Preparing for A Post COVID-19 Future in Corporate Real Estate

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to invade our lives, we are all learning first-hand how to adapt to a world dominated by social distancing and quarantines.  Our once bustling offices are now vacant shells, reminding us of the strangeness and uncertainty of the moment we’re in.

The impact of transformative events like this is real.  In the aftermath of 9/11, business travel came to a screeching halt. Leading prognosticators proclaimed that the days of face-to-face business meetings were gone forever, yet person-to-person interaction reemerged as indispensable. Offices filled back up and business travel returned and then boomed.

The fortune tellers were wrong about how 9/11 would transform our workplaces, but they were right to presume we were entering a new world. No one knows the future, but you don’t have to be a gambler to bet that a post COVID-19 world will bring with it a new normal… so how can we prepare?

Preparing for the Return… Whenever It Comes

While the more extreme doomsdayers may foresee a future where we never leave our homes, CRE professionals are likely much better off having a plan (or multiple plans) for the return of the workplace, whenever it may be. How should this return be any different from what came before? 

It may make sense to build in precautions with regard to viral infection, just in case there is a resurgence. It will likely be some time before we know for sure that we’re out of the woods, and the last thing you want is everyone flooding back in just as the virus is making a comeback.

Some precautions you may consider:

Staggering your return:

Rather than returning everyone at once, it may make sense to stagger employees to keep a close watch on impacts on health and morale. Those whose roles are most critical to the business can be reintroduced in a first wave, followed by healthy or unaffected workers, then those who have children out of school. Those personally impacted by the virus should be the last to return, once they are definitely recovered.

Building social distancing into your plan:

Continuing some levels of partial remote work may help you reduce density and empower employees to maintain social distances according to their personal comfort levels. Mandating 30-minute buffers between conference room meetings to limit unnecessary personal interaction may also make sense during the early days.

Extra effort for health & safety:

Ventilation, concerted and regular cleaning, and comfortable office temperatures can all help reduce the levels of general illness in your office.

Reevaluating Your Workplace in the Wake of the Great Remote Work Experiment

While some have already started penning obituaries for physical office space, it is the riskier gamble to bet against the value of shared space. It’s part of the fabric of how we commune and collaborate. On the other hand, this pandemic has indeed forced a global and near universal experiment in remote work. Even once the fears of communal space finally subside, the appeals of working-from-home will likely linger.

Employees will remember the shorter commutes, extended time with family, and freedom from arbitrary mandates to remain on premises 8 hours a day, five days a week. Organizations will have discovered the depths and limits of what they can achieve outside of the office, and start reevaluating their space needs. Where is space a waste, where does space offer value, and how can you limit the former while enhancing the latter?

As you plan your return, it may make sense to keep a close watch on key trends that are likely to accelerate.

Agile space:

Agile offices have already been proven to slash wasted space and better conform to how people prefer to work. Flexible workplaces that offer less seats but greater diversity in choice will likely accelerate their conquest over assigned office environments. Agile environments can meet the needs of larger, partially remote workforces while reducing space and aligning workplace design with productivity.

Smart offices:

Smart offices have proven themselves invaluable for not only aligning offices with how people use them, but also for providing critical data to support response efforts in times of crisis. 

Enhancing Readiness for Future Disruptions Through Technology

Regardless of what the new normal may bring, it is clear that the technology that organizations deploy will provide the core infrastructure for their ability to adapt and respond to change. In times of disruption, accurate data and streamlined workflows can be lifeboats during periods of transition.

Workplace technologies that are central to CRE Readiness include:

Tracking Real-Time Space Utilization:

Measuring shifts in attendance with precision in the coming months will enable organizations to boldly right-size while maintaining confidence in their ability to meet needs.

Scenario Planning:

With the future so uncertain, the ability to plan and test multiple scenarios will be key to preparing organizations for multiple outcomes.

Relocation Automation:

Largescale moves, transformations, and consolidations all involve moving a lot of bodies with minimal disruption. Automated tools play a central role to planning, tracking, and completing relocation projects smoothly… and keeping everyone on the same page.

Ratio Seating Models:

As remote workers continue to drive the appeal of flexible seating, organizations need to be able to assign and track seating ratios that provide less seats than people. If flexible seating is the future, seating ratios will emerge as the core data point informing those optimizations.

Time to go Agile?

While many organizations will be looking to down-size their real estate costs, other will be looking to upgrade their workplaces to meet the fast evolving landscape. Agile workplaces do both, proven to reduce real estate costs by as much 30%, while providing flexible environments that are better equipped to absorb change and support employees.

Talk to a Workplace Expert today to learn how Serraview software technology can help prepare your organization for the future.


Executive Summary: How to Optimize Your Space and Maximize Your Real Estate ROI

Innovative workplace technology, data, and strategies are redefining the Corporate Real Estate (CRE) landscape with powerful new opportunities for organizations to enhance the value of their real estate investments.

Just as technology is enhancing the data and processes that drive space optimization, CRE leaders are discovering exciting ways to align offices with the real needs of employees. Unfortunately, most organizations aren’t taking advantage of these new opportunities, and billions of dollars are being wasted in the process.

In our e-book, Ultimate Guide: How to Optimize Your Space and Maximize Your Real Estate ROI, we outline how technology can be  used to right-size your footprint around the needs of your people. Here’s a preview:

Organizations Face a Problem in Wasted Space

We already know organizations are letting more than 50 percent of their office space go unused at any given time. However, we’ve identified what’s causing swaths of space to go unused and where organizations are missing out on real estate ROI. Here’s what’s stopping most modern offices from reaching their full potential:

  • A lack of accurate data
  • A lack of insight into how space is used
  • A lack of transparency
  • A lack of accountability
  • Lack of autonomy/flexibility

In order to address these common misalignments, we’ve outlined a step-by-step approach to optimizing space and maximizing real estate ROI:

A Look at How to Optimize Space and Maximize Real Estate ROI 

Improve Data to Evaluate Needs

Accurate data is an essential part of determining not just how much space is needed, but what kinds of spaces are needed. Accurate space data is also essential to both employees and CRE leaders alike being able to navigate and make the most of what space they already have. Pulling accurate data can take different forms depending on organizational needs, so we have isolated several key areas that organizations can focus on for improvement:

  • Standardizing and automating data validation
  • Conducting space audits
  • Tracking real-time utilization data
  • Taking advantage of chargebacks

Raw data in and of itself, however, is only half the battle. How that data is represented and how easily it is accessed is absolutely key to how it translates into better decision-making.

Target Inefficiencies with Better Metrics

CRE Leaders rely on a bedrock of core metrics that represent how efficiently they are using their space. Modern technology has enhanced the quality of the essential metrics that have long-guided CRE decisions, and also introduced real-time utilization metrics into the mix for organizations taking their optimization to the next level.

For many organizations, ability to right-size their footprint is directly correlated with their ability to accurately measure:

These metrics unlock new possibilities for both higher financial returns and better workplaces optimized for employee needs.

Empower Employee Autonomy

Employee empowerment means both increasing choice and flexibility in the workplace, and connecting employees to spaces so that available spaces don’t sit unused and undiscovered. 

  • Automated booking and wayfinding
  • Agile spaces
  • Smart offices

Optimize Scenario Planning 

Modern space planning software pulls real data into a sandbox, where employees can create different space scenarios and measure their impact on costs and occupancy. Effective scenario planning can help organizations optimize their footprint by:

  • Consolidating vacant spaces
  • Reclaiming hoarded space
  • Repurposing underused space
  • Going agile and increasing capacity ratios

Key Findings

Discover how leading organizations are leveraging data, technology, and strategy to generate powerful results.

  • Suncorp: This organization switched from manual, paper-based plans to a centralized software solution. Not only did it shed light on occupancy, but it also united the team and dissolved silos that once formed around departments.
  • Illumina: This biotech company was adding personnel at a rapid, 30 percent rate. A renewed data collection process allowed the group to deploy an agile workspace, and it doubled its real estate capacity.

Ready to read the full report and learn how to up your organization’s value? Read the Ultimate Guide: How to Optimize Your Space and Maximize Your Real Estate ROI.


How Serraview Streamlines Space Allocation, Utilization Analysis, and Moves for CRE Leaders

Whether you’re tracking usage data to come up with a company baseline, planning a major move, or just starting to manage and optimize with space utilization data, Serraview’s tools are invaluable to any corporate real estate team. Here are just a few ways you might use Serraview on a regular basis:

Tracking Space Allocations and Occupancy

Serraview performs space analysis by combining space allocation data, building information, and employee data from other sources to provide a broad overview of your entire portfolio. You can see the allocation across your buildings and campuses, or drill down to a specific building or floor. You can also take a closer look at a specific group or department to get insights into how your employees are using their space.

The Serraview dashboard shows your space allocation and occupancy. You’ll see whether you’re hitting your occupancy targets, your total costs and any “opportunity costs” (for example, a department that is holding onto unused desks that could be re-allocated). 

Learn 10 steps to improve workplace efficiency.

Because this data collection and analysis are all performed in Serraview (multiple sources, from IWMS systems to HR systems, feed data to Serraview), your team can skip the monotonous work of manually filling out spreadsheets and jump straight to data analysis. Spend more time asking second-level questions that can lead to smart, evidence-based decisions about how to best optimize and use your space.

Tracking Real-Time Space Utilization

Serraview excels when it comes to track real-time utilization data, data collected from badges and sensors that tells you exactly how space is being used in real-time. For example, by simply tracking badge swipes at the entrance of a building, Serraview can tell you how many people show up on your busiest day of the year, so you can plan for peak utilization. Utilization can also be measured by business unit, and utilization ratios can tell you how many seats different teams need per person.

Sensor data can be used to heat map floors to measure supply and demand by individual space. Serraview lets you create space utilization reports that provide insights into how your employees use conference rooms, hot desks, and other shared spaces.

All of this data is not only critical to identifying inefficiencies with hour-by-hour accuracy, but empowering organizations when making the strategic decision to shift towards shared, agile environments.

Space Planning & Optimization Initiatives

Are you interested in moving from fixed to flexible seating? Would you like to find out if you can save on your next lease renewal by consolidating from four floors to three? Serraview’s scenario planning tool allows you to easily create different scenarios for how you can use your space. You can compare these scenarios side-by-side and, of course, with your current space usage and allocations.

The tool can display different options to co-locate or move different groups and show the impacts of these potential moves. Serraview can even create part of a change management plan by developing the sequence and order for the moves so no one gets displaced.

You’ll be able to see both typical and peak occupancy rates in your building, and see how often you can expect peak occupancy so you can plan appropriately. The data you get and the plans you generate can also build your business case for the move: you’ll be able to show the value-add of consolidating for both the company and the individual employee.Serraview’s color-coding and drag-and-drop features would be especially useful here. In the system, each department and team is assigned a different color. When you’re looking at different optimization options, you can highlight individual employees or whole departments and move them around to get quick visualizations.

Executing a Major Move

Once you have identified inefficiencies, fleshed out plans, and measured their potential benefits and cost savings, it’s time to implement a move.Serraview empowers users to automatically convert plans into move projects, with task by task management to ensure that teams are relocated with minimal disruption, and that projects are delivered on time and on budget.

How can intentional space planning lead to a more engaged workforce?

Once everyone’s moved and settled in the new building, you can collect usage data along with 30-, 90-, and 180-day surveys to see if people are using the new space the way it was envisioned—and continue making tweaks to further optimize the space. Organizations that track real-time utilization data from badges and sensors can evaluate end states with exacting precision, and continuously realign spaces in lock step with occupancy trends.

Ready to see Serraview in action? Request a demo of our space planning and workplace optimization tools today.