Thanks to our new post-pandemic hybrid work reality, workplace data has never been more important. Is your hybrid work schedule effective? Are you supporting your distributed workforce? Giving employees the right tools to enhance productivity and engagement? Spending too much on real estate? Not enough?
It’s only by collecting the right data, and interpreting it correctly, that companies can answer these questions. And it’s only by answering these questions that they can determine whether their workplace strategy is actually performing as intended.
In this article, we explore workplace data. We focus on its evolving impact on the office, and why it’s critical to better decision-making. We’ll also cover five types of workplace data reports. These are reports that facility managers (FMs) and other workplace strategists should collect to future-proof the office.
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You might have heard the expression, ‘every company is a tech company.’ Thanks to a rapidly changing hybrid office and future of work, this expression now needs an addendum… Every company is an advanced analytics company, too!
That’s because, in order to maintain employee engagement and a stable competitive advantage, all companies need to be collecting real-time workplace data.
With hybrid and distributed work on the rise, and with flexible working now solidly entrenched, space and real estate decisions are increasingly complicated. Companies therefore need high-fidelity workplace data. This can create an accurate picture of how people are actually interacting with their work environment.
This data will usually come from any combination of IoT sensors (typically in the form of occupancy sensors), badge data, calendars, floor plans, HR data, space management software, desk and room bookings, and employee surveys.
Ideally, FMs will be able to pull actionable data from multiple data sources. This helps to avoid silos and create a more holistic view of their workplace.
“My advice to companies is that you can’t rely on just one source of data,” says Luke Anderson, VP of Product Strategy for OfficeSpace Software. “Unstructured data won’t cut it anymore. You need to bring your large datasets together to truly solve business problems.”
Moreover, business leaders aren’t data scientists.
In order for leadership and space planners to make the right decisions for their workspaces, companies must compile this workplace data into clear reports and dashboards that are easy to use and understand.
Employee performance is intimately linked to the types of workspaces and tools they have access to. But with the rise of hybrid work, the office is no longer the default place where work gets done. The majority of companies want to maintain a physical office. But what that office looks like will likely be quite different from what it did even a few short years ago.
Meanwhile, good workplace data can help decision makers in three major areas:
Prior to the pandemic, most office workers were in the office full time, and most had assigned seats.
Given this more stable work environment, determining optimal occupancy rates and following the recommended office space per employee was a relatively simple task, even in large organizations.
But as companies of all sizes move beyond the return to the office and into this ‘new normal,’ workplace management is no longer quite so simple.
“The dimensions of how people are using the office have changed dramatically,” says Kathleen Williams, Senior Product Manager at OfficeSpace. “Without advanced analytics tools, people won’t have a good idea of how to see what’s actually happening in their workplace.”
In short, the right data can create more workplace agility and help improve workplace experience. Therefore, it assists in talent retention and attraction efforts, too.
“When it comes to data, we need to know how often and how many people are using a space, and — most importantly — how effective that space is in supporting what employees need to do.” Anne Gibson, Gensler
“When it comes to data, we need to know how often and how many people are using a space, and — most importantly — how effective that space is in supporting what employees need to do.”
So far, we’ve covered the why of workplace data, not the what.
With better visibility and the right workplace reports and analytics pulled from multiple, real-time sources, companies will gain better insight into how to improve employee experience and overcome the biggest challenges of hybrid working.
Specifically, FMs need good data to answer the following questions:
Metrics like daily attendance, desk utilization, and no-show rates show whether incentives to use the office are actually working, while occupancy data give a long-term picture of wider trends taking place in the workplace.
Clearly seeing who is booking desks by department, location, and/or space type allows companies to adjust their modern office floor plan to better serve the people who are using it. Daily and weekly attendance metrics also clarify what times the office is nearing capacity, or when people are more often working from home, helping leadership to adjust hybrid schedules as necessary.
Using occupancy and desk booking reports to see what seating type is most popular can lead to a more productive and cost-effective workplace.
Space utilization data, along with data around busiest hours and meeting room popularity, can help leadership turn the office into a collaboration hub with spaces to fit demand. Are employees fighting over certain collaborative workspaces? Or do you have a ghost room problem, where people are booking rooms but no one shows up?
Real estate analytics like lease costs, average cost per employee, annual costs, space utilization by location, overall capacity, desk counts, and current and potential density can help leadership right-size their portfolios and make big ticket investment decisions when needed.
“We use the data in OfficeSpace to inform our financial projections. For example, the fiscal forecast of what we expect to spend is driven by how many people are booking desks and the usage trends in each neighborhood. But it can also help with simple tasks like refining our food and beverage program; I can project a line item based on the headcount and engagement that we’re seeing in OfficeSpace.”Daniel Santiago, Director of Workplace Operations, Peloton hybrid office
“We use the data in OfficeSpace to inform our financial projections. For example, the fiscal forecast of what we expect to spend is driven by how many people are booking desks and the usage trends in each neighborhood. But it can also help with simple tasks like refining our food and beverage program; I can project a line item based on the headcount and engagement that we’re seeing in OfficeSpace.”
It’s not just the office that is evolving. FM responsibilities are becoming increasingly important and complex, too.
Like we’ve covered, FMs today need to be able to help leadership make better decisions.
That means they need key metrics at their fingertips. This way, they can quickly and easily provide timely, accurate data to the C-Suite and any other stakeholders.
To do this, FMs will likely need data reports in the five following areas.
Even with the most streamlined real estate portfolio, corporate real estate is typically a company’s biggest expense after payroll.
Further complicating matters is the fact that, according to JLL’s 2022 Office Fit Out Guide, office transformations can cost up to $290 per square foot.
To help ensure that any cost-saving initiatives will actually work as intended, leadership will need reports. These reports should detail real estate information including lease cost, average cost per employee, and annual costs.
Moreover, they’ll need this information by site, so they can compare it across the organization.
Only then can they feel confident that they are making the best long-term decisions for their office space.
Similarly, space utilization reports by location give insight into how your current assigned square footage and common areas are allocated across sites and departments.
Seeing the overall capacity, desk counts, and current and potential density allows you to benchmark metrics across your portfolio and ensure you’re maximizing available space.
Viewing occupancy rates by department, location, and space type will also help ensure you have enough space for employees.
“I’m a heavy user of occupancy and headcount reports,” says Scott Moitoza, Senior Director of Real-Estate and Facilities at Procore. “I run the Occupancy — By Location report twice a month to get a snapshot of how many seats, cubes, and rooms we have vacant to accommodate for new hires. I used to manually create these reports in Excel, but I could never pull them together as quickly or accurately as I can now with OfficeSpace.”
FMs should be able to collect and present a wide variety of metrics from their desk booking software that can help create a better employee experience and a physical workspace that fits demand. Pulling insights on daily bookings, check-in and no-show rates, how often specific employees are booking desks, and desk utilization over a specified period of time can help ensure employees always have the right amount of space for their needs.
Better still if this data also includes similar metrics on room bookings. This helps to ensure that everyone will have a meeting room they need at the time they need it.
Last but definitely not least, it’s difficult to overstate the importance of being able to visually see the trends that are taking place in your workplace.
Data like the number of desks booked, the number of completed workplace health checks, and daily attendance in the office can show if you have enough space or are nearing capacity.
Seeing daily and weekly trends ultimately helps you create a much better hybrid workplace experience.
The best way to get data from the workplace is to use flexible working software. It’s important to track key metrics like desk and room bookings. Ideally this software will collect real-time data from a variety of sources to offer actionable insights into the office.
Data analytics in the workplace is the practice of holistically analyzing workplace data from a wide variety of sources and synthesizing it into actionable insights. The goal is typically to collect real-time data while avoiding data silos, to offer a more complete and robust picture of how employees are interacting with the spaces available to them. Companies can use this data to help improve real estate decisions also with employee engagement and productivity.
Workplace data needs to be stored safely and securely. This can be on any combination of hard drives, disk drives, USB drives, paper records, or in the cloud. For example, OfficeSpace typically stores data on web servers, which end users can access via dashboards and reports. When storing data, companies should also consider how they’re running and storing backups. This is, of course, along with any local regulations around data security and confidentiality.
Structured data is organized and searchable. This makes it easy to access to see results and draw conclusions. An example is Booking Trends in the OfficeSpace platform. This is where raw desk booking data is collected into a clear report. It helps FMs answer important questions like which seats are most popular (and when), and which seats aren’t.
In short, structured data is presented in a way that allows users to easily make adjustments in the ‘real world’ that are based on facts. Meanwhile, unstructured data is basically ‘everything else,’ i.e.: data that is unorganized and/or stored in a dataset/format that is not easily searchable. Video and image files are examples of unstructured data.
Employee data around things like desk and room booking can give FMs and space planners better insight into how the physical office space is being used in real time. This can help them to make better informed decisions to right-size their real estate portfolio while also creating a more efficient office. HR will also collect a wide variety of demographics and personnel information. This can help to support employees as well as to improve administration and support business goals.
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