Do Companies In Latin America Use Space Efficiently? | United Workplace

Contract Workplaces has made a survey of the ways of working and the work environments of companies in Latin America to understand how they are managed, identify best practices and propose ways of improvement.

Contract Workplaces—a company specialising in consulting, design and construction of workplaces—has announced the results of Workplaces Benchmark, the first Regional Benchmark on Efficiency and Well-Being in Workplaces, which was carried out during 2018 and 2019 in all the countries in which the company operates. Over 1,000 employees from national and multinational companies participated in this survey.

“Workplaces Benchmark offers participating companies a very accurate diagnosis of their workspace to help them learn where they are standing as compared to other companies in the region and in relation to optimal standards," explains Gaetano Salierno, CEO of Contract Workplaces , and he states that "the results of the study can serve as a trigger for changes and improvements aimed at increasing productivity, reducing operating costs, optimizing occupancy rates and increasing employee well-being.”

In order to understand the level of efficiency and well-being of each company, the three more relevant dimensions of “High Performance” spaces were evaluated:

  1. Workplaces and their relationship with operations
  2. Design and image in connection with the sense of belonging
  3. Physical comfort in relation to users’ well-being

The evaluation method used included interviews to the top management, visits by experts to the workplace and surveys to the teams to assess their level of satisfaction regarding each dimension.

It should be noted that the study revealed that most of the participating companies allocate more square meters per workstation than is considered optimal according to the best design practices. Although the ratio varies between countries and, in some cases, there is even local legislation regulating it, the optimal area per workstation is 7 to 8 m2. However, the study showed that in offices in Latin America, the average surface is 8.6 m2 per workstation; hence, the ratio of individual workstations to number of employees is, on average, 1.08. Therefore, in most companies there is some space that is misused or even not used at all. For this reason, Salierno states that when adopting “new ways of working, in which flexible models prevail and practices such as home office and hot-desks are common, a ratio of 0.7 individual workstations to total number of employees is suggested in order to use the space more efficiently. However, we always tell our clients that each case has to be assessed individually to take into account specific needs, focusing on people, the objectives of the company and its culture.”

Another fact that was revealed by the investigation was that offices in Latin America—except those in Colombia—usually have fewer collaborative workstations than individual workstations. However, to achieve a balanced distribution, we recommend having a collaborative workstation for each individual workstation in order to facilitate and promote interaction, teamwork, and provide workers with the possibility to choose how and where to carry out their tasks.

The study also analysed the level of employee satisfaction regarding three issues: the quality of their workplaces, in terms of how functional they were in relation to their daily activities; the comfortprovided by their offices; and the extent to which they see the company’s valuesreflected in the work environment. Results showed that the spaces most valued by workers were socialization areas. “Open and relaxed areas with comfortable seats, coffee tables, stands and living room furniture are considered meeting points that are necessary and useful for informal conversations and exchange of ideas," says Salierno.

On the other hand, the worst qualified spaces were those prepared for activities that require privacy and concentration. “Although the open plan has gained ground almost entirely, noise prevails as the main source of distraction. For that reason, it is necessary to include acoustic solutions to minimize it, provide quiet areas, give employees the possibility of choosing their workstations, and locate noisy activities in spaces far away from the areas that require concentration,” says Salierno, and he adds that “the key is to achieve a good balance between public and private spaces, promoting their adequate use.”

Issues such as temperature quality, chairs and degree and type of lighting were qualified as "good" instead of "excellent", so most companies could make improvements in those areas, which would contribute to workers’ comfort and well-being. It has been proven that considering the degree of satisfaction regarding these elements during the working day and optimizing them produces a positive effect on people's performance.

Another important variable that was brought to light is that a large majority of respondents believe their workplaces represent the values, identity and image of the company where they work. “This indicator reflects a certain sense of belonging and identification with the space and a greater commitment on the part of employees. A positive image is important not only in terms of productivity but also as a tool to attract and retain talents and to build successful strategic relationships,” says Salierno.

In summary, Benchmark Workplaces reveals a panorama of opportunities for Latin American companies regarding workplaces, both in the efficient use of surfaces and in the daily use of offices in relation to the activities carried out in them. “It is essential to consider space as an asset to be managed efficiently and as a tool capable of creating areas where people can be more productive and committed, as well as a place where they can relax, socialize and feel comfortable. For this reason, it is important to make informed and concrete decisions in that direction,” Salierno concludes.