain a positive perception of your organization.

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