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Data Governance: A Critical Component of Good Workplace Management

By Kane Hochster

Chief Sales Officer 

SpaceIQ 

Every business collects data of some kind. Small companies may keep customer records in spreadsheets while global organizations use multiple systems to manage everything from HR data, sales, assets and workplace management. 

But having data doesn’t automatically mean the reports gleaned from that information are accurate and actionable. You know the saying, “Garbage in, garbage out”? Businesses may be great at collecting data, but is it the right data? Is it being used to meet objectives? 

“Inaccurate data means you’re basing decisions on bad information, which may mean building a workplace that doesn’t meet employees’ needs or drains facility management budgets,” said Kimberly Castle, account director with Buildingi, an IWMS/BIM consulting firm said. “You may also be leasing too much space because bad data shows that 15% of your workforce doesn’t work in the physical office anymore – when the true figure is much higher.”  

Many businesses are learning a hard lesson as they navigate their ongoing responses to COVID-19. The constant flux of COVID safety mandates puts greater emphasis on the need for real-time data to create processes to meet those standards. Companies must rely on accurate reports to make decisions on everything from maximum allowable occupancy for conference rooms to workstation spacing to where to position contactless circulation pathways. As work from home policies persist, most firms will seek to adjust their portfolios and add flexibility to promote workplace choice. That’s where a robust data governance system comes in. 

For clarity, data governance is not the same as data management. CIO Magazine defines data governance as: A system for defining who within an organization has authority and control over data assets and how those data assets may be used. It encompasses the people, processes, and technologies required to manage and protect data assets.” Data management is the logistics of collecting and storing information – a must for data governance to work. 

Bob Sits Where? 

Fellow Buildingi account director Amber Miller once helped a client combine an integrated workplace management system (IWMS) with an HR system. This common integration is designed to make it easier for users to update where they sat, so the HR platform was populated with a list of room numbers. 

“But then we started noticing anomalies, like people being assigned to a bathroom or hallway. We had to go back and have the client apply data governance rules to limit which types of seats and rooms were approved for the data feed,” she said. 

Then there’s the issue of corporate tech systems not speaking the same language. Castle was helping a large life insurance company integrate data from multiple systems. 

“There were all these terms that had a different meaning in every system. For example, the definition of ‘full-time employee’ or ‘headcount’ wasn’t the same across the board,” she said. “And that was a problem because data reports would get sent to the CEO with glaring discrepancies.” 

 Think of it this way: One person may collect and store information (data management), but a large number may access it, run reports, and use those details to make strategic decisions. If one person alters or uploads inaccurate data, the change effects everyone downstream. That can cause big problems if your job is reporting compliance levels to regulatory agencies or preparing a company’s tax returns. 

“It’s one thing to collect and track data, but if there’s no data integrity, you’ll simply get ‘garbage-in and garbage-out,’” Castle said. “Technology allows us to automatically flag where things don’t match; a tight and consistent data governance program is key to getting everyone on the same page.”  

Data Governance and COVID-19 

The ups and downs of COVID-19 is creating a new urgency for companies to collect data on and analyze employee movement in the workplace. Data on occupancy, furniture arrangements, and desk reservations is a starting point for health and safety measure implementation. But without rigorous data governance, employee movement and contact tracing information are unreliable.    

“Before COVID, the industry focused on ‘butts in seats,’ or how many people are assigned to a building. But the challenge during the pandemic is that’s no longer an accurate way to measure occupancy,” Miller said. “For example, an employee can be assigned to a desk, but they aren’t coming into the office every day. We’re now looking at utilization in terms of users in building vs. users assigned to seats.” 

Floor-to-ceiling elevation is one metric that’s been impacted by COVID because it impacts air quality and flow, Miller said. Before the coronavirus forced everyone to think about ventilation in new ways, space planners didn’t have cause to look across a floor layout. Now, data that was once used almost exclusively by facilities is being analyzed and acted upon by executive management, HR, and other departments. 

COVID-19 has put greater emphasis on why data governance is the foundation for quality workplace data management. Companies are asking questions of data sets that weren’t in the original parameters, searching for answers that will ultimately keep businesses open and employees safe. As organizations look beyond the pandemic, better data governance is critical for making confident and productive strategic decisions about workplace management now and into the future.  

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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.

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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:

  • Occupancy and vacancy
  • Density
  • Cost per seat
  • Peak utilization
  • Utilization ratio

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.

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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.

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The Hidden Costs of Open Office Plans

According to most estimates, about 70% of US offices use an open plan office layout. This type of office design has grown in popularity as companies look for ways to save on real estate—despite the documented open office disadvantages.  

According to some estimates, you can fit 3-5 times as many employees in an open office plan, compared to a traditional office.

In other words, if you had a traditional office layout with private offices for five employees, you could—in theory—convert that into an open office plan and comfortably accommodate 15 to 25 employees. Or you can reduce your current space by as much as one-third and still have room for your current workforce.

Corporate real estate rates vary, but it’s easy to estimate how much money any business can save by transitioning from a traditional layout to an open space office layout.

Open plan office environments also—in theory—foster communication, collaboration and productivity. But in practice, as shown by many studies, productivity and collaboration are negatively impacted. The challenge many companies face is quantifying these “soft costs” and accurately comparing them to the hard costs of the real estate savings.

The Downside of Open Plan Offices

Let’s try to help with that. We’ll look at two of the biggest negative effects associated with open office layouts and run the numbers in some imaginary scenarios. 

To keep numbers as simple as possible, let’s start with a hypothetical start-up in Manhattan, New York City:

  • 100 employees in a traditional office layout, with private offices
  • Total office square footage is a roomy 22,500 square feet (based on 2010 averages)
  • Rent is $5/square foot/month (a little below New York’s average)
  • Average employee salary is $105,000/year
  • Total annual real estate expenses: $1.35 million (to keep this simple, we won’t worry about utilities and other costs for these scenarios)
  • Total employee salary expenses: $10.5 million (we also won’t worry about benefits and perks here)

Cost Comparisons: Moving to a Smaller Office

First, to save on real estate expenses, the company’s leadership decides to move to a smaller office space. They choose a building in the same neighborhood with similar amenities, so the cost per square foot is the same, but it’s one-third smaller, bringing the square footage per person down to 150—the 2017 average. 

Now they’ve got 100 employees in an open office layout that’s just 15,000 square feet, so the annual real estate expenses are $900,000.

Real estate savings: $450,000

Ignoring moving expenses, the leadership team almost immediately notices changes to their employees’ productivity.

The employee experience of the workplace makes a difference—here’s how.

There are plenty of open plan office concept studies that demonstrate how they can be detrimental to employee productivity and engagement. One commonly-cited study showed that employees in open office plans experienced a 15% decrease in productivity. It’s challenging to tie “productivity” to revenue or other KPIs, so we’ll use employee salaries for this part.

If we assume that in the old, traditional office, all the employees were as productive as they could possibly be and the company is getting a solid return on their annual $10.5 million salary expense. However, in their new open plan office, the employees are achieving just 85% of what they used to, so 15% of that salary expense is essentially wasted.

Loss in potential productivity (measured in salary expense): $1,575,000

That alone is a powerful argument against the open office plan. But it goes further. Another study found that employees in open plan offices take 62% more sick days each year than their colleagues in private offices. According to the office for National Statistics, employees averaged 4.1 sick days in 2017.

Let’s assume that our tech startup is made up of mostly healthy people, and in their old office, they only averaged 2.5 sick days per year ($1,050 in salary per employee, for a total annual cost of $105,000).

But based on the study, in the new open plan office they’ll be taking 4.2 sick days per year. That brings the company’s costs for sick days up to $176,400.

Loss in productivity: $71,400

So each year, those real estate savings are offset by over $1.6 million (potentially) in lost salary. And that doesn’t even go into the negative effects open offices might have on employees’ overall well-being, engagement, and satisfaction. Our hypothetical startup could also be looking at increased turnover rates and other unforeseen costs.

Learn how well-designed workplaces can address employee well-being.

Luckily, there are other options that don’t require going back to closed spaces. Activity-based working addresses the disadvantages of open floor plans by providing task-oriented spaces, like phone booths for calls, designated “quiet zones,” a variety of collaborative spaces or soft seating options—whatever type of spaces employees need. Employees are also given the control and freedom to choose where they want to work each day (or move around throughout the day) based on what they need to get done.

Learn more about activity-based working and what you need to transition your workplace—download Creating an Activity-Based Working Strategy today.

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What to Consider When Accommodating Multiple Generations in the Workplace

The ability to adapt to different work styles and personalities isn’t something only HR professionals need to worry about, it’s become a bigger topic for corporate real estate (CRE) leaders as well. The way people work, collaborate, and react to new technology all affect workplace productivity, workplace design and office space utilization.

In today’s modern world, there’s a chance that a company could have five generations in the workplace all at once. They’re categorized as Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z. They vary in age ranges, habits, and ideals—all of which can affect the working environment.

As you might guess, this raises a few challenges due to older traditions meshing (and sometimes conflicting) with newer platforms and processes. For example, the advent of AI-based technology and other technical advances simply weren’t around during the Traditionalist, Baby Boomer, and in many cases, Gen X generations. One of the best ways CRE leaders can maximize space utilization while speaking to the general needs of each group is to understand varying work styles and learn how to adapt to each.

Understanding the Work Styles of Different Generations

As of 2018, millennials (born: 1981-1996) make up more than one-third of the U.S. workforce. Gen-Xers (born: 1965-1980) are right behind at 33%, followed by Baby Boomers (born: 1946-1964) at 25%, Gen Z (born: 1997 or later) at 5%, and Traditionalists (born: 1945 or earlier) at 2%. Each group is generalized by certain traits that affect how they interact with others in the workplace. While employees are individuals, it’s important for CRE and HR to know these traits and how often they actually do or do not apply to each group.

For example, an in-depth report conducted by CBRE broke down common stereotypes of the millennial audience. It challenged the notion that those born between 1981 and 1996 expect to be always digitally connected, blurring work/life distinctions. It also determined they are collaborative workers both in terms of workplace and working style. 

However, research from the CBRE study also showed only one-third of millennials expressed interest in a collaborative working environment or open-plan offices. They are more endeared to activity-based work setups that provide flexibility. Conversely, Baby Boomer employees are 50% more likely to want a private office than a millennial.

It’s likely those from the Baby Boomer generation have more managerial experience and are higher on the employee hierarchy based on years of experience alone. Their role may require more process-driven focus and less ongoing collaboration. Which begs the question: does age really matter? The answer is: yes and no.

Age can be indicative of years in the workforce and specific industry. It also speaks to the cultural norms a person is used to. A person who grew up in the age of the Internet may have a greater chance of adapting to technology than someone who never used a smartphone as a teen or young adult. But when handling different generations in the workplace, it seems working styles have more to do with industry expectations, work culture habits, and workspace preferences than how old someone is.

Learn how to attract top talent by catering to what matters most to millennials.

Industry Expectations

Banking institutions are generally more traditional in their cubicle and private office setups than tech companies who often embrace open space concepts. Yet these days, the titans of Finance, with their vast global campuses, are honing in on their workplace environments as key tools in the race for talent. While many institutions are stuck in the days of cubicle farms, others are now joining the cream of Silicon Valley on the leading edge of Activity Based workplaces, and flexible environments.

Work Culture Habits

During the age of Baby Boomers, multitasking was less of a priority. With the later generations growing up with mobile devices, they are used to working on multiple systems and applications at once. It’s not uncommon for a Millennial or Gen Z employee to be working on a laptop and simultaneously responding to communication on his or her smartphone.

However, each group can still identify with the need for balance between multitasking and quiet focus. Anyone who has been in back-to-back meetings understands that while collaborative interaction is taking place, actual, task-oriented jobs are likely not being completed. Each person, regardless of generation, must embody several different working styles per day depending on the role and task at-hand.

Generational Workspace Preferences

CRE leaders focus on how to save on cost while still making the majority of employees happy. To achieve this, the questions become more employee-centric and less based on the categorized preferences of different generations. For example: 

  • How much do job roles play a part in space planning? Do certain departments need to be seated together for easier communication? Who has private offices and are they all fully utilized?
  • Does remote working make more sense for certain generations than others? Or, is this more personality-based?
  • Is a fully open-space concept the way of the modern world or do activity-based seating environments make more sense?

One way to start to break down what kind of environment works best is to survey employees and welcome specific feedback. To complement that data, enable office space utilization software that can tell you how much of your current space is being used and how. For example, if data shows a lack of collaboration among employees, decide if more space should be allocated for smaller, informal meetings. Additionally, identify if there are enough spaces that speak to employee needs, especially the majority millennial audience, like break areas and quiet spots.

It’s safe to say that with the possibility of five generations in the workplace at any given time, there’s a multitude of things to consider. By identifying work style expectations, habits, and preferences, it can begin to shed light on how to design and optimize the workplace to meet the evolving needs of employees.

To learn more about creating a smart workplace strategy that accommodates changing business needs and retains top talent, download our guide on Best Practices for the Modern Workplace Environment.

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Build a Business Case For Corporate Real Estate, Guided by Utilization Data

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.

What else can current technology do for your workplace?

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.

What’s wrong with making workplace decisions based on perception?

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.

Find out what you should know about evaluating space planning software.

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.

In closing

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.

How can Serraview help you find and analyze the data you need to create a winning business case? Request a demo today to find out.

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How Tech Companies Are Using Automation to Manage Space Planning

Technology firms have long embraced practical solutions and championed the latest automation. That’s why it’s so surprising to see some tech organizations still using Excel spreadsheets and manual processes to track space utilization. Now’s the time to change. Here’s why tech companies need to start applying their embrace of automation to their office spaces, and take a data-driven approach to optimizing their workplaces.

A Modern Approach to Space Planning 

There was a time when space planning meant physically walking through the floors of an office building and manually entering data into spreadsheets in order to keep track of their space needs. After putting  estimates through complex formulas, a space planner would spend months running the numbers and creating reports that were never quite accurate to the current state of their portfolios.

However, technology has rapidly advanced, and those tedious methods of the past are no longer needed.

With modern software and tools, tech companies now risk falling behind their forward-thinking competitors by hanging onto outdated space planning techniques. This goes double for companies planning a modern tech space, where workplace technology is playing an increasingly central role in the employee experience.

Why It’s Time to Move from Spreadsheets to Automation

Modern technology now makes it possible to rise above spreadsheets and automate space planning tasks. Here’s what that means for tech companies:

Plan with Decisive Confidence in Your Data

With a centralized space planning and management tool, you can centralize data into a single system, streamline the process of validating data accuracy, and even pull real-time utilization data from badges and sensors. This means that accurate reporting can generated on the fly to inform immediate decisions, while long-term trends can be recorded and analyzed to inform strategic planning.

Connect Stakeholders

An end-to-end system empowers users to access common data through a framework that speaks to their specific workplace needs. Leader in Corporate Real Estate and Facilities can reference a powerful record of occupancy needs to target inefficiencies. Employees can find key spaces and update the  system through activity in integrated workplace apps. Stakeholders in in any department can update data through automated validation surveys and web portals. In a fast evolving workplace, automated systems don’t just centralize data, they streamline the common activities that occur around your spaces.

Target Inefficiencies Through Optimization Metrics

Modern Space Planning Solutions don’t just collect data, they slice and dice information into dashboards and reports that highlight outliers, track trends, and bring glaring inefficiencies to the foreground. With up-to-date data behind them, dashboards can provide a clear view of opportunities to generate savings  and put underused spaces to better use by aligning them with employee needs.

What You Can Do with Automation

Beyond enhancing the transparency and responsiveness of any organization into its real space needs, what exactly does automation look like in practice? Here are some of the opportunities that Space Planning automation has to offer.

Utilization Reports

Using data gathered from Internet of Things (IoT)  technology such as badge entry systems, desk sensors, or check-in systems, you can collect valuable statistics that measure space utilization in real-time, such as:

  • Peak Utilization by building or room
  • Heat Mapping
  • Utilization ratio of people to seats
  • Times of peak utilization

You can use those reports to spot gaps between how space is assigned an how it is used to reduce wasted space and align offices with a better employee experience..

Scenario Planning

With scenario planning software, you can experiment with different layouts in an intuitive drag and drop interface, and test different types of office environments. By pulling real data into a sandbox environment,, you can see how each scenario impacts key metrics such as square foot per person or cost per person. That means you can see how changes will affect your office layout and total costs. What’s more, once an ideal scenario is selected, it can automatically be converted into a move project, with tasks and dependencies generated for each move required to implement your plan.

Managing Flexible, Ratio-Based Environments

For companies looking to deploy the type of  modern, flexible workplaces that are the envy of Silicon Valley, utilization data and a system that can track and visualize flexible space are a must. With the right system in place, keeping track of employees in a flexible environment can be more precise than the most traditional, assigned environment.

Connecting Employees with Wayfinding Apps

Whether you’re deploying a flexible environment or simply streamlining how employees search and reserve workspaces, wayfinding apps are becoming increasingly popular. Many systems offer powerful employee apps that streamline space bookings and enable smart searches where employees can see where their colleagues are in real-time.

All of these advantages make automation the sensible option if you want to enhance your workplace. Want to see how space planning tools can transform your office? Request a demo today.

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How Tech Companies Are Transforming Their Workplaces with Utilization Data

Tech companies have long been pioneers of workplace transformation by necessity, with an incessant need to keep up with growth and attract top talent. With Smart Offices now an indelible part of the workplace landscape, utilization data is increasingly at the heart of the workplace revolution, opening new frontiers for enhancing savings and reimagining the employee experience

Unfortunately, gathering and analyzing this information hasn’t always been easy. Now, with technological advances, tech companies are discovering new ways to capture and use space utilization data. Here’s how:

A Changing Space Utilization Landscape for Tech Companies

Utilization data is essentially any data that reflects how spaces are actually being used, which can mean how many people have swiped into a building on a given day, or how many times a conference room was at capacity according to a smart sensor.

Once upon a time, companies were forced to rely on professionals to physically walk through buildings, floor by floor, and conduct manual audits. This method relied heavily on physical observations and estimates—some that weren’t always accurate. These manual methods also required time-intensive processes, tedious number crunching, and were rather limited in their applications to the daily life of employees.

As utilization data has become more accessible and as the workplace technology designed around utilization has become more nuanced and robust, Smart Offices are now taking shape in many forms, with systems that capture utilization to inform workplace planning/modernization, to employee wayfinding apps that connect people to their spaces.

Utilization is Driving the Flexible Space Revolution

With greater insight than ever before on how much space is needed, the supply and demand for different types of spaces, and where individuals are within the office environment, Tech companies can now measure flexible spaces with greater precision than even the most traditional and static cubicle farm.

This has led to the rise of Activity Based Work environments, where sections of offices are redesigned to be unassigned, offering employees an exciting array of choices for places to work throughout the day. In the past, this may have been untenable, but Utilization data means that companies can continuously optimize these environments based on how they are used. Peak utilization metrics tell companies exactly how many seats they need to provide business units, and wayfinding applications ensure that employees can always find their colleagues and view the availability of spaces in real-time.

Today’s most advanced workplace software specializes in leveraging utilization data into solutions for planning, managing, navigating, and optimizing flexible spaces.

How Tech Firms Can Use Utilization Data

With this new caliber of data, there are new possibilities for space planning. Here are some ways to use utilization numbers to build a better workplace:

Align Workplaces to Employee Needs

Organizations can use heat maps to determine the optimal combination of spaces based on what activities they support. This way, organizations can find the right balance of meeting rooms, lounges, phone booths, hot desks, and other key space types.

Plan for Peak Utilization

In a traditional office environment, everyone was assigned a seat and once all seats were assigned, that office was at full capacity… but how many people actually show up on any given day? And what about part-time and remote opportunities? Peak utilization tells organizations the maximum number of people that show up on any given day of the year, so they can plan based on how much space they actually use, instead of how much space is assigned.

Enhance Precision of Wayfinding Technology

Utilization data can feed employee apps with real-time insights into where colleagues are located and which rooms are available.

Target Gaps and Inefficiencies

Utilization data makes it easier for professionals to eliminate wasted space by identifying gaps between how space is assigned and how it is used. Just as a building assigned to 300 people may rarely see more than 200 in attendance, the same principle can be applied from the floor level down to the individual desk.

Increase Capacity with Ratio-Seating

With utilization data, organizations can assign seating ratios to different shared neighborhoods that increase capacity beyond one seat per person, and continuously refine that ratio over time. A ratio of 1.5 people per seat, for example, represents a 50% increase in building capacity. 

Improve Energy Efficiency

Especially with increasingly flexible schedules, it’s easy to run air-conditioning, lights, or other utilities when employees aren’t around. With real-time utilization data, it’s now possible to use energy more efficiently. By capturing the numbers, planners can set the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system to line up with employees’ schedules—saving money and reducing the company’s environmental footprint.

Evaluate Move Scenarios

By integrating utilization data with scenario planning software, organizations can test and evaluate how different move scenarios would impact their people and their bottom line. 

Make Evidence-Based Business Cases

It’s now possible to capture the numbers to justify moves. Using validated utilization data from badge entry swipes, lighting sensors, and other sources provides evidence where there once were just estimates to get buy-in from all key decision makers.

Overall, tech companies finally have the tools and automation to power better space planning. Technology is taking the guesswork out of utilization data, and it’s resulting in better outcomes. Want to see how technology can fit into your space planning initiative? Schedule a demo today. 

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How a Tech Company Reduced Space by 25% and Elevated its Workplace Culture

Global technology company Avaya eliminated almost a quarter of its real estate portfolio by turning to an advanced workplace optimization software solution. The results were a lean, efficient organization, and a more collaborative workplace culture. Here’s how Avaya did it:

About Avaya

Founded in 2000, Avaya is a global leader in delivering premium communications experiences to customers. It supplies more than a million customers with a complete portfolio of software and services. When it started looking for a data-driven solution, it had 15,000 employees and 2 million square feet of office space around the world—a costly footprint with tenuous accountability to Avaya’s real needs.

Avaya’s Challenge

As a leading multinational technology company, Avaya had acquired multiple tech companies. As a result, its real estate team stretched across the world, but the organization was failing to keep its real estate footprint under control. 

At the same time, Avaya wanted to modernize its tech offices. It needed to lower costs and improve collaboration. Unfortunately, the team’s space planning tools and manual systems were causing chaos. Executive reports were taking weeks to complete. Leaders didn’t have accurate data, and they didn’t know where employees were or how they were interacting. 

Avaya was in need of reliable data, automated reports, and direction it could trust. It called on a partner, Cushman & Wakefield (C&W), for help. 

C&W Selects Serraview as the Data-Driven Solution

C&W started by researching possible software solutions, looking for the right fit to help Avaya’s team manage space, set up a plan, and empower employees. After vetting multiple options, C&W decided Serraview was the best solution. 

Gathering and Standardizing Data

Avaya knew how pivotal reliable data would be when making such a big move. After C&W Avaya’s 142 floor plans were uploaded into a single Serraview system, alongside occupancy data for tracking allocations for individuals and  business units. 

To validate the accuracy of the data pouring in, Avaya’s real estate team could use the Serraview Workplace Portal, which enables stakeholders across the company to confirm seating accuracy via simple and intuitive shareable links. Suddenly, rather than rustling through spreadsheets and manually emailing reports, the team could quickly run data through one online interface. 

Running chargebacks and informing strategy

Serraview also provided the corporate real estate team with an automated solution for running chargebacks and evaluating needs across units. This provided the hard data Avaya needed to drive its strategic planning for everything from acquiring new property to dropping unused space and building more employee-friendly office layouts.

Avaya Closes 15 Leases, Empowers Employees

With Serraview tools, Avaya was able to cut costs and reduce its real estate portfolio drastically, reducing its footprint by nearly 25 percent. However, Avaya faced a new challenge. With 15 site closures, employees found themselves in new locations among unfamiliar faces. 

In order to empower employees, Avaya launched the Serraview Locator mobile application. With the app, employees are now able to see what resources are available. They can easily search for their colleagues, as well as search and book conference rooms and collaborative spaces from their mobile devices.

With the data to track needs and the transparency to connect employees to their spaces, Avaya was able to create a more cohesive office environment that reduced bottlenecks and fostered greater engagement between business units.

Technology-Powered Results Now and into the Future

In addition to developing a work culture that gives employees the tools to come together, Avaya’s real estate team is now able to pull data into a centralized, easy-to-access system. That means it can automate reports and quickly set up chargeback processes. Reports that once took weeks to compile are now available in minutes. 

With reliable data at its fingertips, the team is now able to back every decision, from acquiring or dropping property to planning out office layouts, with data. In addition to having a right-sized portfolio and drastically reduced costs, the organization now has the tools to drive success well into the future.

To learn more about Avaya’s workplace transformation, read the full case study. 

Want to see how you can use technology to take control of your workplace strategy? Schedule a demo today.