Headed Back to the Office? These Are the Best Space Management Tools (2024)

Though some believe the COVID-19 pandemic is winding down, the new variants hitting the news underline the possibility that it'll continue or even get worse. That makes it difficult for businesses to keep their employees home indefinitely, which is why many companies are starting to implement at least a partial return to the office. The challenge is figuring out how to balance this return to the workplace with keeping employees safe.

Since there isn't a modern precedent for this situation, executives and property managers are learning as they go and utilizing new tools as they become available. Aside from more general return-to-work tools, many companies also use space management tools to help fight the virus. This software tends to be a subset of more general facilities management platforms, but since corona turned into a pandemic, several software makers have built space management tools specifically for this situation.

What Is Space Management Software?

Space management software is essentially a broad tracking and planning solution. Unlike general asset management applications, however, these tools keep track of everything in and on a given property, which means they can handle a vast and complex array of information. From building floorplans to asset tagging and personnel information, a space management tool gives a property manager a bird's eye view of what's running or installed at any property and how that resource is doing. Usually, this can be anything from an office suite to an entire campus, and the tool should then allow the manager to drill down to whatever area needs tweaking.

The ability to handle a wide variety of data has made it reasonably easy for space management vendors to add new features specifically to address pandemic-related issues. Most of the primary focus is on maintaining an effective employee workforce on-site while still keeping those people safe. As part of the process, you'll need to consider establishing new maximum occupancy thresholds and finding ways to enforce them. You'll also need to consider maintaining minimum safe distances between employees; and integrate with some form of contact tracing.

Since this situation is so fluid, however, there's little in the way of a standard feature set among vendors. You'll need to investigate each solution carefully and compare it with your back-to-work requirements so you can determine whether it's right for your needs. Following the six steps below, you can not only map out your back-to-the-office requirements but also what your space management tool needs to do to help. After that, check our vendor list of top players for capabilities that match.

1: Measure Employee Population

This simply refers to figuring out how many people are currently allowed in your space, since those numbers will have likely changed from what they were before the pandemic. To find out what's current, check local municipal websites for guidance information. For example, PCMag.com's primary offices are in New York City, where the city government has posted a series of guidelines and documents like these to help companies return to work safely. Following these guidelines is critical since many cities, including New York, perform spot checks on companies returning to work to make sure employees stay safe.

Once you know how many people are allowed in your space, the next step is following your business workflows to figure out who needs to be in the office for work to get done. Some teams may function just fine from home, while others benefit more from being together in a single space. Who those people are, when they should work together, and where they should gather are decisions that'll be individual to every business. But you can't move forward with space management without knowing the answers.

2: Create a Social-Distancing Floorplan

Once your employee threshold is set (remember, that's who and when), you can build a map of your new office that adheres to safe social distancing. This is where space management tools can shine since they can import CAD images of your office floor plan right down to the individual desk level. You then need to map where each employee works and make sure that everyone maintains a proper safe distance no matter who is there.

Some companies will handle this on a dynamic level by simply allowing employees to reserve time in the office, assigning them whatever desk spaces are empty and adequately distanced. Once you hit maximum occupancy, the reservation system declines new requests. However, in standard offices, this approach probably won't work very often in the short term. That's because aside from maintaining a minimum safe distance from each other, most guidelines, including those from the CDC, also emphasize minimizing the areas and things employees can touch.

In other words, it's better to keep Anne's desk reserved only for Anne instead of cycling different staffers through it depending on the time of day or week. Executives will need to refer back to their workflow data. Who needs to be in the office working with Anne to make her effective? You'll likely wind up creating shifts of employees and teams that can show up on-site together and giving them fixed space assignments. Fortunately, space management software can make that task much more manageable.

3: Design Your Check-In Process

Even if you build completely fixed employee shifts, you'll still need to implement a check-in process for employees coming through the door. Exactly what this process entails will depend on two primary factors: your local government requirements (if any) and gathering the data you need to track and maintain your social distancing plan.

Some space management tools will help with dedicated features, such as contact tracing. These might be built into the application. Others will rely on integrations, usually third-party contact tracing or lobby-based access control systems.

4: Monitor Facilities and Work Resources

Collaboration is a key reason businesses are heading back to the office. However, that means sharing more than just space. Meeting rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, and waiting areas are just a few examples of shared space. Printers, physical files and file cabinets, voice over IP (VoIP) telephones, and specialized equipment—like a hospital crash cart or a retail store's point of sale (POS) system—are examples of shared resources.

Part of your workflow analysis exercise must be understanding who needs access to space or equipment and when. It would help if you also had a plan for how to sanitize these shared resources once they've been used. With its ability to track assets, space management software can help with allocating both shared space and office assets. However, the sanitizing process will need to be separate. Fortunately, most local government safety guidelines will include information on how best to go about this step, so check there first and then work with your facilities team to work up the right kind of plan.

5: Establish Analytics

Simply establishing a list of personnel in a given office shift isn't nearly enough when maintaining safe social distancing—especially not from the perspective of local safety guidelines. Most businesses will need to prove compliance before their town or city governments will allow them to reopen, so gathering the necessary data is unavoidable. Read your local guidelines to know the minimum information you need to collect. Then work with your facilities managers to decide what additional data you might need above and beyond that threshold. The goal, after all, isn't simply to reopen but to do so safely so you can protect both employees and their families.

The primary data points, of course, include always knowing who is working, when, and where. But the granularity of this data can vary. For example, do you need to know exactly who is in the office at any given time, or do you simply need a check-in sheet for who entered the building that morning? Do you need a map of desks and who should be sitting at them, or do you need a live picture of exactly who is sitting where at any given time?

Space management tools will gather data differently. Since analytics are important, this will become a key differentiator between vendors. While they're not on par with full-on business intelligence (BI) tools, all these solutions offer some form of reporting, and they should have an easy way to export that data, too.

The more advanced entries tout things like visual analytics, usually floor-plan-based, but far more than just a map. Depending on the vendor, you can use a floor plan to track employee presence, reallocate employees in groups (especially departments), and track "hot" areas through various lenses, like employee count, task, and time slice.

However, an important point to consider here is precisely how that data is going to be collected. The deeper and more advanced the metric you want to hit, the more technology you'll need to apply. Most tools rely mainly on employees downloading an app to their smartphones, but some will require additional software or physical tokens, and those will need to be distributed and managed. Be sure to have your sales rep map all these options out for you before committing.

Recommended by Our Editors

Pandemic Can't Stop IT Spending

7 Steps IT Departments Need to Take Now to Manage a Telecommuting Spike

6: Shift Management for the Future

Most managers agree that much of the "new normal" we see in terms of work habits will likely remain permanent even after the pandemic fades. But does that mean the need for space management software will disappear? DavidCocchiara, CEO of OfficeSpace Software, doesn't think so.

"We did a fair amount of work adding new functionality at the height of the pandemic," he says. That included adding support for shift planning and modifying the reservation system so it would work for hot desking. But Cocchiara viewed that as a positive long-term investment because, as he puts it, "flexible seating will probably be how most employees will engage with the office going forward."

Hybrid work scenarios will have employees working from home two or three days per week, possibly more, which means the company can't maintain personal desks for workers that aren't going to be there. That's where a desk reservation system, like the ones offered by OfficeSpace and many of the other vendors listed below, become a must-have.

The trends Cocchiara has observed with his OfficeSpace customers break down hybrid work into three basic scenarios. "Many large companies are mandating a full return to the office, while another segment is making it all about real estate costs," he says. "Those companies want to reduce their office real estate costs by 10%, 20%, or even 30%, and they'll worry about that first, employee acclimation second. We call them 'Architects.'"

He then cites a group he calls the 'Nomads." These companies are also looking to save costs but are doing it based on employee culture, not property costs. They're taking six months or more to see how employees take to hybrid work and then decide how they'll handle office space. Finally, there are the 'Visionaries.'

"This group includes companies like Shopify," says Cocchiara. "They've decided to go remote-only and are closing all their offices except for a few that they'll use for meetings or short-term workspaces."

No matter which of those groups your business fits into, some space management platform will remain necessary going forward. You'll also need to stay smart around things like shift planning and the thorny problem of employee monitoring for home workers.

But no matter the tool selected or the job performed, a key takeaway here, and a task you'll need to address in every case, is data collection. These tools, especially those doing space management, must share appropriate data to keep employees safe. So figure out what that data is for your organization and then make sure all your tools are helping with collection and analysis.

We've listed the top players in the space management arena below. Many of them provide data collection capabilities and other hybrid work functionality, but you'll need to evaluate them carefully before purchasing.

Headed Back to the Office? These Are the Best Space Management Tools (4)

Condeco Desk Management

Visit Site at CondecoSee It

Condeco offers two main solutions, Desk Management and Meeting Room Management. Companies looking to return to the office safely after or during the pandemic will primarily be looking at the Desk Management tool. Here, the company says it's sticking to four main feature pillars.

First, it looks to reduce workspace density, which is the basic mechanism for keeping employees working at a safe distance from one another. Its floorplan software lets you create new space between employees and gives employees a quick way to share their workspace reservations. Second, Condeco also looks to manage your overall space and capacity by letting managers add reservation thresholds. They can also set automatic notification of workplace events.

The third feature set is aimed more directly at COVID-19 since it's a relatively new set of tools designed to make the workplace sanitizing process easier. That includes not only scheduling but also manager and employee notification of cleaning status. Finally, Condeco claims it has contact tracing, but buyers should know this is based on the reservation system. That means it's not an active tracking tool where employers can see where employees have traveled in the office minute by minute. But if simply knowing who was in the office on a given day is enough to satisfy your contact tracing requirements, Condeco has a slick solution that should work well for most midsized businesses or enterprises.

Headed Back to the Office? These Are the Best Space Management Tools (5)


Visit Site at FlexWhereSee It

FlexWhere comes from a Netherlands-based company called Dutchview. However, the service is primarily sold out of the UK. FlexWhere bills itself as an easy space management and hot-desking tool designed primarily in response to the sharp rise in hybrid work customers.

On the hot-desking front, FlexWhere ticks all the boxes that most businesses will need. Reservations can happen on the web or via a dedicated mobile app, available on Apple iOS and Google Android. The app has an interactive floor plan to add descriptions to specific desks, like having two displays or a standing desk option. Reservations also extend to meeting rooms, and FlexWhere claims it will integrate with whatever meeting room reservation you're currently using (if any). Hence, you get a one-console view of all reserved office resources.

FlexWhere also has a complete set of analytics in its management app. That includes office occupancy numbers over time, cancellations and no-shows, and resource popularity. The latter is delivered using a heat map approach where managers can see which desks and meeting rooms get used the most. You can also view occupancy in real-time and set occupancy thresholds that will have FlexWhere sending your administrators and users warning emails should those limits be exceeded.

The real-time view is also part of FlexWhere's anti-Corona tool kit. These features seem primarily concerned with enforcing distance rules around desks, but FlexWhere makes that process very easy. You can see these boundaries on the heat map and "switch off" specific desks from the reservation system to enforce minimum distances. But though you can communicate distance information to employees, there aren't any contact tracing features in FlexWhere other than seeing where employees were sitting at a specific time.

Headed Back to the Office? These Are the Best Space Management Tools (6)

Visit Site at OfficeSpace SoftwareSee It

OfficeSpace has evolved an impressively full-featured response for those looking to return employees to the office safely. For one, it has a straightforward pricing and deployment approach. For another, while its primary value-add is to allow customers to manage safe distances through flexible desk and seating arrangements, it's added an algorithm that can actually rearrange your floorplan instantly in response to new thresholds configured by your management staff. This makes what-if scenarios fast and easy.

It also lets you design full office scenarios, which include the seating data mentioned above, but also factor in shared work areas and shared assets, such as office printers, specialized equipment, or even just where the hand sanitizer stations are. The company has also included a check-in process built around a smart form generator, called Safeguard. This lets managers build an entry form that not only collects exactly the data they need from every employee, but also monitors that data for fast response and privacy parameters. Finally, the company has also integrated its floorplan technology with a Visual Directory that gives both employees and managers a real-time view into who is sitting where in the office.

Headed Back to the Office? These Are the Best Space Management Tools (7)


Visit SIte at Robin PoweredSee It

Robin is a well known name in space management from a facilities perspective, and it's using that brand recognition to attract customers looking for a safe return-to-work tool. Its core software components cover desk reservations as well as meeting room and shared workspace scheduling.

Those features are part of Robin's own software, but those options have gotten better through a partnership with Openpath. This company is a maker of keyless door access and control systems that customers can use to build a smart entry and reservation system. The partnership means that employees can reserve their desk or space through Robin, but then they also get an Openpath smart badge for the check-in process. The badge assures managers that the employee has been through a safe check-in and also lets them know who is in the office and where they're located.

The system allows for a flexible seating arrangement, and those specifics can be customized by managers for fixed seating or even multiple fixed arrangements depending on the weekday or shift. A nice touch is that Robin has added dynamic "way finding," which means employees can map out different routes to wherever they're walking in the office so they can make sure they come close to as few people as possible.

Headed Back to the Office? These Are the Best Space Management Tools (8)


Visit Site at SkeddaSee It

Australia-based Skedda is similar to Teem (below) in that it's a space reservation system first, not a real estate facilities management system that's bolting on reservation features in response to the pandemic.

Skedda ticks most of the key space reservation boxes and it's added a few extras as well. The booking calendar is detailed with multiple viewing options depending on whether you want to organize by date or space. It's accessible via mobile devices, too, though not via dedicated Android or iOS apps, just a custom and responsive web experience.

A standout feature is Skedda's floorplan maps. Instead of just absorbing a CAD file of your office and then simply displaying that as a static in-app image, Skedda turns it into an interactive view that lets users and managers see how your space is being allocated in near-real-time. That's done using a simple slider bar that adjusts the date and time of day while grabbing data from the booking module. Move the slider and the map automatically changes to show occupancy and availability in that time slice with one-button access to booking. That's not only a cool view, it also means many users will never need more than this to use the app. It'll take a little time for Skedda to turn your CAD file into this kind of experience, though, so be sure to get a timeline on that before purchasing.

You'll also find some less common features in Skedda. The most useful is probably single sign-on (SSO). This will let your users log into the app and the self-service booking modules using corporate credentials or IDs from Facebook, Google, Microsoft 365, or Twitter. There's an online payments module, too, which is a requirement for customers managing commercial venues, but it won't mean much to companies using Skedda in back-to-the-office scenarios.

What you won't find in Skedda is people tracking. You'll have very clear visibility into who is in the office at any given time based on the booking data, but this system doesn't track workers once they're inside the office.

Headed Back to the Office? These Are the Best Space Management Tools (9)


Visit Site at SpaceIQSee It

SpaceIQ is another space management tool that's heavily rooted in real estate management. While it has COVID-19 resources available to customers, these are focused primarily around using SpaceIQ to map a socially safe floorplan.

As far as a feature-based response to COVID-19 goes, SpaceIQ is heavily focused on flexible desk reservations and space planning. For hot desking (the company calls this hoteling), there's a fairly comprehensive tool set, including app integration for scheduling apps, a full reservation system, as well as mobile app support. Space planning allows for an inventory of available spaces tied directly to the reservation system as well as a floorplan design tool. Where it might be lacking is if you're looking for a dedicated set of access control features or deeper analytics relating directly to pandemic safety issues.

Headed Back to the Office? These Are the Best Space Management Tools (10)

Tango Space Management

Visit Site at Tango AnalyticsSee It

Tango Space Management is part of Tango's comprehensive property management portfolio. However, while Tango's software selection is large, it's also geared mainly towards experienced facilities managers. So if you're a customer with more generalized needs or you're new to facilities management, you'll probably face something of a learning curve. And that'll extend not only to using the product, but also understanding exactly which pieces of the Tango software stable you'll need to buy.

On the space management side, Tango has all the basics covered, including floorplan-based workflow management, occupancy and utilization data, and space allocation and scheduling. The company has a heavy focus on analytics, so if you're looking for deep customization in this area, Tango can offer not only the technology but also the necessary professional services expertise.

Headed Back to the Office? These Are the Best Space Management Tools (11)

Teem by iOffice

Visit Site at TeemSee It

Teem by iOffice is slightly different than most of the other space management solutions you'll encounter since it started out as a hot desking tool not a facilities management platform. As such, it's heavily focused on enabling a hot desking culture and has bolted its COVID-19 solution framework on top of this model.

In the short term, where organizations like the CDC are actually discouraging hot desking because it moves employees around the office too much, this may not make every customer happy. However in the long-term, remember that once the pandemic is over many of the "new normal" measures being used now against COVID-19 are predicted to become permanent. That means fewer employees in the office, so "hot" space allocation will be at the top of many managers' wish lists.

For them, Teem provides an excellent desk and room reservation system that integrates with Microsoft Outlook and similar scheduling tools. There's also has a kiosk option where users can reserve a desk from a shared screen located in the lobby, for example. Those workers can then see who is already there and where they're sitting.

Teem has also focused on analytics, with engines for overall office utilization as well as space by space (or even desk by desk) occupancy. This covers data points like how your space is being utilized per employee, which can be very useful in long-term shift and workflow management.

Headed Back to the Office? These Are the Best Space Management Tools (12)

Uma Book

Visit Site at UMASee It

Uma is based in the UK and specializes in smart building tools primarily for commercial real estate managers. While it has several tools in its arsenal, its primary space management app is called Uma Book. Because it was developed to manage reservations for meeting rooms, parking spaces, and other office resources, it was fairly easy for Uma to tweak it to also managed hotdesking.

To set itself apart, the app focuses mostly on integrating with the most popular office productivity platforms, notable Google Workspace and Microsoft 365, and making the most out of its mobile and web interfaces. These support chatbot interaction if you want your users to go through a standard reservation process and even voice so reservations can happen without any interface at all.

The app can also manage reservations via the Google and Microsoft calendar apps and it can export data to business intelligence (BI) tools, too. These will let office administrators know not only who was where and when, but it also aggregates information for insight into local resource usage (parking, printers, and more) as well as dynamic floorplan updates so you can quickly rearrange your office should different circ*mstances require it.

The company will require a CAD image of your office floorplan to start. But after that import, Uma re-renders the app in a customizable format that's available on the web, on a mobile device, or as a 3D virtual walk-through. You can even save past and future floorplan maps to more easily predict things like desk spacing, meeting room capacity, or local resource utilization.

Headed Back to the Office? These Are the Best Space Management Tools (13)


Visit Site at Gensler WispSee It

Wisp by Gensler is a comprehensive platform with a good selection of capabilities specific to a COVID-19 return to the office. The only downside for some is that this necessarily makes it a fairly complex tool, which means it'll take time and planning to deploy. And it'll probably put a sizeable dent in your software budget, too.

Aside from those potential problems, however, Wisp is definitely worth a very close look for midsized to larger companies looking not only for employee space management, but also a tool that can provide a thorough planning process before anyone sets foot in the office.

Wisp's floorplan tool can provide insight into multiple proposed seating configurations, though unlike with OfficeSpace's internal algorithm, you'll need to work with a Gensler design professional to generate those plans. Once your planning is complete, Wisp includes a check-in process for desks. The data from check-in is provided to customers who might need it in order to integrate with another platform or perform analytics.

Once employees return to work, Wisp has a survey engine to gather employee feedback and manage expectations. There's also in-office tracking available so managers can capture data on how employees are behaving once they're back in the office.

Headed Back to the Office? These Are the Best Space Management Tools (2024)


What is space management in office management? ›

Space management is the process of making the best use of a company or facility's physical space. It involves intentionally planning, organizing, and overseeing the use of a given workspace to ensure that it's used efficiently and effectively.

How do you manage office space? ›

6 steps for managing the office space successfully
  1. Determine the company's and the worker's needs 🤝 ...
  2. Analyze the current state of the physical workplace 🧐 ...
  3. Define your office space management goals 🎯 ...
  4. Invest in the right space management technology 🤖 ...
  5. Implement your space management strategy 🔄 ...
  6. Keep track of workplace data 📊
Jun 19, 2023

What makes the best office space? ›

Characteristics of a Superb Office Space

An office space with great amenities, and that showcases a company's values, culture, and identity will go a long way towards achieving that goal. Thoughtful layout and decor ensures higher efficiency, stronger company culture, and more personable interactions with clients.

What is a good way of improving space management in a business? ›

Strategies include:
  • Repositioning furniture to better utilise unused office space.
  • Removing cubicles or dividers to create a collaborative workspace.
  • Introducing natural light and plants to increase worker morale and happiness.
  • Using desk booking apps to make hybrid working as easy and relaxing as possible.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Kimberely Baumbach CPA

Last Updated:

Views: 6767

Rating: 4 / 5 (41 voted)

Reviews: 80% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Kimberely Baumbach CPA

Birthday: 1996-01-14

Address: 8381 Boyce Course, Imeldachester, ND 74681

Phone: +3571286597580

Job: Product Banking Analyst

Hobby: Cosplaying, Inline skating, Amateur radio, Baton twirling, Mountaineering, Flying, Archery

Introduction: My name is Kimberely Baumbach CPA, I am a gorgeous, bright, charming, encouraging, zealous, lively, good person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.