How much time do office workers waste looking for meeting rooms, desks, and colleagues?

Water-cooler chats, meetings about meetings, general catch-ups - all micro aspects of office life fell under the microscope in early 2020 when the working world was plunged into a series of lockdowns due to the rapid spread of COVID-19. With the majority of previously office-based workers now working from home out of necessity, the question ceased to be whether WFH was viable, and became whether WFH should become the new normal.

In the three years since, the debate about WFH and a return to office life continues unabated. Many major companies have recently mandated at least partial return to office orders for their staff, but there’s no denying that the landscape has shifted irrevocably; the number of new roles being advertised as hybrid or fully remote has never been higher. 

One of the core arguments used by proponents of working remotely is that time spent in the office is often less productive than the same amount of time dedicated to solo remote working. Beyond considerations such as commuting time, once in the office, there are plenty of ways for workers to be distracted and lose productivity in their day. In this post, we’ll look specifically at three key ways in which workers are losing time due to factors beyond their control, plus explore how various agile workplace solutions can help to mitigate the time losses associated with in-office work.

How long do office workers spend looking for a free desk?

Many companies are currently grappling with how to deal with their office real estate in a post-pandemic world. No longer is it a simple equation of the number of employees you have at a given location equalling that number of required desks. With more employers embracing hybrid working, it’s an opportunity for companies to downsize their commercial real estate footprint and reduce costs by only budgeting for a portion of their staff being in the office on a given day.

However, such a move isn’t without drawbacks. A more limited number of desks means that if the office is unexpectedly over-capacity on a certain day, some members of staff may find themselves with nowhere to sit and work. Even on days when the correctly anticipated amount of staff are in the office, the limited number of desks naturally means staff will need to pick and choose desks as and when they’re available; it’s unlikely that they’ll have a fixed desk from which they always work. This means they may end up sat in a place far from those they’d benefit from collaborating with the most.

Finding an available desk can prove to be a hugely time consuming exercise, all of it coming at the expense of productive, face-to-face work. In 2017, almost four in ten workers (39%) estimated that they spent an hour per week just looking for a desk. Since the pandemic and as co-working, hybrid work and hot-desking continues to increase in adoption, so too has this trend. By 2020, Wired was estimating that each employee lost two weeks per year looking for available desks when working in a hot-desking environment.

How can companies reduce time lost searching for available desks?

Many companies in the past have attempted to hot-desk without any sort of system in place - a first come, first served option which sounds great in theory, but is often chaotic in practice. Thankfully, a robust, automated hot-desking system can help massively alleviate the issues outlined above. 

Hot-desking systems can, first and foremost, let employees book desks in advance, putting an end to the nightmare scenario for a hybrid working environment, which is when more employees show up to work in-office than there is space to accommodate them. A pre-booking system will mean fewer ad hoc desk searches and should ensure that employees check the desk availability before they leave for the office, and will know which days they’re unlikely to be able to find a free desk.

Hot-desking systems have other advantages, too. They enable staff to block book desks and areas so that not only do they get a desk, but they can ensure they’re sat near those with whom they need to work closely with. They can also provide employers with valuable information which can then impact how they layout their offices, how many desks they have, and how much office space they need in future.

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How much time do staff waste looking for a free meeting room?

Much like desks, many office workers will be familiar with the frustration of walking around an office looking for a meeting room or breakout area that isn’t already in use or, even more annoyingly, is empty, but has been booked and is therefore unavailable. Unlike desks, however, it’s not taken a paradigm shift towards hybrid work, co-working spaces and hot-desking systems to cause this frustration; the challenge of finding a meeting room has existed for years.

Of the three time wasting challenges covered in this post, the meeting room remains the most problematic; almost half (48%) of office workers report wasting a notable amount of time during their working week looking for a free meeting room. Another survey found that of those who are finding their time often lost looking for a spare room are on average losing half an hour a day doing so. As with desks and looking for colleagues, that can have huge knock-on effects on productivity and the work environment, particularly if the search for a meeting room eats into the time allocated specifically for the meeting itself.

How can time wasted looking for meeting rooms be avoided?

As with the hot-desking scenario above, a reliable meeting room booking system can go a long way to reducing or even eliminating the time wasted by employees looking for a room. A room booking system can enable employees to pick the most convenient and appropriate room for their needs (such as whether the room in question has a display), and crucially tell them whether a room is already booked or occupied before they make their way there.

How much time is wasted trying to find colleagues in an office?

One of the most frequently touted advantages of companies having their staff return to the office is the collaborative possibilities of face to face work between colleagues. However, with companies embracing hybrid work schedules, co-working spaces and hot-desking systems like never before, for workers to actually find one another in order to sync up on any given day is no longer as simple as it once was.

In order for businesses to make the most of the more limited time that their staff are spending with one another, they need to optimize the amount of time it takes for employees to find each other.

In total, more than one third (37%) of office workers have reported having difficulties in locating colleagues in a timely fashion. This can have a knock-on effect on actually finding time to meet with certain colleagues in a given day, the time available to spend with colleagues once they’ve been located, and overall productivity.

What can be done to help colleagues find each other more easily?

Unlike desks and meeting rooms, keeping track of people isn’t quite so easy. However, using a state of the art indoor mapping and indoor positioning system such as Pointr’s will enable businesses to remove the pain point of staff members trying to find one another. 

Particularly in large and unfamiliar offices, it’s not enough to expect staff to know their precise location at any given time and be able to direct colleagues to them, or to know how to find a designated meeting point. However, an indoor mapping system twinned with indoor positioning and indoor navigation would enable staff to:

  • Find themselves within a complex office building and share their current location with colleagues

  • Be given directions to navigate directly to their colleague’s location on the map

  • Be sent a location (i.e. a meeting room equidistant between the two people trying to meet) and then navigated to it on the map