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How to Leverage the Future of Workplace Analytics

 

Introduction

In the last decade, large corporations came to the realization that there is an enormous opportunity to transform the way they allocate, use, and manage office space. Many of these companies have millions of square feet distributed across the globe in high-rent districts, yet space was allocated using legacy principles that assigned space inefficiently by today’s standards. (e.g. 1:1 assignment, private offices).

Actual utilization of the assigned space historically had been assessed through floor walks (ie: bed checks) by the facilities teams. These floor walks were typically conducted to validate demands for additional square footage by business units. In some cases, this process was outsourced to hourly workers which created concerns with the quality of the information.

Clearly we've evolved past this mindset given the events of 2020.  These legacy processes simply will not sustain the workplace evolutions required to enable hybrid workforces to remain productive and continue to deliver. In this free guide you'll discover a deep-dive into the core challenges that workplace professionals face today as it relates to having the data they need to make informed design decisions.  We'll also introduce a glimpse into a future where workplace analytics platforms, like VergeSense, are fueling the critical growth and innovation enterprises need to transform their workplace experience across the globe. 

Today, these companies are adopting Activity Based Working, and the need to better understand how employees and tenants use space has become a priority for facilities and workplace professionals more than ever.

Many of the companies that we talk to are trying to solve these core problems:

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NEED FOR BETTER DATA

They want a dataset that quantitatively informs how they use space within their portfolio, to identify areas for optimization.

DATA ANALYSIS

They want to quickly identify excess, unused capacity so that they can shed cost, consolidate their footprint or repurpose those square feet.

DATA-INFORMED DECISION MAKING

They want data points that validate a current design or inform necessary changes to maximize productivity in the workplace.

OPTIMIZING THE WORKPLACE

They want to enhance the experience of employees in the workplace by providing them with proactive insights on space availability, amenities, busyness etc. Post-COVID, this use case has become even more important, as employees are expecting their employers to solve challenges related to social distancing, cleaning, and capacity management before they return to work.


Ask any experienced workplace professional, and they will have similar opinions on the state of workplace technology to solve for these problems:

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NO SINGLE SOURCE OF TRUTH

Capabilities are fragmented, and there is a requirement to work with many vendors, multiple data sets, and see through many panes of glass to get the full picture.

NO TRANSPARENCY ACROSS SYSTEMS

There is a visible lack of feature-driven software integration between the systems that support space allocation/assignment, lease administration, occupancy analysis, and asset management. This is a fundamental issue in this space, because this “capability fragmentation” cannot be solved without a single vendor willing to be the agnostic “plumbing layer” that consolidates disparate data sets into a cohesive, value-generating feed.

INSUFFICIENT DATA COLLECTION

There is a need for technology that supports rapidly deploying data collection solutions in retrofit scenarios as well as new builds.

ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL

There is a gap in addressing “Front of the house” use cases with tenants, as well as “Back of the house” issues with Space Managers, simultaneously.



CRE professionals have collaborated with their internal IT teams to explore repurposing existing in-house systems, such as access control systems and wifi systems as solutions to collect data on human movement and utilization of the office. These systems are, however, nuanced.

Badge Data contains personally identifiable information, and typically these ACL systems do not have a cloud API, so data collection requires ETL expertise. Badge data needs to be anonymized or “de-identified” so the information can be used for monitoring workplace activity in a compliant manner. Additionally, this data typically provides information on “attendance”, or who has been within a building or on a given floor (if badge swiping is required to access a floor). But, what badge data cannot deliver is room-level or desk-level utilization. This level of granularity is critical for companies that are looking to do detailed analyses of space utilization.

We recently worked with a company that used badge data to determine that of approximately 600 people assigned to one of their buildings, only an average of 140 people showed up regularly to use that space.  At first, this seemed like a conclusive revelation.  But then, this company engaged VergeSense to deploy sensors that would enable a more comprehensive study of their space use.

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What they discovered was staggering:

Of the approximately 19% of assigned people coming into the building:

  • 50% of attendees spent less than 4 hours at their workstations
  • Only 10% of assigned employees used their workstations for 6+ hours
  • Private offices had utilization rates of less than 3%

VergeSense data allowed the company to get surgical about their space utilization modifications.

Working with the data from VergeSense, the company was specifically able to:

MONITOR EMPLOYEE MOBILITY

Identify the high level of employee mobility in certain departments and implement desk-sharing on those teams.

TRACK OFFICE USAGE

Determine which offices barely got used, enabling the Facilities team to assign shared offices as appropriate.

OPTIMIZE MEETING SPACES

Understand the use of meeting space, which informed the types of spaces that were used regularly and what they needed to build more or fewer.

BETTER IDENTIFY "IN USE" DESKS

With our Signs of Life™ feature, employees at the company will now be able to distinguish between a vacant desk available to use and an unoccupied desk that is in use, but not at that moment.


 

The point is that the granularity of data makes a huge difference; with badge data alone, companies do not have the necessary data/insights to implement targeted strategies.  Most of the insights discussed require the ability to drill down to utilization at the work point level and also collect data at intervals that allow the calculation of the duration of stay.

Other systems like wifi triangulation, also have the same limitation as badge data; they are useful to determine the relative density of people within space, but cannot provide specificity around the assets that are in use when.

COVID has amplified the requirement for analytics that allow space planners to safely facilitate re-entry into the workplace.  The uncertainty around the pervasiveness of the virus and the availability of a vaccine has CRE professionals in somewhat of a limbo. Many organizations we are working with are aligning their workplace analytics projects with the timing of re-entry into the workplace.  They realize that effectively bringing workers back into the workplace will require a comprehensive plan to keep them safe at work.  

The issues that are top of mind for these professionals are:

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OCCUPANCY

Managing the number of people coming into the workplace relative to a reduced capacity that will keep employees effectively social distanced while on-premise.

MAINTAINING SOCIAL DISTANCE

Monitoring for social distancing to ensure that unsafe behaviors like huddling and crowding are diminished.

RESERVING INDIVIDUAL SPACES

Implementing tools that enable employees and tenants to proactively reserve space to use (desk, office, or meeting space) ahead of coming into the office.

DATA TO ANALYZE SPACIAL USE

Providing reporting that allows space managers to effectively and optimally enable smart cleaning protocols for spaces that were used.

As firms evaluate companies to work with on solutions, they are looking at companies that meet certain criteria in the following areas:

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Privacy & Security

  • Privacy - Companies expect to work with vendors that employ technology and protocols to preserve worker’s privacy
  • Information Security - Vendors are expected to have infosec rigor that ensures all data collected is not only PII-free but is also not a liability

Breadth & Accuracy

  • Retrofit-friendly - Companies prefer solutions that they can easily deploy in existing space, as well as new builds
  • Informative Metrics - Our customers have emphasized the importance of easy to understand and actionable information.  We have designed our dashboards with this in mind.  Vendors will need to serve the data to their customers in the most consumable way possible.

Contributing Author: Elo Ofodile 


VergeSense provides granular space utilization metrics that address all of the aforementioned use cases.  Request a demo to see our next gen solutions.