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Evidence-Based Decision Making for Corporate Real Estate

There is no “one size fits all” model
for the modern workplace

Ian Morely

By Ian Morley

If your CRE organization is planning a workplace transformation initiative, you’re facing a great many important decisions ahead. To develop modern work spaces that work for your people and also reduce property costs at the same time, you must make the right calls about your workplace design.

If you’ve been reading Serraview’s blogs as well as the advice of many other workplace experts, you already know that there is no “one size fits all” model for the modern workplace. So how can you develop spaces that will be effective for boosting productivity, attracting talent and encouraging collaboration in your organization?

Here’s our advice for creating workplaces that optimize space and improve employee experience: base your decisions on the best evidence. Today we’ll discuss how the practice of evidence-based decision making can be applied to improve outcomes for workplace transformation.

Learn more: Activity Based Workplace Design: Why One Size Does Not Fit All

What is evidence based decision making?

The Center for Evidence-Based Management CEBMa defines evidence-based decision making as the practice of “making decisions through the conscientious, explicit and judicious use of the best available evidence from multiple sources.” It’s an idea that emerged from the medical industry and the practice is increasingly being applied to corporate management.

You may be surprised at how few decisions in business are based on trustworthy evidence. Far more often, decisions are based on beliefs, conventional (but unproven) practices, anecdotal experience, and what others are doing (even when the situations are significantly different).

When results are critical, experts recommend turning to more reliable evidence. According to a Harvard Business Review report on evidence based decision making, “when managers act on better logic and evidence, their companies will trump the competition.”

But what exactly is reliable evidence when it comes to workplace transformation?

Using evidence-based decision making for workplace transformation

CEBMa has defined 6 basic steps in the evidence-based decision making process. Here we explain how following these steps can guide your workplace decisions to produce better results for your organization. With so much riding on the outcome of your workplace transformation, you can’t afford to get it wrong.

 

STEP 1: ASK the right questions

Let’s say you want to transform one floor of traditional office space with assigned seating into several agile neighborhoods, incorporating activity-based work areas. According to evidence-based decision making guidelines, it helps to begin the process by breaking down your workplace design decisions into a series of answerable questions, such as:

  • How many workpoints does this neighborhood need to meet utilization targets?
  • What’s the appropriate mix of space types for the people who will use this area?

STEP 2: ACQUIRE evidence

To guide your evidence-based decision making, you need information about how many people from the impacted teams are in the office each day as well as how they use space. Possible sources include:

External benchmarks and “best practices.” What have others done and what were the results?

Stakeholders. Survey impacted teams and meet with managers to ask about space needs and average attendance figures.

Pilot programs. Before making big changes, conduct smaller trials to test plans and seating ratios. You can also measure differences in turnover rates, productivity levels and satisfaction for the impacted teams versus the overall employee population.

Utilization tracking technologies. Technology solutions can provide the most reliable evidence for your workplace transformation, collecting data about everything from team attendance levels to the size of groups using conference rooms. For example, your existing badge security data can provide attendance averages for various groups. Sensors can measure utilization of conference rooms and breakout areas. Network presence technology can track mobile workers as they move throughout an activity-based workspace.

Utilization tracking technology is a complex subject. Learn more from our comprehensive guide: Managing Workplace Utilization.

Read on to learn how to weigh these information sources in terms of reliability for evidence-based decision making.

STEP 3: APPRAISE your sources of information

Not all sources of evidence are going to be equally trustworthy for helping you make the right workplace design decisions. For example, while it’s great for relationships to understand the values and concerns of your business teams, the information they give you may not be completely accurate. They are likely to overestimate attendance, and may misrepresent their usage in an effort to hold onto the space they have.

Likewise, benchmarking data and success stories from other companies are great ways to learn about new ideas, but what others do may not be appropriate for your business. You can’t be sure you’ll see the same results.

According to CEBMa, for evidence-based decision making to be effective, you need to focus on the “best available evidence.” For workplace transformation, that means conducting pilot programs and implementing utilization tracking technology that provides actionable data that proves how your people are using space.

Learn more: Workplace Transformation Strategy: Is Your Based on Data or Perception?

STEP 4: AGGREGATE the data

If you have any experience with utilization tracking technologies, you know that each type has its strengths and limitations and you will likely need several sources to gather all the data you need. That means you’ll need a way to aggregate your data and make it actionable.

That’s why companies with effective modern workspaces are deploying workplace management technology designed to integrate utilization data from multiple sources. Applying evidence-based decision making to your workplace transformation decisions is easy when you can visualize your best evidence displayed as heatmaps on your space plans.

STEP 5: APPLY your intelligence

Armed with intelligence from reliable sources about how your teams are using space, you’re in the best possible position for successful evidence-based decision making about workplace design. For example, you can optimize a building by moving to flexible workspace with the correct seating ratios. And create the best employee experience for each team because you have an accurate understanding of the space mix that supports the way they work.

One important caveat, though: a change management plan is essential to the success of your roll-out. Learn more about how to do that: 9 Steps to Implementing Change in the Workplace: Agile Spaces.

STEP 6: ASSESS the outcome

Workplace transformation is rarely a one-time event. Rather, it’s an ongoing process that starts with small areas and expands through the organization. Also, you must be constantly monitoring the results and so you can make adjustments as things change.

With each transformation project, you’ll gain valuable insights about your people and how they work most effectively. That’s why it’s so important to evaluate the outcomes of each project. This means not only surveying impacted teams and tracking changes in satisfaction, engagement, and retention levels, but also monitoring ongoing usage of space with utilization technology. Doing so validates your evidence-based decision making and helps you gain the best possible evidence for your next project.

Download Best Practices for the Modern Workplace today.

Best Practices For The Modern Workplace

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