• Brad Gibbon

Economics of Getting Back to Work

Here is a chart that every office manager will want to internalize.

Through this blog post, we explain how we arrived at this chart and talk about it's implications. As we return to work, managers need to grapple with the question: how many employees do we really need to bring back? Under a certain threshold, employees can return without needing to invest in workstation reconstruction, but as you increases the % of employees returning, so too will you increase the cost per employee. There is then a Negative Economies of Scale beyond 30% capacity, as each additional employee will cost more than the previous one.


Before we start, we want to say that this is a gross oversimplification of office dynamics. This post looks only to workstations, and specifically at 6 person workstations. The chart above is a general trend and is intended to be illustrative only of the behavior of the costs associated with safe office spacing and not their exact amounts. Many external factors will come into play when arranging your workstations such as circulation paths and workstation formats but we have not taken those into account.


How we got here


We set out to understand how employers could bring their staff back to work in the most cost effective way possible. To do so we took a look at the building block of the modern office: the six person workstation.

Currently, the best practice in the market for safe social distancing is 6 feet. So we asked, how many employees can fit at this workstation with a six foot distance between them? Without spending any money, you can fit 2, or 30%.

But, there are products emerging in the market that enable employees to work closer together. One example of this is divider screens: https://gatewayofficefurniture.com/products-2/accessories/social-distancing-screens/. These screens can range from $300 - $500 depending on size and finish, so for our calculations we used $400 per screen. If you added divider screens in the most cost efficient manner, what is the highest employee to screen ratio that you could reach? We discovered that you can only get to a 2:1 employee to screen ratio. So you can reach a 60% capacity at a 2:1 employee to screen ratio.

As you go beyond 60%, necessarily, you will need to add more than 1 screen per 1 employee. Therefore, the cost per employee would increase beyond $400, up to a maximum cost when the workstation holds 6 people. To fit 6 people in the workstation, you need 7 screens, or a 1.16:1 screen:employee ratio. Leaving your cost per employee at $466 and your employee count at 100%. The seating shown below would not be considered safe 6 compliant, and is at best safe 6 friendly.


Now we have intentionally focused on only one source of costs - privacy screens - since it is the most direct cost incurred while increasing employee count. However, other costs could include: cleaning services, sanitation stations, pathway markings, etc. Employers can expect these costs per employee to decrease as more employees return to work.


So What?


So why should this matter to you? Well, it's time to take a serious look at how many employees need to come to the office. Depending on your current office layout, you'll get to choose 30% of your employees for free. After that, each employee costs more money than the last. But this is just hypothetical. To truly understand how many employees you can fit in your office, reach out to us, at Support@fastoffice.com.






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