As companies work to get hybrid right, many are struggling to figure out what workplace metrics to track (and how to track them). Everyone understands the importance of making data-driven decisions when it comes to corporate real estate and employee engagement. But knowing what data to collect and why is increasingly challenging in increasingly dynamic workspaces.
To help workplaces leaders cut through the noise as they develop new (and often rapidly changing) hybrid work models, OfficeSpace recently launched the 2023 Workplace Strategy Report. By combining thousands of internal platform data points with surveys from over 150 workplace leaders, this report is designed to help leaders benchmark and gain confidence as they make plans to optimize their offices.
We sat down with OfficeSpace CEO David Cocchiara to explore how leaders can best use this report. We also explore how leaders can identify and use the right workplace metrics. This will help to support both their people and their long-term business goals.
Dig into the data from our survey of workplace
leaders and discover the changes they’re bringing
to the workplace in 2023.
In our ongoing conversations with our clients, we’ve really seen a shift in priorities in the past few years. Companies have always needed good workplace metrics to make decisions, but what those metrics are is changing.
At the start of the pandemic, adopting remote and hybrid work might have presented a challenge. But it wasn’t the main concern for most of the workplace leaders we work with. Instead, their focus tended to be around safety and wellness as they made their return to the office plans.
A lot of our clients aren’t quite sure if they’re getting their new workplace strategies right. They’re asking lots of questions around how to set up and measure their new work environments. Or how to create and maintain an employee centric culture remotely. And how to make a better long term hybrid real estate strategy.
Our clients are also very interested in what everyone else in the space is doing. Either by industry, region, or business size. Benchmarking has always been important, but many people now feel like they’re on more uneven ground. So they’re even more interested in what others are doing around them, to help see if they’re keeping pace.
That’s why we put together our Workplace Strategy Report. So that we could start to answer those questions, using these conversations and data trends we’re seeing within OfficeSpace data as a starting point. We surveyed over 150 workplace leaders, and combined those results with thousands of data points from our platform.
We hope all this rich data and analysis will give people more perspective around what’s actually going on out there in terms of office and space utilization. There were lots of goals while writing the report. But really, as companies are developing new hybrid policies, we simply wanted to give them a resource to help them have more confidence in their own initiatives.
It was really interesting to dig into our real platform usage data from our 1000+ client base as we built our Workplace Report. For example, over 90% of our clients offer our Who’s In?* feature to their users. Employees can see when and where their colleagues have booked time to work in-office. We were able to analyze how people are using that feature and how it correlates to when and where desks are booked.
Then we combined these metrics with other quantitative workplace data related to how employees are engaging with our system in the workplace. Like trends we’re seeing in occupancy rates and desk bookings.
We even dug down into granular details like the time frames users are engaging with the system. This helped us see that 50% of desk bookings are made last-minute, happening less than 48 hours in advance of desk use. That has big implications for how to make a more satisfying in-office experience.
Finally, we also explored metrics from some of the services we provide. For example, we provide floor plan updates for all our clients at no extra cost. And we’ve seen a lot of floor plan updates in the past year. That tells us that folks are really trying to create more effective workplaces.
Plus—and we can see this from the workplace metrics and data— folks are also working to make more collaborative workplaces. We’re seeing a lot of ‘me’ space changing to ‘we’ space on our floor plan update requests. This dovetails with other metrics indicating that when people come into the office, they often do so to collaborate and socialize.
Being able to layer all this workplace data analytics over the surveys we collected really started to validate a lot of our own suspicions, based on all the many conversations we’re having with workplace leaders. Yes—companies haven’t quite figured out what hybrid and remote work should look like for their organizations. And yes—leaders are trying to make their physical offices more collaborative and engaging. Also yes—office use continues to be incredibly dynamic.
Hopefully it will help guide them as they think about developing more formal processes, policies, and strategies for how they’re going to use the workplace. That’s true whether their goals are real estate optimization, improving employee experience, or both.
Plus, digging into these trends makes it clear that there are software tools and other practices that can help organizations as they strive to make more data-driven decisions going forward.
*Who’s In? is part of OfficeSpace’s visual directory, a popular tool available via desktop, mobile app, and wayfinding kiosks that connects employees with the places, people, and resources they need, all in real-time.
In many ways, leaders are trying to answer the same questions they’ve always had. Do I have the right space and resources for the right activities for the right people at the right time?
Of course, making these assessments is much more challenging than it was in the past. And a lot of people are uncertain and wondering, ‘are we doing this the right way or not?’
Right now, most people are trying to figure out how to improve engagement and maximize efficiency, or lower the cost of their real estate portfolio to the point where it’s really working for them. What does it mean to be flexible at work now? And how can we create flexible spaces that are still in line with our business goals?
We’re all still figuring out what workplace design and our workforce strategies should be. We’re in a space right now that is in a unique, once-in-a-lifetime, once-in-a-career transition. You’re not alone—the nature of space and the workplace is in flux right now for everyone.
I’ll say it again and again: test, measure, and communicate.
First, you have to know what you’re trying to measure. This will be driven by what leadership feels is most important… But it should also be supported by regular communication with individual employees. It’s important to keep everyone involved in the process. Both through the informal ‘how are things going’ conversations you’ll have, and through full blown employee feedback surveys.
Then determine what KPIs you’ll actually be measuring. Is it productivity, is it output, is it engagement scores that come from surveys? Take the time to figure out what matters most to your business and figure out your baseline. Once you have that, then you can start to figure out how to test and measure things that impact it, positively or negatively. As you start trying out things, you’ll be in a better position to determine what works and what doesn’t.
Every company is going to be different in their culture, their work requirements, and the types of teams and number of employees that need to be in a space. That’s why it’s so important to be able to measure what’s specifically working and what’s not.
So my advice is that you’ve got to start somewhere, with some baselines of what you’re trying to accomplish, and then figure out how you’re going to measure that. Give yourself the next year or so to test a few things and see what works.
With corporate real estate optimization, you’re trying to solve for how to right-size your square footage so that you’re getting the maximum benefit at the best price. That’s ‘Business 101’, and using software with real estate analytics is the key.
What’s more challenging is understanding true utilization—so when, where, and how people are using the space. Are people coming on certain days of the week or month or quarter? And are they coming in in connection with a project? Or are they doing it to connect with their peers? Or are they looking for heads-down space? You’ve got to be able to answer these questions. And also measure how people are using your hybrid office in real time.
The old way of measuring space utilization was usually a combination of two things. Companies used badge reader data, which isn’t that accurate on its own. People could easily badge in at the same time and skew your numbers, for starters.
And then the second thing is that they would determine their utilization by walking around. So a facility manager might ‘walk the floor’ once a quarter and say, ‘oh, 45% of desks are occupied.’
I don’t have to explain why that’s not accurate in general. But also, as you think about engagement and more nuanced utilization of rooms, of open spaces, of visitors coming in, of what types of projects are being done and where—what part of the office are people actually in? And you just can’t get this nuanced picture from badge swipes or walking the floor alone.
For anybody familiar with being around bigger companies with a lot of office space… You know that there are certain sections of floors and buildings that are always practically empty. And other areas are always crowded. Can companies figure out what that is? How can they understand how people are really using that space?
The only way to accurately answer these questions is from knowing where people are from a presence perspective. This is whether it’s through occupancy sensors or other location services that are already in the space.
When you take that presence data, and you layer it with access control data and desk and room reservations, plus surveys and what you perceive when you’re looking around, then you start to feel confident that you can cut 25% of floor space in one location or across the board or whatever else. You’ll be confident in plans for workplace transformation, knowing you’re still going to be engaging people in the right way. Because you have all the relevant workplace analytics to support your decision.
It’s when you pull these different workplace metrics and data points together you can feel more confident that if you make a change, it’s not going to have a negative impact on your people because you have all the data to support this decision. This is why I believe space management software is going to be imperative as you start to make these decisions.
It lets you know if you’ve actually optimized space for your employees and also for financial reasons.
The platform already collects workplace metrics and data on how people use space as the end user (i.e.: the employee) engages with it to book desks and rooms and otherwise engage with the space.
We also have a lot of data from the administrative side, as facility managers and others make plans and deploy those plans in terms of how they set up departments, how they set up groups and working neighborhoods, and some of the parameters they put around different aspects of the space.
And of course, our integrations can also collect further data (like employee badge data) to further round out that picture.
All this information is then compiled into user-friendly dashboards. This helps companies better understand where they are and where they can go.
This is a tough one for me to answer, because living in this space, we talk to a lot of people, and we hear a lot of things. That was a catalyst for this report. So there wasn’t anything in the report that was a total shock. It just confirmed a lot of ideas and opinions we’d already suspected.
I was maybe a little surprised by just how many leaders now believe that the workplace needs to primarily be a place for collaboration and company culture. We’d heard that from a lot of people. But seeing it in the data really validated a lot of what we’re hearing.
The days of the week (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday) that people are using the office wasn’t that big of a surprise. If you were to ask most people, I’m sure they would say Mondays and Fridays are their lowest usage days. But the dramatic shift in office use throughout the week was a little surprising. You would have thought the chart would be a little more rounded. But there’s really just a big flat peak in the middle of the week, with really sharp drop-offs.
But other than that, I hope that the report provides the reader with some validation of their own. Plus some insight about how their office usage and strategies compare to everyone else’s.
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Read part two of our interview with David Cocchiara: Culture in the workplace: David Cocchiara talks hybrid leadership
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