Making the most of your office space? Quest has – it will save R32m over the next five years

Office space costs – a lot. Real estate prices and rentals are at a premium. Facilities Management (FM), the business support services needed to operate and maintain a business, is the second or third most expensive item in terms of running a business. But cost is not the only reason organisations keep updating their office space. Our ways of working together are changing, so office space needs to be adapted to optimise productivity and efficiency. Quest Staffing Solutions made use of our services and expect to save R6 million per annum for the next five years, for a one-off outlay of around R4 million rand.


In the next three years, South Africa will rank among the most expensive in the world in terms of energy prices. Better workplace design can help maximise the use of real estate, improve productivity, and save the organisation a lot of money. There are some easy wins to be had, and they are certainly worth assessing, but the real benefits of workplace optimisation comes with a deep understanding business requirements. Quest Staffing Solutions made certain its investment would pay off.


The quick wins

Are you making the best use of your office space? It’s easy to do quick calculations and ask the obvious questions: for instance, does the space assigned per person meet industry benchmarks; does the layout of your office/s and the location of the various departments relative to one another support efficient workflows; is there enough functional space for meetings, presentations and undisturbed and focused work; and do the available equipment, technology and furnishings support productivity?


The answers to these questions may give you some indication of the challenges you may face, however, the density (square meters per person) and versatility of office space is no longer the chief measure of whether space is adequately used – today, companies want to know how, when and where staff work together. This offers better insight into how to optimise use of space to drive creativity, productivity and efficiency.


Research can deliver big returns

Quest employed Global WorkPlace Solutions (GWS) to lead the development of a new ‘Ways of Work’ (WoW) programme to create modern, comfortable and productive workplaces for Quest. The programme sought to:

  • · Understand how Quest employees work in order to support their workplace needs and increase productivity
  • · Identify opportunities to use space more efficiently across the portfolio
  • · Implement new ways of working, including flexible working, and drive behavioural change throughout the organisation.


As part of the overall WoW programme, Quest made use of Johnson Controls Global WorkPlace Solutions’ (GWS) unique online survey called ‘All in a Day’s Work’ (AiaDW), along with qualitative research, to find some answers. The online survey is designed to provide scientific data on the way employees work – what tasks they undertake during their working day, where they perform these activities and, crucially, what hinders them (barriers to productivity). By understanding employee behaviour, Quest could better understand the impact of the workplace on business performance.


At the time, Quest Staffing Solutions had 12 offices housing 420 permanent staff, and managed more than 16,000 outsourced workers at blue chip companies in the financial, telecommunications, IT, retail and public sectors. Its workplace transformation project was born from a desire to truly understand how staff worked, be more cost effective with building resources, and create a modern, comfortable and productive working environment.


As a result of the research, two of Quest’s premises were consolidated into a brand new, designed-for-purpose office, while investment in IT has given its client-facing employees the freedom to stay in the field. Quest wins on multiple fronts: the initial investment is a fraction of its long term savings, the business functions more competitively, and it’s geared for future growth.


Build in long term sustainability

So what does the typical workplace of the future look like? What should we be gearing for? As we are already seeing, there will be less personal space, and more ‘agile’ or versatile space in the typical workplace of the future. Leveraging technology will become more important as more people work remotely and interact and collaborate virtually. Wireless technology is just one example—it makes physically moving about the office, or anywhere, easier. And of course energy costs will impact the bottom line, which brings us to something many organisations seem not to be factoring in: sustainability.


While understanding how to optimise the entire lifecycle of the building is hugely advantageous and beneficial when designing it and putting in the infrastructure for the first time, there’s a huge number of smart strategies that can be applied in existing structures to improve intelligent interaction of systems within buildings and lower energy use.


Look to the retail, manufacturing and technology sectors for examples of how to do it. They are further ahead in terms of real estate strategy and space efficiency because these factors impact their bottom line efficiency and returns. To them, how you display or arrange goods to appeal to purchasers; how you lay out the production line; and what happens in the data storage room directly impacts business.


Best practices and standard measures can help you decide if you need to cut back on office space, renegotiate a lease, sub-let unused space, or even consolidate or vacate premises. They can also help you reduce energy and utility consumption and the associated costs by between 15 and 50 percent. Integrated technologies, products and services can help create smart environments that redefine the relationship between people and their surroundings. But with the right research – knowing what to change and how – organisations can do what they do best, only better. This can be done by increasing not just efficiency, but productivity, collaboration and interaction.


About Johnson Controls Global WorkPlace Solutions


Johnson Controls Global WorkPlace Solutions is a leading provider of facilities, commercial real estate and energy management for many of the world’s largest companies. We create business advantage for our customers through tailored solutions that optimize their real estate performance and employee productivity while reducing total occupancy costs. Our 21,000 employees have delivered over $3 billion in savings for our customers over the last 10 years and ensure the business continuity of the 1.8 billion square feet of real estate that we manage in more than 75 countries.



About Johnson Controls


Johnson Controls is a global diversified technology and industrial leader serving customers in more than 150 countries. Our 162,000 employees create quality products, services and solutions to optimize energy and operational efficiencies of buildings; lead-acid automotive batteries and advanced batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles; and interior systems for automobiles. Our commitment to sustainability dates back to our roots in 1885, with the invention of the first electric room thermostat. Through our growth strategies and by increasing market share we are committed to delivering value to shareholders and making our customers successful. In 2011, Corporate Responsibility Magazine recognized Johnson Controls as the #1 company in its annual “100 Best Corporate Citizens” list. For additional information, please visit


By Philip Gregory, Johnson Controls Senior Regional Executive – Middle East & Africa

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