How the Activity Based Workplace is Attracting (and Retaining) Millennial Talent

As the Millennial segment of the workforce has grown, so has the trend of open office plans and activity based work. It’s no coincidence that one of the ways companies have sought to attract Millennial workers is by redesigning their offices and creating swanky new environments. But is that strategy really working, and how?

What Is a Millennial?

According to Pew Research Center, Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, making them 22 – 37 years old today. By 2020, Millennials will make up 50% of the workforce.

There are a lot of assumptions, generalizations, and myths about Millennials, specifically about Millennials in the workplace. We’re going to address (and debunk) some of them here and discuss how activity based work suits not just Millennials, but the rest of your employees as well.

Generalization 1: Millennials want flexibility

This one is true! According to a Deloitte survey, 88% of Millennial workers want greater flexibility to start and end their work days when they choose, and 75% want to work remotely from home or other locations where they feel most productive.

Generalization 2: You need lots of crazy perks and trendy office design to attract Millennials

Yes and no. Millennials do seem to be driving more companies to offer unique perks and benefits aside from health insurance and 401(k) plans—from ping-pong tables to on-site dry cleaning and yoga. It’s true, studies show employees may accept lower salaries in exchange for a better working environment and a positive company culture. But salary is still a top factor they consider when looking for a job, and “positive company culture” means more than just game nights and happy hours. After salary and benefits, Millennials prioritize things like work/life balance, a sense of purpose or meaning in their work, and opportunities to progress or take on leadership roles.

How does the physical workspace play a role in company culture?

Generalization 3: Millennials don’t show loyalty to their employers

Millennials have been called “job-hoppers” who are eager to jump on board with the next shiny thing…and shine always loses its luster after a year or two, right? But in fact, research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that average employee tenure in 2016 increased from 1983 (3.5 years to 4.6 years), and other studies have found that on average, new hires intend or at least hope to stay with their employer for several years.

If Millennials are job-hopping, it’s more likely because they’re still looking for an employer who provides that sense of purpose and nurtures their career development and leadership skills—not one that offers better breakroom snacks.

Activity Based Workplaces are More Likely to Offer What Millennials are Looking for

One of the promises activity based work makes is flexibility for employees. They are empowered to choose where and when they work according to their preferences, work patterns, and natural rhythms. Surprisingly to some, Millennials want quiet, private spaces to work as much as other generations—not just wide open office plans—and activity based workplaces offer that. Millennials also understand the value of interaction and collaboration, and many are looking to build strong connections with coworkers. Activity based workplaces facilitate that as well.

Get Millennials’ Loyalty

Millennials tend to look for workplaces that offer career advancement opportunities and the chance to develop leadership skills. Activity based workplaces make it easy for employers to offer that in two significant ways.

First, creative spaces or collaboration breakout rooms are ideal spaces to host “lunch and learn” events where employees are given the opportunity to learn new things about your industry or develop skills. The Deloitte study found that loyal employees feel their employer is invested in providing support and training for career advancement.

Second, when senior management and those in leadership positions are working side-by-side with entry-level workers, mentor-mentee relationships are given the chance to develop and flourish.

Avoid Overcommitting

When companies are trying to attract Millennial workers, they may fall into the trap of making promises they can’t keep—especially about the perks and benefits they’re willing or able to offer. Luckily, with activity based work, you can adopt the practices that make the most sense for your company in stages, so in most cases, you can offer something to Millennials, whether it’s the option to work remotely or a dedicated collaboration room. Just be upfront about what you can and can’t offer.

Is your workplace employee-centric?

Activity Based Work Benefits Everyone

Millennials are driving the activity based working trend, but we don’t think it’s “just a trend.” Activity based work has staying power because it’s about enabling everyone, no matter their age, to do their work better. Keep this in mind when implementing activity based work practices and communicating its value to all your employees.

Want to discover more how you can bring activity based work to your company? Download our whitepaper to learn how to make the transition.


IoT and Space Planning: Which Integrations Provide the Most Value?

Make no mistake—the Internet of Things (IoT) is here to stay. In 2013, The McKinsey Global Institute listed IoT as one of 12 disruptive technologies that have the potential to transform life and business. Whether you’re just beginning to explore the options available to your office or you’re well on your way to a fully-integrated, smart workplace, it can be overwhelming to figure out where to put your attention and money. Do you need smart light bulbs or air quality sensors? Should you tag all your devices and equipment with QR codes to make it easier to file service requests?

For businesses, the Internet of Things makes a lot of promises: more efficient workspaces, better connection and collaboration, more data for companies to examine and use. We find that the real value comes when the data collected by IoT devices is integrated into a single software, creating high-level visibility of how your workplace functions. Let’s take a look at some of the Internet of Things business applications and devices that go above and beyond in the office:

Beacons and Sensors

Benefit: Accurate, real-time data about building usage and activity

These are the simplest and maybe the most ubiquitous Internet of Things technologies for businesses. Different companies use different names, but in most cases, they are small sensors that monitor foot traffic and activity in different rooms or at various workstations. Using these technologies, you’ll be able to learn which desks are used most often or if a conference room meant for 12 people never hosts more than six.

How to use it

The data gathered from beacons and motion sensors can help you make decisions about desk assignments (moving a team to a different floor for better collaboration, or removing assigned workstations completely). You probably already have an idea that certain workstations go unused or a certain room might be better suited as a collaboration space. If the beacon data backs up your assumptions, you can make a stronger case when proposing reassignments or other changes.

Beacons are also used in wayfinding tools and apps to help workers, locate a workstation, or choose a meeting room or collaboration space. According to Newmark Knight Frank, an average employee spends approximately 30 minutes a week trying to locate available meeting rooms. Depending on the size of your company, reducing this time can result in significant cost savings and boosts in productivity.

Find out other ways sensors can be used in an office to optimize space.

Sensors, similar to beacons, can track data like temperature and air quality (humidity, carbon dioxide levels, etc.), ambient light, ambient noise, and other factors. Over time, by combining the data you receive from your sensors or beacons, you can build a profile of the “ideal working environment” where your employees will be happy, comfortable, and productive.

Tracking activity and usage can also help you make decisions about your building systems, which brings us to…


Benefit: Efficient energy usage and a lower carbon footprint

A smart thermostat that automatically adjusts the schedule of your HVAC system will likely start saving you money in utility costs almost immediately. It’s surprising how many HVAC systems are set to turn on hours before anyone shows up to work—smart thermostats make ongoing adjustments to the time and temperature for these systems to ensure they’re being used efficiently.

In the long-term, you’ll also save on maintenance and replacement costs. Since you’ll likely be using your HVAC system less, the equipment will last longer.

The same can be said for lighting. Smart bulbs can automatically adjust brightness and intensity to create a more comfortable work environment.

How to use it

Proactive maintenance reduces downtime: whether it’s a power outage or a malfunctioning heater that makes an office unbearable to work in, if you’re always reacting to maintenance issues, you’re losing money. Beyond using beacons or sensors and smart thermostats with your building systems, you can also track and monitor scheduled maintenance, inspections, and repairs to avoid glitches and outages.

Asset Management

Benefit: Faster turnaround on service requests

All your employees, along with your IT and janitorial staff, can use a single app to report everything from a damaged tablet to a leaky sink in the bathroom. Service requests can be filed and assessed quickly, and updates and progress reports communicated seamlessly. The collected data can help you make purchasing decisions.

How to use it

Start tagging every device, asset, and piece of equipment with a serial number or QR code. This makes reporting issues easy. It is also helpful when a manufacturer issues a safety recall for a certain chair model—you can quickly locate those chairs throughout your workspaces.


Benefit: Healthier, happier employees who are engaged and productive

Many offices face pushback from employees when trying to implement IoT technology because it feels like an invasion of privacy. One way to respond to that is to show how these devices and apps provide a direct benefit to the employee.

How to use it

Allow your employees to opt into an app that lets them set and track progress towards activity goals. Start a competition—which team can reach their goals first? Who can log the most steps each week or attend the most “walking meetings”?

Learn more about overcoming employee objections: Passing the What’s-in-it-for-Me Test

There are sit/stand desks that connect to an app where each employee sets her preferences for the desk height. The app makes it easy for her to move to different workstations each day and have them automatically adjust to her preferences. In the meantime, you’re able to gather more data to make further improvements to her work environment.

The Internet of Things for Business Will Only Grow from Here

One of the Internet of Things’ great business benefits is its flexibility. There’s not one particular device or technology that defines IoT, so you can choose the technology that makes the most sense for your business and add to your system or adapt it over time. You can also run pilot tests with certain devices in small areas before implementing them throughout your entire portfolio.

One thing is sure, though: the data to be gained from the Internet of Things for business will become more and more invaluable and far reaching. With software that integrates with this technology, you’ll be able to make better, data-driven business decisions about everything from facilities management to allocations.

Learn more about how Serraview’s space planning platform integrates with IoT technology. Request a demo today.


3 Key Pillars of Space Planning Software

When you’re looking at commercial space planning software, you may be asking, “How easy will it be to upload and convert floor plan files? Is it more user-friendly than AutoCAD?” Important questions, sure, but first you need to take a look at what we call the “three pillars of space planning.” The most useful software will feature all three.

Pillar 1: Gathering Data

An incredible amount of data goes into corporate space planning—way more than just merging HR’s head counts with Real Estate’s desk assignments. At minimum, you need to collect actual usage data for the different rooms and spaces of your buildings. To be more effective, you can collect data from the devices employees are using, network or cloud usage, and from your building systems and utilities (lighting, HVAC, etc.).

With the latest technology, especially Internet of Things (IoT), businesses have access to more data about their offices and workforce than ever before, but it’s meaningless if they’re not able to collect and use it. If your space planning software isn’t able to bring all the data together in one platform, you won’t be able to make the most informed decisions.

Pillar 2: Analyzing Data

Corporate real estate teams used to manually organize and analyze the available data, which could be a simple, but time-consuming process. Now, even for small businesses, there’s simply too much information to consider, especially when you’re trying to keep up with all of the available data inputs and make smart decisions and projections. The best space planning software needs to use data science and machine learning to find links and patterns. It also needs to compare the real-time incoming information with historical data.

The analysis from your space planning software should be automated and ongoing so anyone in the company can access needed information at any time—examples include, a manager who wants an activity report on just her team, or the facilities manager checking on the usage of conference rooms while planning upgrades.  

Pillar 3: Taking Action

Once you have the data and it has been organized and analyzed, you’re in a position to make informed business decisions. You can now see more clearly how moving the sales team would allow for easier collaboration with the marketing team. Perhaps desks you thought were full are rarely used, and you can consolidate those workstations to create a new meeting space. If your lease is coming up for renewal, through data analysis, you would be able to determine whether or not it’s best to grow or shrink your footprint in the building.

How can you get started with an activity-based working strategy? Find out.

The final step in space planning is to actually plan the space in a way that increases worker well-being, job satisfaction, and ultimately, productivity. You should look for space planning software that allows you to easily experiment with different office layouts and configurations, estimate the costs and ROI of making your workplace more activity-based, and use your space more effectively.

Why Do I Need Special Space Planning Software for This?

There are two main reasons: one, because often, the data is stored with different departments. HR has head counts, IT has device and asset information, and Real Estate keeps tabs on building usage and systems. But all of that data should be considered with space planning and it needs to be integrated within a single platform.

The other reason is that the sheer volume of data large companies can get now makes it infeasible for people to manually collect and do anything with it. Space planning software can use algorithms and machine learning to identify patterns and links between data that most people would miss.

HR, IT, and CRE should all contribute to transforming your workplace: here what each brings to the table.

Adjusting for the Real World

Algorithms aren’t 100% perfect. Your space planning software isn’t going to broadly make decisions for you. You’ll still be using your experience and judgement to do that—but you’ll be making data driven decisions. A proposal with the analysis from your space planning software will carry more weight than one with observations and self-reported data.

But you can still look at that analysis and know what’s possible for your company. You can—and should—take into account individual personalities and preferences when making changes. 

Ultimately, corporate space planning software is a tool that helps improve the ROI of your real estate portfolio and other assets. But if your software doesn’t incorporate all three of the pillars above, you won’t be making the most of your investment.

Learn more about how Serraview allows you to gather, analyze and take action on crucial data your firm needs to make the right decisions—request a free demo of our space planning software.