Sensor Data: What It Reveals About Workforce & Workplace

Given the amount of wasted space to be found in the average corporate office (HBR says office usage peaks at 42%), it’s not surprising that so many organizations are looking to make better use of space to reduce property expenses. However, optimizing the workplace is no longer only about cutting costs: it’s increasingly about improving employee experience. Today’s workplace must act as an enabler that supports the workforce in producing their best work and creating innovative solutions.

In many parts of the world, the question in 2017 is not whether to implement modern workplace design, but how to get it right. CRE teams are challenged with providing work environments that meet the needs of a diverse worker population. How can you get the information you need to optimize space utilization AND provide the right mix of space types for each team? Many progressive companies are turning to sensor data to provide that intelligence and drive effective workplace transformation decisions.

What information can sensor data provide for optimizing space and improving employee experience?

Making the best use of space requires answering three key questions:

  • How much space do we have?
  • How well do we use it?
  • How much space is being used by each group or business unit at any particular time?

According to Rob Wright, Managing Director of sensor technology provider INOVU, “I’ve been involved with workplace strategy for 30 years, and the same questions are still being asked by real estate teams. Today, sensor data can provide the answers at a very granular level.”

For decades, companies have tried to gather this information manually. Chances are, you’re familiar with the shortcomings of these methods. (Read this to learn more: Why Bed Checks for Commercial Space Planning Are So Yesterday).

Sensors do it better; in fact, sensor data provides one of the most efficient intelligence sources for driving workplace transformation strategy. Here’s why:

Continuous data collection: Sensor data shows trends over time that are missed with short-term manual data collection efforts. This long-term data is essential for capacity planning in an agile work environment.

Ironclad evidence: Sensor data proves attendance & space usage in a way that can’t be refuted easily by your business units. Even if you’ve got badge data to show who is in the building, sensors can prove that they are not at their desks all day, which is important to know for agile space planning.

Real time data availability: Sensor data can be collected and available in seconds to power wayfinding technology (more on that to come). 

Sensor technology for occupancy & utilization management

There are three types of sensors commonly used for collecting space utilization data in the workplace:

Motion (room) sensors use passive infrared technology (PIR) to detect movements within their field of view. Typically wall or ceiling-mounted, these sensors can detect usage of a room with accuracy as high as 90 to 95%. However when people sit still for long periods in a meeting the accuracy can be reduced, and these sensors can’t detect how many people are using the space.

Desk or occupancy sensors can detect the presence of a person in a specific spot, such as sitting at a desk. For the best accuracy, a PIR sensor on its own is not sufficient, as people may sit still for long periods resulting in false readings over time.

High volume count sensors are typically installed above the doors in large rooms or auditoriums and count the people entering and exiting the space (attendance). This sensor data can provide intelligence about usage vs. capacity levels for large meeting rooms. They can also count people using spaces as a tool for promoting modern workplace features (more on that to come). These sensors can be up to 98% accurate.

“Desk sensors are useful for tracking what we call ‘away status,’ when a particular seat is empty,” said Wright. “In an agile environment, this sensor data provides good insight into behavior for the workplace strategist for understanding how mobile workers are moving around the office.”

Sensor technology is advancing rapidly: according to Wright, INOVU is developing a new and innovative technology for detecting the presence of a person in a seat or in an enclosed space. As the technology matures, devices are offering better accuracy, lower maintenance and easier deployment (in many cases, FM and IT staff can install the devices themselves).

Using sensor data in the modern workplace

Here are some specific applications for using sensor data to improve both space optimization and employee experience in the workplace.

Meeting room utilization and availability

This is an all-too-common scenario in traditional corporate offices: people can’t find an available conference room through the booking system, but wandering around the office reveals that many large rooms are being used by groups of only 2 or 3 people. Or worse, rooms are booked but nobody is using them at all.

This is where sensor data is extremely useful. Room sensors can tell you in real time if a room is booked but not actually occupied. And desk sensors in every seat can reveal the right mix of conference room sizes to maximize utilization. For example, instead of 3 rooms designed for 10, you can better meet employee needs by breaking up two of those rooms into smaller rooms designed for 6. You can also detect rooms that are under-utilized and find out why. The room might be uncomfortably hot, or missing essential technology that employees need for collaborating.

Real-time workpoint availability

In an agile workplace, employees need an easy and reliable way to find a space to work. The last thing they want to do is reserve a seat with an inaccurate desk booking system, then walk across the building to find the seat occupied. Or, work somewhere they don’t want to be when their space of choice is actually available. Real time, accurate sensor data from desk-level sensors is essential for powering wayfinding tools that improve employee experience with shared seating. Employees can view a heatmap on a kiosk or mobile app showing seats currently available.

Watch this video to find out how modern wayfinding tools work: How Can Wayfinding Technology Shape Employee Experience?.

Usage of wellness features such as staircases

INOVU has worked with innovative companies using sensor data to promote wellness initiatives such as encouraging use of staircases. “We have used high level people counters on the stairs to track how many were traveling between different floors, recording use by day of week, weekly average, and current day. Then we displayed those stats by the staircases and in reception to motivate people to use the stairs instead of the lifts. ‘Let’s beat our Tuesday record!’ Or invite a competition between workers on different floors. It’s a great way to promote a wellness program.”

Reduce maintenance expenses

The cost of space itself is not the only expense that you can reduce using sensor data. There’s also the cost of maintenance. When sensor data tells you a space has not been used, then you can reduce the cleaning schedule. Likewise, employee experience improves when you clean heavily used areas more frequently. You can even better control catering costs when you can see exactly how many people are in a meeting room.

Improve indoor air quality

One idea you might not have considered is going beyond occupancy sensor data to improve employee experience using sensors that detect problems with indoor air quality. When an open-plan office space gets crowded with people, carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air can rise to dangerous levels that make people feel tired and sluggish, potentially impeding work output and causing health complaints.

“With today’s sealed buildings and green initiatives, FM staff may turn ventilation system off at night to save energy,” said Wright. “In one pilot, we found CO2 levels climbing dramatically (up to 4x recommended limits) in a very short period as people came into the office, even with only 50% occupancy. This was a real eye opener for us, because while people are concerned about air quality outside, it’s turning out to be much worse in office spaces. That’s bad for people and bad for productivity.”

Recent research led by a Harvard environmental health expert reported a 15% decline in performance with moderate CO2 levels, and a 50% decline at CO2 levels of 1,400 ppm. In Wright’s example, sensors were detecting levels in excess of 2,000 ppm.

The sensor data provided by CO2 sensors can help FM staff to monitor the issue and adjust the HVAC to keep air quality safe in the building.


Sensor data analytics for the modern workplace

When you’re collecting sensor data from multiple sources and tracking it across many floors and buildings, how do you easily bring all that intelligence together and make it useful? That’s where Serraview’s modern workplace management system comes into play, combining the power of sensor data with:

  • Heatmaps, dashboards & analytics to visualize intelligence at any level of granularity
  • Space planning tools designed to manage agile workspaces and neighborhoods
  • Scenario planning to facilitate workplace transformation strategy

Book a demo to see for yourself how it works.


5 Tips for Managing Your Flexible Working Policy

The following is a guest blog written by Alison Dahlman of Condeco Software, leading providers of occupancy sensing and digital signage technology, as well as room and desk booking tools. Condeco works with the world’s most progressive brands to reconfigure and maximize their dynamic workplaces.

Flexible working can be a huge win for many businesses – according to a survey by Vodafone, 58% of US companies reportedly saw an increase in profits after introducing a flexible working policy. There are big gains to be made in employee performance too – 86% of companies surveyed saw an increase in productivity.

Make sure your resources don’t become idle. Instead, create an agile organization by downloading Condeco’s white paper here.

While the benefits are clear, a flexible working policy needs to be managed effectively to have the maximum impact. Below are five tips to help manage your flexible working policy for the best results.

5 Tips for Managing Your Flexible Working Policy

Keep Clear Processes and Accurate Records

Accuracy should never be underrated in business, especially when it comes to workplace management. When implementing or updating a flexible working policy, clear communication is key – ensure everyone is aware of all processes and able to ask questions, should they have any. Keeping correct and up-to-date records is important, too, especially when it comes to tracking working hours. Consider how best you can track and record this data for your employees.

Make Data Accessible on the Move

A large part of flexible working happens on the move – whether it is during the morning commute or between meetings. You want to give your employees the ability to seamlessly access their work while on the go, so be sure to investigate the best mobile tech solutions for your business. For example, cloud technology and mobile-compatible systems will give your employees the ultimate flexibility.

Manage Your Office Space and Tech

Mobile software isn’t the only technology to consider with your flexible working policy – your office space should be designed to complement it, too. Consider having solutions like desk booking software or digital desk signage, and ensure that your workspace has breakout areas that will help employees feel adaptable in their working style.

Encourage Communication and Collaboration

While communication is undoubtedly important in any business, it becomes vital when a flexible working policy is in place. Ensure you make time for both face-to-face and virtual meetings and discussions. Consider unified communications software, which provides more flexibility while maintaining the ability to collaborate effectively.

Don’t Just Default to Remote Working

When flexible working is introduced, it can be easy for many people to simply see it as another name for remote working, or telecommuting. While working from home can absolutely be a part of your flexible working policy, without office attendance and face-to-face collaboration, your business may lose some of the positive social effects of working together.

Related topics:
5 Ways to Get Management Buy-In For Flexible Working Arrangements
8 Tips to Encourage Collaboration in the Agile Workplace

[Original Post]

Download creating an activity based working strategy today.


Online Collaboration Tools for the Mobile Workforce

Today’s workforce is increasingly mobile: working from home, working on the go, and moving around in a large corporate workplace. That’s especially true in an agile environment. At the same time, enterprises are recognizing the need to break down silos and increase collaboration in order to boost creative thinking and innovation. What’s the solution to this seeming paradox? Choosing effective online collaboration tools and pairing them with a well-designed workplace.

Start with a collaborative workplace environment

Agile and activity-based work environments are ideal for encouraging collaboration, because they are designed to bring people together who might not have the opportunity to work together otherwise. In these new flexible work spaces, people choose their seat each day (and throughout the day) based on the work they need to do or who they need to work with, rather than sitting at an assigned desk. The changing environment creates more interaction, and workplace includes more casual meeting areas designed for impromptu group work sessions.

Designing effective activity-based workspaces, however, is not a simple matter of throwing in cushy chairs and a café. It requires a deep understanding of your workforce and how people use space, and that intelligence must extend down to the team level. How do you get that information? By implementing utilization tracking technology combined with intelligent workplace management tools. Only then can you create spaces that effectively encourage collaboration, since they are designed for the way each team works most effectively.

Learn more:
8 Tips to Encourage Collaboration in the Agile Workplace
Managing Workplace Utilization

Once you have created the right environments for your business teams, then you need the right online collaboration tools so they can work together within a large corporate campus, as well as with remote team members.

Online collaboration tools can take many forms. They range from enterprise-wide social media networks to tools for specialized tasks such as design collaboration or content management. Here we will focus on some of the common needs that just about every large organization has when it comes to enabling collaboration among a mobile workforce: managing communication, project management, and video chat.

Online collaboration tools for managing communication

Slack or HipChat

When you need real-time communication between team members to keep everyone on the same page, choose online collaboration tools like Slack or HipChat.

According to Atlassian, business people receive 304 emails each week, check their email 36 times in an hour, and spend 16 minutes refocusing after handling email. That’s a serious drain on productivity. Online collaboration tools like Slack and HipChat make it simpler and easier for team members to chat and stay up to speed in real time.

According to PC Magazine, “Many organizations of all sizes have turned to online collaboration tools to get their employees off email and back to work. In fact, one company that deployed a suite of collaboration tools and made a concerted effort decreased email by 60 percent over three years.”

However, these online collaboration tools do much more than exchange text messages. They store messages in an organized system that makes it easy to find prior conversations for reference. You can tag keywords in a message and also tag team members who might not be in the conversation so they get notified.

The tool for you depends on your needs: Slack integrates with many other tools to automate actions. HipChat provides functionality for screen sharing and video calls, and includes some useful plug-ins.

Online collaboration tools for project management

Trello or Asana

For a large organization with remote employees working together, managing projects and staying on top of progress can be a daunting task. That problem is magnified when projects are fast-paced and when employees are frequently shifted to different teams to meet changing business needs.

Online collaboration tools such as Trello and Asana help remote teams organize and track the progress of projects down to the task level.

For those teams who tend to have sticky notes all over their desks and cover whiteboards with them in brainstorming sessions, Trello may be a great fit. This tool uses a simple card-based system to keep track of individual items. Each “card” can be assigned to customized categories, assigned to a person, and given a due date.

If your organization has large, complex projects involving many people and tasks, Asana might be a great project management tool for you. Employees can see all the projects they are assigned to, as well as the tasks assigned to them sorted by priority.

The best part? Both of these online collaboration tools have excellent apps for the mobile workforce to keep track of project tasks.

Online collaboration tools for video chat OR Google Hangouts

Sometimes seeing people’s faces can really enhance communication. Emojis can only go so far to communicate the subtleties of body language. When you need to talk face-to-face with remote staff, as well as third-party consultants or other contributing team members located elsewhere, you need online collaboration tools for video chat.

Of course you know about Skype. But there are other great options you may not have considered, including and Google Hangouts. is an amazingly simple app that lets you video chat with up to 8 people at a time (12 with the paid version). People don’t have to register or download anything. And you can even screenshare.

For bigger teams, Google Hangouts beats Skype, since it allows you to video conference with up to 100 people at the same time! And of course it integrates with Gmail.

One more handy collaboration tool: wayfinding apps

In a large corporate facility, the sheer size and complexity of the place can be a hindrance to collaboration all by itself. Finding appropriate meeting spaces, and finding colleagues to collaborate with, is a big time-waster.

In an agile environment with smart utilization tracking technology in place, you can implement another smart collaboration tool: wayfinding systems. These online collaboration tools are powered by real-time utilization data, so your workforce can easily find an available room or where a colleague is located. Best of all? They can do so in seconds using a mobile app. Talk about a better employee experience!

To see how it works, watch this wayfinding video demo.

Download creating an activity based working strategy today.


Workplace Technology for Improving Employee Experience

Have you been conducting research to learn more about satisfaction levels among your workforce, like employee surveys, for example? If so, then you’re like many large corporations that are beginning to understand the benefits of happy, enabled employees:

  • Higher levels of engagement, leading to increased productivity and innovation
  • Improved employee retention levels
  • Employees act as evangelists for attracting top talent

If the results of those satisfaction surveys are not as positive as you’d like, it’s time to learn about steps you can take for improving employee experience using workplace technology.

Satisfaction isn’t enough: your goal should be improving employee experience

If your goal is to increase satisfaction levels among your employees, you may not be not going far enough to achieve the results you’re after. “Satisfaction” is really only about meeting your employees’ current expectations. Even when people get what they expect, don’t forget that expectations may be low. Meeting expectations is not necessarily enough to get them to perform in extraordinary ways. It might be barely enough to maintain the status quo.

Instead, shoot for the following goals related to improving employee experience:

Generate positive emotions. Create workplace experiences that help employees feel valued, build team camaraderie and cohesion, and show workers how their efforts contribute to company success.

Create delight throughout the workday.
 Moments of delight tend to be memorable, and color people’s attitudes and opinions long afterward. They don’t even have to be related to work!

Make things easy. Take steps to remove obstacles, time wasters and frustration that get in the way of work performance.
Read on for some ideas about how you can use workplace technology to impact all of these goals.


7 workplace technology ideas for improving employee experience

There’s a reason smartphones have revolutionized communication; they help to accomplish all 3 of the goals mentioned above. They make tasks quick & easy, create moments of delight and connect people to generate positive feelings. Workplace technology is well suited to helping you accomplish your employee experience goals. Here are 7 valuable ideas.

1. Intelligent wayfinding tools

What’s more frustrating than wasting time trying to find a space to work?

If your company has implemented agile workspaces with unassigned seating, how are your employees finding spaces to work? Desk booking systems can be frustrating, because people are forced to make their plans in advance. How often do your plans change from day to day and throughout the day? As a result, desks and conference rooms sit empty while others struggle to find what they need.

Instead, implement a wayfinding system with real-time intelligence that uses utilization tracking technology to sense which spaces are currently in use and which are available. Employees can simply take a moment to use a kiosk by the elevator, or open an app on their smartphone to find a work space in seconds. Even better: use the same technology to make it simple to find other people in the workplace, encouraging collaboration and teamwork.

Want to see how this workplace technology works? Watch this wayfinding video demo.

And, get this informative guide that explains the utilization technology you need to power modern wayfinding tools: Managing Workplace Utilization.


2. Connectivity everywhere

The idea of work/life balance is becoming a thing of the past: today it’s all about work/life integration. People want the flexibility and the ability to work when, where and how they need to. That means it’s up to you to enable that ability, by making it easy for people to connect with workplace technology from anywhere.

Remote connectivity is essential, but it’s just as important to make sure you have consistent, high-quality connectivity everywhere in your workplace. For example, don’t forget Wi-Fi on the grounds of your campus, in the cafeteria and even the gym.

3. Smart parking

At large corporate campuses, parking can be a frustrating problem for employees. They may waste as much as 20-30 minutes each day driving around a huge lot or garage looking for a parking spot. Talk about motivation to avoid coming into the office!

Instead, why not provide a moment of delight each day using workplace technology for smart parking? When people arrive, they are immediately directed to an empty parking spot. The “cool factor” is sure to win you major brownie points! Not to mention improving employee experience as they gain back time every morning.

4. Biometric security

While badge reader technology can be useful, it can also be a pain for employees to wear or carry around cards or tags everywhere they go. Biometric security is workplace technology that makes it easy for employees to move around throughout the day. Instead of swiping a card, you can use facial recognition, finger or handprint, iris recognition, or even voice recognition.

5. Automated café

Here’s another way to provide moments of delight for your employees every day: having their favorite drink ready and waiting at an automated office café. No more need to wait in long lines for their coffee, or even to make it themselves. Just pop in, grab and go. Talk about making it easy!

6. Meeting experience technology

There are a couple of different problems employees experience when it comes to workplace technology for meetings. First: things don’t always work as they expect, causing wasted time and frustration. Second, companies often make the mistake of providing meeting technology only in conference rooms. That practice flies in the face of the previous recommendation about providing connectivity everywhere.

Tackle the first issue head-on by committing to seamless and easy-to-use technology for meeting experiences, as well as fast support when needed. Doing so can go a long way to reducing stress in the workplace, enabling team communication, and improving employee experience.

Next, make meeting technology readily available for those impromptu brainstorming sessions or team status check-ins that may not take place in a meeting room. Mobile meeting technology is becoming a must-have for the collaborative office environment.

Learn more: Online Collaboration Tools for the Mobile Workforce

7. Personal temperature control apps

One of the biggest complaints people have about their workplace is the temperature! When they are constantly too hot or too cold, they are not only distracted and less productive, but they also feel a loss of control that makes them feel undervalued. The tough part of this issue is the time it takes facilities staff to field and respond to complaints about office temperature.

The good news is, you can implement workplace technology that makes it easy for every employee to share their office temperature experience using a mobile app. Even better, that app is tied to your building automation that can respond by adjusting HVAC systems. It’s an easy way for people to feel listened to, while taking workload off your FM team at the same time.

Implementing workplace technology can be one of the most successful strategies when it comes to improving employee experience.

Download your copy of Workplace Management Software Buyer’s Guide today.


3 Components of the High Performance Workplace

According to JLL’s Global Corporate Real Estate Survey, more than 75% of companies have high expectations for CRE to improve productivity in the workplace. That number increases to 85% for companies with more than 50,000 employees. As the global economy becomes more competitive, building a high performance workplace is becoming a higher priority.

In an effort to meet those expectations for effective workspace, CRE organizations are moving beyond reducing space and cost, and taking on initiatives to transform the workplace experience. Fueling that shift is mounting evidence that the quality of the workplace impacts a company’s ability to produce and innovate.

The questions many are asking are, what makes a high performance workplace? And how can it better support a productive and innovative workforce?

Performance, innovation and workplace design

Workplace design firm Gensler’s 2016 Workplace Survey of over 4000 workers found that the “top innovators” (as measured by their Innovation Index) have two things in common:

  1. They provide well-designed workplaces with diverse spaces for collaboration and for individual focus. They also had access to amenities such as cafeterias, outdoor spaces, gyms and child care facilities.
  2. Their workplace culture empowers employees to choose where and when to work based on their needs and the work they need to accomplish.

That’s why so many companies are choosing to invest in better quality workspace design, especially activity-based work environments (ABW). This type of high performance workplace design gives employees a major advantage: more choices about where and how they accomplish their work.

That choice drives not only better individual productivity, but also increases in collaboration and creative thinking that lead to innovation.

However, it’s important to realize that building the right environment is only half the job. Transforming a space to a high performance workplace means developing a company culture that truly embraces flexibility.

Recent global research by Vodafone found that 75% of companies worldwide have adopted flexible working policies, with extremely positive results:

  • 61% reported increased profits
  • 83% reported productivity improvements
  • 58% believed the organization’s reputation improved

3 components of the high performance workplace

Leesman is a global independent research firm that helps organizations understand how their employees work and how well their spaces support productivity. Their extensive research has identified 3 key components of the high performance workplace. Understanding these factors can help organizations to develop activity-based workplaces that work better for employees and produce better results for the company.

1. Activity complexity

When designing any workplace, it’s essential to understand the tasks or activities that employees will need to perform there. This is even more critical for activity-based workspaces. The dollars invested in the new fit out will pay off with a high performance workplace only if the mix of spaces meets the needs of workers.

The more variation in the types of activities performed in a workspace, the more benefit workers will get from having spaces specifically designed for the work they need to do. Understanding this can help CRE organizations prioritize areas for moving to activity-based working.

Here’s an example. An accounting department might have little variation in the work they do each day; most of it is individual focused work at a computer. This group may not gain as much from moving to an activity-based workplace. However, a marketing team with more varied daily activities, like team brainstorming sessions, remote conference calls, and individual focused work, will benefit much more.

Before designing a space for ABW, make sure you understand the level of activity complexity within the groups that will be using each neighborhood. What’s the easiest way to accomplish that? Ask them! Develop relationships with your business units that build their trust in you, and provide tools that make it easy for them to provide the data you need to develop a high performance workplace.

Learn more: CRE Team Structure: Why Relationship Management Is Key

2. Variety of settings for work

Once you understand the level of activity complexity for a team, you’re in the best position to support that complexity by providing the right variety of settings for work.

Depending on the needs of the team in each neighborhood, your high performance workplace might need to provide open plan seating for team work, comfortable lounges for brainstorming, a café for encouraging impromptu collaboration, as well as more private and quiet areas for focus work. But getting the balance right is important, especially when the ABW area is also agile, where there is no longer a seat assigned to each person.

How do you get the ratios correct for each neighborhood? By implementing utilization tracking technology along with modern workplace management software that allows you to see who is using each type of space and when. Armed with a precise understanding of how each team uses space, and tools like heatmaps that let you visualize that data, you can create a high performance workplace that enables each team to perform their best work.

Find out more about utilization tracking technology with this guide to: Managing Workplace Utilization.


3. Change management through culture

Simply building a new high performance workplace environment is not enough to get people to collaborate more, or change their work habits enough to impact performance. You can’t rely on any workspace design alone to do the job of changing an organization’s culture.

Your company’s policies must fully support flexibility, not as a privilege, but as an expected way of working. Then you must deliver change management before, during and after implementation of the new work environment to shift people’s mindsets and habits.

For example, managers must learn to measure performance by output rather than by hours sitting at a desk. And workers may need to be given clear “permission” to move around during the day and take advantage of spaces designed for their tasks. Only then will the new environment be used as designed, and become the high performance workplace you intended.

Learn more: 8 Tips to Encourage Collaboration in the Agile Workplace

Can traditional IWMS meet the requirements of the modern workplace? Find out today. 


The Psychology Behind Modern Office Design & Workforce Well-Being

People seek out environments (including work situations) that satisfy their basic human needs. That’s a principle behind research conducted by the Interdisciplinary Center for Healthy Workplaces at the University of California, Berkeley. So if your organization is committed to attracting and retaining talent, increasing collaboration and growing productivity, it pays to address employees’ psychological needs (as well as physical ones) in the workplace. That’s why companies are implementing modern office design and workplace strategy to improve overall workforce well-being and employee experience.

In this article, we’ll explain 7 psychological drivers (identified by the Healthy Workplaces Model) that influence workplace behavior, and provide examples of ways these needs can be addressed by modern office design and other workplace strategies.

7 Well-being needs to address with modern office design & workplace strategy

The following are 7 psychological needs that drive employee behavior and well-being in the workplace, with examples of how modern office design can meet those needs.


One reason employees are unhappy with the open office plan is lack of privacy. That’s because everyone wants privacy at some point during their workday, whether it’s to make a private phone call or to eliminate distraction and improve concentration. A modern office design that includes activity based work (ABW) spaces can address that need by providing quiet and private spaces for focus work, phone booths for private phone conversations, and small meeting rooms for small-group private talks.


According to recent research by CBRE, one of the things employees want most when it comes to their work environment is choice. That means more than flexible hours and the ability to work from home. It also means choice in their work environment. Surprisingly, it’s not only millennials that want and expect this flexibility: older generations are jumping on the bandwagon when it comes to expectations for modern office design. Activity-based work environments provide the flexibility workers want in choosing the type of space to work in based on what they need to accomplish.

Companies moving to these new strategies should be aware that they must also address the cultural shifts that are needed to support flexibility in the workplace. For example, managers need to clearly give employees permission to move around during the day, as well as model the desired behaviors themselves.



In an economic climate where rapidly accelerating change is a given, people need the comfort of being in control of their environment. When you’re implementing a modern office design with agile working for the first time, employees are probably worried about losing the predictability of their familiar desk and cubicle. That’s why it’s important to provide tools like wayfinding systems that give control and predictability back to the workforce. A kiosk or mobile app that helps them easily find the perfect space to work, locate a coworker, or find their way around an unfamiliar campus eases those concerns.

Watch this video to learn more about modern wayfinding tools: How Wayfinding Technology Can Shape Employee Experience.

To provide predictability for employees in an agile environment, you must be sure you create the right people-to-seat ratios and the right mix of spaces. There’s a science to that process as well, and it starts by implementing technology that helps you track how people are using space. Here’s a useful resource to help you sort through the utilization tracking technology options and figure out which ones you need to drive your modern office design: Managing Workplace Utilization.


All employees, regardless of their place within the organization, want to be treated equitably. That’s especially true of millennials who may feel stifled by a corporate hierarchy. Traditional workplaces emphasize the differences between workers, with the allocation of square footage and window offices indicating power and status. In a modern office design without assigned seating, status is no longer attached to workspace, which encourages more interaction between people at different levels.


Certainly workers expect physical comfort solutions in the modern office design, such as ergonomic furniture, good lighting and a properly functioning HVAC system. But features that improve emotional comfort and wellbeing are the strategies that are really attracting employees and enabling them to be productive and creative. Including green spaces, letting in natural light, and providing inspiring views are office design strategies that are making a big impact.


Connecting with others is a basic human need that is better met with modern office design than with traditional office settings. That’s because modern agile work spaces encourage not only interaction within small teams, but between people who otherwise might never have a chance to connect. When people sit in a different spot each day, or even move around several times a day when working on different types of tasks, they have opportunities to interact, learn from and share with more people.


Of course, everyone needs to be physically safe to be productive, but employees need to feel emotionally safe in their work environment as well. Modern office design features that promote strong teams also help employees to develop those feelings of safety. Agile working “neighborhoods” as well as spaces that encourage team interaction help to build strong and cohesive team relationships where workers feel comfortable sharing ideas, expressing opinions and offering feedback.

Why modern office design must address employee well-being

It’s important to understand exactly what companies and their employees stand to gain when workplaces are designed to meet the basic human needs of employees. It turns out, implementing modern office design strategies along with wellbeing initiatives are in everyone’s best interest.

What employees gain:

  • Better health due to modern office design that encourages movement and even promotes better sleep.
  • Lower stress with addition of green spaces, outdoor views, and more flexibility to use space to help accomplish tasks.
  • Increased job satisfaction when they have the ability to choose how, when and where and with whom they work.

What’s in it for corporations:

  • Winning the war for talent. According to CBRE, 71% of workers are willing to give up other benefits to get a well-designed workplace.
  • Increasing collaboration and innovation. Modern office design encourages interaction among and between teams with fewer walls and comfortable collaboration spaces. That interaction helps drive the innovation companies need to remain competitive in the knowledge economy.
  • Encouraging intergenerational mentoring. Cool, modern office design can attract mobile workers back into the office and get them working together. That means talented millennials gain the opportunity to learn from more experienced mentors.
  • Increasing productivity. When workers are physically and mentally healthy, absenteeism is reduced. And, modern office design better supports workers in accomplishing daily tasks, which also improves productivity.
  • Cutting property costs. Modern workplaces using an agile working strategy can accommodate more people with much less space, which can allow companies to reduce portfolio size and reduce CRE expenditure by millions year over year.

Learn more: Can Office Design Drive Workplace Productivity & Innovation?

Download Best Practices for the Modern Workplace today.


Smart Building Technology: HVAC & Sensors

This blog post shares strategies and advice for implementing smart HVAC technology from Michael Rosone, Vice President of Service Sales & Marketing for Arista Air Conditioning, New York City’s leading provider of HVACR services.

Why are companies investing in technology for smart buildings? The obvious draw is the significant cost reductions that can be achieved: on energy consumption, on operating expenses, and even on the cost of space itself. Yet there are other compelling reasons that smart HVAC, sensors and other smart buildings technology give companies a competitive edge:

  • Reduced operating expenses allow companies to invest more in revenue producing initiatives, such as development of products and services
  • Savings can be re-invested in workplace transformation programs that can help attract talent, improve collaboration, and drive new ideas and innovation
  • Greater control over building systems, as well as the intelligence needed to make better facilities management strategic decisions

BONUS: you can even use smart buildings technology to improve employee experience.

Download Now: Best Practices for the Modern Workplace Environment

Wondering where to start? Read on to learn about smart HVAC and space optimization technology designed to modernize your workplace while also cutting facilities expenses.

Why smart HVAC is so smart

Smart HVAC technology reduces energy costs, lessens the workload on facilities staff, and provides better comfort conditions for employees. But what exactly is smart HVAC and how does it work?

Like other types of smart building technology, smart HVAC uses sensors that integrate with your building automation system. These sensors collect data about the conditions throughout your building. Other specialized HVAC equipment provides the ability to fine-tune temperature, humidity, and air flow in various zones (based on data from the sensors) to optimize comfort while reducing energy consumption.

Here are some of the components:

Thermal sensors
Strategically-placed thermal sensors can detect the differences in conditions in each zone of your space. For example, a crowded conference room can get warm in a hurry, while an open office area with high ceilings can get chilly (since warm air rises and people are closer to the floor). A smart HVAC system uses that data to adjust to changing conditions throughout the day or week.

CO2 sensors
According to a recent study by Harvard School of Public Health, high CO2 levels in a building can have a direct negative impact on thinking and decision making. CO2 sensors can detect the levels of CO2 gas in a space, which can increase to undesirable levels as occupancy increases. When the threshold is reached, a smart HVAC system can increase levels of fresh air supplied to the space. This technology can have a significant impact on workforce wellbeing.

Occupancy sensors
Occupancy sensors are useful for office environments (like most) that don’t have uniform usage all the time. Increasingly mobile workers are leaving desks and conference rooms empty as much as 50 to 60 percent of the time. Meanwhile, you’re heating and cooling space for people who are not there.

Occupancy sensors detect the presence of people (typically by detecting motion) currently using individual spaces within an office. That data can be used to adjust temperatures based on real-time utilization, saving you money on energy consumption.

While your HVAC system consumes anywhere from 40 to 70 percent of your building’s energy usage, electricity for lighting is also a huge expense. That figure can be 25 percent or more. In addition to controlling a smart HVAC system, occupancy sensors also control lighting to further reduce lighting costs.

Light sensors
Today’s modern office spaces are being designed to let in more natural light. However, the variation in daylight from morning until evening, and from one part of the building to another, can wreak havoc on the operation of your HVAC system. As a result, sunny spaces wind up too hot while areas with less natural light can become too cold.

The answer? Sensors that detect ambient light in a space and adjust both your smart HVAC and your lighting accordingly.

Demand Controlled Ventilation (DCV)
This smart HVAC technology that lets you fine tune building conditions based on input from occupancy sensors. When utilization levels drop below design-based occupancy rates, this specialized ventilation equipment reduces your outdoor air intake which decreases energy usage.

Variable speed fans
Traditional HVAC fan motors run at only a single speed: full blast. Variable speed motors can adjust fan speeds to appropriate levels based on occupancy levels or current conditions. Variable frequency drive kits can also be installed to retrofit existing single-speed fans.

VRF systems
If you are renovating or building out a new, modern office space, VRF technology is the latest and greatest in heating and cooling comfort. Here are some of the reasons these new systems are becoming the smart HVAC choice for modern office spaces:

  • The efficient design means they use considerably less energy
  • Quiet operation is ideal for an office environment
  • The system is designed for zoned operation, resulting in consistent comfort with no hot or cold spots
  • Modern controls for easier operation by facilities staff

Here’s more about smart HVAC technology:
High Rise HVAC: New Technology Saves Space & Energy
The Ultimate Guide to NYC Light Commercial Air Conditioning

Smart buildings technology helps you make smart decisions about space

We probably don’t need to tell you that your office space is under-utilized. Take a walk around your building and the fact becomes obvious: half or more of your workspace sits empty at any given time.

So you’re not only wasting money heating and cooling a space that no one is using, you’re wasting a lot more money paying for that space. That’s what’s driving so many companies to move to “agile” work spaces with a non-assigned seating model.

These agile work environments are designed to provide the right number of work points based on actual utilization patterns. Instead of assigning each person to a cubicle or desk, each team is assigned to a “neighborhood” and people choose a spot to work each day. Or even better, move around throughout the day to task-specific spaces like meeting rooms, quiet desks for focus work, or collaboration spaces. That means no more wasted space: you can reduce the size of your office space, or avoid taking on additional space you don’t need.

What does all this have to do with smart buildings technology? Here’s the part you might not know: the same sensor technology that can power your smart HVAC and lighting systems can also be used to design and manage these cost-effective modern office spaces.

Occupancy sensors and other types of utilization tracking technology provide intelligence about how your space is actually being used in real time. That data helps you make the best possible use of your space, which can save millions.

Tracking utilization data allows companies to accurately pin-point which parts of their property portfolio are working for them, and address problem areas. For example, a recent study at one of our large financial clients found booked meeting rooms are only used 42% of the time. This smart buildings technology provides concrete, indisputable data to support decisions to consolidate footprint or move to modern agile work spaces that are significantly more efficient and provide a better employee experience.

Learn more about utilization tracking technology: Managing Workplace Utilization.

Don’t underestimate the value of employee experience

Another challenge facing modern business is attracting and retaining top talent, especially from the millennial generation. Younger workers are placing a high value on their workplace experience when choosing an employer: according to research by CBRE, 71% would give up other perks for a comfortable and well-designed workplace.

That’s another important reason (beyond the cost savings) why companies are choosing to invest in modern, agile office spaces. The dollars saved on space and FM costs can be reinvested in the workplace to provide a better experience for employees; with more daylight, comfortable furnishings, better food options, wellness programs and tools that enable employee efficiency.

Wayfinding systems are an example of smart buildings technology that improve employee experience while also increasing productivity and collaboration. Workers can stop at a kiosk or use a smartphone app to quickly find a space to work, locate a colleague, or find their way around an unfamiliar building.

You might be surprised to learn that wayfinding tools are powered by the same sensors and utilization tracking technology described above.

Learn more: Wayfinding Apps Help Employees Work Smarter & Faster

For smart corporations, there’s no question that investing in smart buildings technology, especially sensors and smart HVAC systems, is an important step toward reducing costs and optimizing the workplace.

Download your guide to managing workplace utilization today.


VIDEO: How Can Wayfinding Technology Shape Employee Experience?

Hi, I’m Alex Crane, Solutions Consultant with Serraview.

Today I’m here to talk to you about a question we get asked often by real estate professionals. That question is, where is Bob? Bob could be a co-worker, or even an office space.

To answer that question, we’re going to talk about how wayfinding technology can enhance the employee experience in any office space.

Let’s take a look.

Let’s say I’m traveling from New York to visit my organization’s office in Australia for the first time. I’m really excited to be teaming up with my colleague, Bob Dory, while I’m there. Wayfinding technology helps me answer that key question: “Where’s Bob?”

I can type Bob’s name in my Search tab, and when I tap the magnifying glass, the Serraview locator will search through all of my co-workers in the organization, as well as the meeting spaces.

There’s Bob! By tapping on his name, I can see exactly where Bob sits. I am also presented with Bob’s contact details, so I can give him a call or send him an email to make sure he’ll be in the office. Instantly I’m connected with someone on the other side of the world.

After I arrive, Bob and I want to have an impromptu brainstorming session with the whole team. We need a boardroom. Going back to our Search tab, Bob finds his favorite room is free. We can see where the boardroom is located on the floor; it’s got the whiteboard we need, and we can book it to use, right now.

But what if that office over in Australia is a flexible workplace? And what if Bob sits at a different desk every day? Whether I’m walking into the building for the first time, or I work there each day, flexible workplaces present new challenges.

The first is: Where is Bob today?

And the second is: Where can I sit?

Serraview uses network technology to track real-time utilization of office spaces. So I can find where Bob is sitting today, and book a desk right next to him.

The benefits brought to the workplace by wayfinding technology help to engage employees, bring corporate real estate into focus, and retain top talent.

More importantly, though, wayfinding technology provides a positive employee experience. People are more engaged, they’re more connected, and they’re happier for it.

Thanks for watching!

If you would like to ask Serraview a question, feel free to post it on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter using the hashtag: #AskSerraview.

Learn more about modern wayfinding technology and productivity from this related blog: Wayfinding Apps Help Employees Work Smarter & Faster


Wayfinding Apps Help Employees Work Smarter & Faster

Don’t you hate searching for things? Lost keys, sunglasses, that report you know was lying on your desk just a little while ago… Looking for something that should be easy to locate is not only incredibly frustrating, but it wastes a great deal of time in the workplace.

According to a McKinsey report, workers spend more than an hour and a half each day searching for information they need to do their jobs. Wayfinding apps help you take back some of that lost time while providing a better employee experience at the same time.

Wayfinding apps increase productivity

How much time do you think the average employee spends looking for co-workers in a large facility, or searching for a conference room or other space for a meeting? Now multiply that by tens of thousands of employees for a large corporation. The lost productivity figure can be staggering.

What if people could find co-workers and places in your corporate facilities in a few seconds, using a wayfinding app on their smartphone or tablet?

Just imagine the time that could be saved in each of these situations:

  • Finding a co-worker in an unfamiliar part of the building (a minute or less with wayfinding apps vs. 20 minutes of walking the floor)
  • Locating an open conference room for an impromptu team work session (a minute or less with wayfinding vs. half an hour searching the room booking calendar, then getting there and finding the room in use and having to start all over again!)
  • Finding a meeting room with the right technology such as video conferencing (a minute or less with wayfinding vs. 30 minutes searching a booked-solid calendar, then walking around to find that the room you want is open after all.
  • Navigating a different building or facility (find where you’re going in a minute with wayfinding apps on your phone or a kiosk, vs. time getting directions in advance or walking around lost on arrival!)

Having wayfinding apps for your employees is like having Google Maps just for your company’s workspaces. It makes it simple for everyone to find places and people throughout your facility.

Wayfinding tools enable agile working environments

Are you considering moving to a modern agile work environment, where assigned desks are replaced with task-oriented work spaces that workers choose each day?

These new types of workplaces can save millions in property costs while also promoting a collaborative culture within an organization. But they can create complications for employees if the right tools are not provided.

The last thing you want is for employees to have to waste time looking for the right workspace each day. Well-designed wayfinding apps allow workers to quickly find space based on the type of work they need to do, or to choose a space near people they need to work with. They might also choose to work in a particular area of the building due to comfort issues, such as proximity to amenities or a window. With the right tool, they can find the perfect space in seconds, right from their smartphone.

Implementing wayfinding apps can also be useful for reducing people’s anxiety about changing to a new style of working. Demonstrating these modern tools during the planning stages for a move to agile working is a way to increase comfort level, by showing how quick and easy it will be to find a space in the new environment.

Related article: What does the agile work environment look like?

Wayfinding apps: a secret weapon for CRE teams

Corporate real estate teams may have even more to gain from having modern wayfinding apps. These useful tools can provide the much-needed leverage to gain cooperation from business units about reporting their usage of space.

That’s because wayfinding apps are powered by data about your company’s space and up-to-the-minute data about how it’s being used. Property teams need the same data to handle space requests, manage moves, and work towards right-sizing the workplace to reduce real estate costs. However, getting business units to agree to provide or even validate data about their space usage can be a challenge.

Wayfinding apps can be an enticing carrot that motivates business units to comply with requests for data, since they gain a useful tool that uses the data they provide.

Features to look for in wayfinding apps

To get the most benefit from wayfinding apps, choose a reliable system with these essential features:

Ease of use. If it’s cumbersome or time-consuming to use, employees will be unhappy, putting your workplace transformation project at risk.

Multiple platforms. Don’t force people to use a wayfinding system that’s only available on their laptop. To be truly useful, wayfinding apps must be available on kiosks in convenient areas such as lobbies and elevator banks. Even better, give them access to the app on their mobile phones and tablets.

Powered by accurate data. Wayfinding apps are only as good as the data behind them. They must be powered by a workplace management system that tracks occupancy as well as near real-time utilization data from multiple sources such as badge readers, networks and sensor technology.

Learn more about the utilization tracking technology that powers wayfinding tools from this useful guide to Managing Workplace Utilization.


Why ABW is a Better Alternative to Open Office Design

Open office design plans that minimize private offices and eliminate walls and doors have been gaining traction since the idea was introduced in the mid-20th century. There’s a good reason why: the premise is that open office design floor plans tend to promote collaboration among workers, since the lack of barriers encourages more interaction.

Tech companies such as Facebook and Google are leading the movement to open office design, and the idea has become mainstream in Australia and the Netherlands: the Sydney Morning Herald reports that nine out of ten offices in Australia are open plan. In the US, open office design plans are used in about 70 percent of offices, according to the International Facility Management Association (IFMA).

At the same time, in recent years there has been a flurry of negative press about open office design, with critics now saying that it hinders productivity and worker attitudes.

Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of the open plan office, and an emerging idea that can combine the best features of open design and private work spaces.

Open Office Design: The Upside

Here are some of the touted benefits of the open office design plan:

Increased collaboration. Particularly for functions such as sales and marketing where interaction is beneficial, open plan environments do tend to encourage employees to work together more than private office environments.

Creative thinking and innovation. When workers are able to easily get input from others without having to schedule a meeting, it can lead to better ideas.

Lower build and fit-out cost. Without the need to build so many walls (or even purchase cubicles), the costs of constructing a space with an open office design can be as much as 20 percent lower.

Energy savings. Having an open plan workplace also may reduce heating, cooling and electricity expenses thanks to improved flow of air and light.

Reduced office equipment expenses since the open office design plan makes it easier to share printers, copiers and other office supplies.

Easier layout changes. Open plan offices can more easily accommodate increases in headcount, or rearrangements of groups due to changes in company structure.

The Challenges of Open Office Design

Here are a few of the reasons behind the criticism of the open plan office:

Noise and distractions make it more difficult for employees to focus on their work and conduct business. Decreases in productivity can result, especially for work that requires concentration or privacy, such as finance, accounting or human resources.

Lack of privacy. This becomes a concern with open office design spaces, because computer screens are easily visible to those passing by. It’s also difficult to have a sensitive telephone conversations without being overheard. There is also the possibility of ethics issues arising from confidentiality issues, particularly for legal or HR staff. Plus, workers just don’t like feeling watched.

Implied lower status is another common complaint, especially from senior workers who felt they had earned their private office. The resulting worker dissatisfaction can also lower productivity and job performance.

The best of both worlds: Activity-based working (ABW)

Office design trends in some regions and industries (especially in Australia and the tech industry) are moving in a new direction: Activity-Based Working (ABW) environments, which provide a combination of open office design spaces with other task-oriented, private spaces. Especially when an ABW office design is combined with a non-assigned seating model (also known as “agile” or “flexible” working), many of the problems associated with open plan are eliminated.

In an agile office setting, workers don’t have an assigned desk, but instead choose where they want to work each day. Not only do agile environments greatly reduce real estate costs by maximizing space utilization and reducing footprint, but employees get to choose the space that’s best suited to their work.

That’s where the ABW plan is most beneficial. Someone who needs to make confidential phone calls can choose a private “phone booth.” A team brainstorming session can take place in a comfortable lounge that encourages creative thinking. Someone writing a legal brief can choose a small quiet space for thinking and concentration.

Harvard Business Review article supports this idea. According to the authors, “Our studies show that the most successful work environments provide a range of spaces—an ecosystem—that allow people to choose where and how they get their jobs done.”

Related article: What Does the Agile Work Environment Look Like?

The use of mobile office furniture is another useful design trend (especially in an ABW environment) that mitigates the problems of the open office design plan. Instead of traditional desks, moveable furniture can be rearranged to accommodate different activities. It can also be quickly and easily rearranged to meet a business need such as increased headcount or a business unit reorganization.

ANZ is a company that has reaped enormous benefits from adopting modern activity-based work spaces, to the tune of $33M in additional revenue and avoided costs. The company has implemented what they term a ‘Playbox’ of 14 different workspace designs and flexible furniture products to match the way people work.

Not only did ANZ reduce build costs by 30%, the move increased team engagement and even improved work performance. Decision making speed went from 4 days to 4 hours, and a new banking app was completed 6 months ahead of schedule.

Read more about ANZ’s successful ABW program: Bank offers flexible work pick’n’mix.

The company will also be presenting a case study about their ABW program at CoreNet Global in October.

Technology helps drive the right workplace design

So how does a company go about designing the right environment for their workers and their bottom line? The planning process starts with workplace management technology that can help you understand how your current space is being utilized.

That means gathering data about each building, floor, conference room and desk, and tracking who is using what. It also means implementing space utilization tracking technology, such as sensors and network tracking, to determine exactly when and how often spaces are used. That data can help determine the right mix of spaces and ratio of people to desks.

You can read more about the process in this article: 10 Steps That Drive Better Space Efficiency in the Workplace.

Insight from data-driven technology can help design workplaces that meet everyone’s needs. What’s more, that data can also power wayfinding tools that help employees find spaces and find people in an agile working environment.

Here are a couple of helpful resources that help you understand how to evaluate workplace management and utilization measurement technology:

5 Critical Comparison Points for Workplace Management Software
Managing Workplace Utilization