When you’re building a business case for your corporate real estate (CRE) projects, the more relevant data you can present, the better. Since new technology and space utilization software platforms allow CRE teams to collect and analyze more data than ever before, more and more are using data to drive decision making.
But how do you know what’s the “best” or “right” data to use? Consider which data leads directly to actionable solutions, how people will use data to make decisions in real-time, and if and when soft costs should be applied.
Utilization data provides precise insight into your workplace
Corporate real estate teams are now collecting space utilization data from a variety of sources including badge swipes, chair/desk sensors, infrared cameras, conference room booking systems, calendar integrations, and more. The more data you have means shining a brighter light on the issues you’re trying to solve. However, too much data can be overwhelming.
Remain clear on the objectives and questions you want to answer and only gather data that will ultimately contribute to your end goal.
Understand supply/demand for conference rooms
For example, if you’re looking at conference room usage, you’ve probably been frustrated when looking at just calendar data in Outlook or Google Calendar because it only shows planned or intended usage—and that data alone can’t reveal how often those rooms are actually used and by whom. When you add in a space reservation system that requires people to “check in” in order to use the room, you get a better picture of actual usage. If you can also use infrared cameras or chair sensors that detect the number of people in each room at any given time, the picture becomes even clearer.
Plan for peak utilization instead of allocation-based occupancy
While most CRE professionals have long relied on key metrics for occupancy/vacancy, capacity, and density. Establishing the occupancy of an office, for example, used to be estimated through manual audits and walk-throughs. utilization data opens up new frontiers with peak utilization.
A building may have full occupancy due to every space being assigned an employee, with the total number of assigned employees approaching somewhere near capacity, but this tells you nothing of how many people are actually there on a given day. Peak utilization tells you what is the most amount of people who actually show up on the same day throughout the year, and if peak utilization is well below capacity, then you may have stumbled on a substantial opportunity for cost-savings. Indeed, discrepancies between planned and actual use can be powerful drivers for identifying inefficiencies.
Heat maps let you optimize space around employee needs
Utilization data can also be leveraged into heat maps that actually tell you which spaces are overused and which ones are underused. If a heat map shows even distribution, then workers are finding all of your spaces to be useful. But clusters of heat and large cold spots indicate that there are some high demand spaces and spaces that meet few needs.
Maybe you have too many open areas and not enough quiet places to isolate and think. Maybe your private offices are sitting empty while your lounges are bursting at the seams. This gives you strategic data to back up workplace transformation initiatives, and rethink your strategy as a whole.
Evaluate if flexible, agile workplaces are right for you
Organizations with significant numbers of part-time staff, partially remote workers, and lots of employee autonomy in the workplace may quickly identify that their peak utilization is a significant ways off from their total available space. More crucial than peak utilization, in this case, is an organization’s utilization ratio of how many seats they need per employee, or group of employees.
These organizations are great candidates for an agile workplace, with shared Activity Based Work settings that offer employees a diverse array of choices for different space types. In an agile workplace, employees can move freely between meeting areas, collaboration lounges, phone booths, and other areas designed to support specific types of work. Utilization ratios help you fine tune what combinations of spaces you need for which groups based on their activities. Maybe you only need 6 desks for 10 people? Perhaps your conference rooms are oversized for the average meeting in your workplace?
Utilization helps you justify the transition to agile spaces, and optimize them once they are in place.
Your business case is only as strong as your insights into the needs, strengths, and weaknesses of your current situation. Start with your data and ask yourself first if it’s accurate, and second, how much it makes sense to invest in improving and expanding your data-driven metrics and insights.
Moving from spreadsheets to a single, accurate space management system alone can make a tremendous impact towards enhancing transparency, but deeper utilization data can guide and foster consensus around bold decisions that generate transformational results.