10 Factors to Consider Before Implementing Activity-Based Working

This is a guest post written by Workplace Change Management Consultant Robert Garrett.

Why everyone’s talking about activity-based working

In recent years there’s been a lot of talk about activity-based working (ABW). Many organisations have discovered that the world has moved on from the boss in the corner office keeping an eye on the workers all seated in neat rows of desks busily working away. So what’s behind this shift?

Firstly, the type of work we do is rapidly changing. Computers now take care of a wide range of routine tasks, freeing up workers for more value-add, idea generation, and problem-solving type activities.

Secondly, the expectations of people entering the workforce for the first time has also changed. Throughout their time at school and university, the type of space they use has always been determined by the task or activity being undertaken. At school they went to the laboratory for science, the music room for music, the field or the gym for sports, and so on.

At university the element of choice was introduced with students having the freedom to choose whether to do small group work in the library, the café, or in the garden under a tree. Having only ever known this relationship between activity and space, the idea of joining a traditional workplace where every task must conform to an owned desk or a formal meeting room is completely foreign. Moving forward, organisations that don’t embrace 21st century ways of working, such as activity-based working, will increasingly find it difficult to attract (and retain) talented people.

However, the shift to activity-based working is not for the faint hearted. It is probably the biggest change to the way that people work since the Industrial Revolution because it decouples the relationship between individuals and an assigned or individually ‘owned’ desk.

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

10 things you need to consider before making the move to ABW

Before embarking on a journey to activity-based working, there are a number of key factors that should be carefully considered:

1. Implement for the right reasons
Just because lots of organisations are implementing activity-based working doesn’t mean it’s right for yours. ABW can encourage better collaboration across your business, and it provides flexibility to quickly respond to opportunities and changing needs as they arise. For example, if a new business opportunity presents itself, it’s easy to pull together a team from different parts of the organisation to work on the project when everyone is set up for working in a mobile way.

From a diversity perspective, activity-based working acknowledges we’re all different. One person requires isolation to put together a presentation whereas another needs a busy setting with visual and auditory stimulation to do the same task. Activity-based working treats people as adults and lets them choose where and how they do their best work. On the flip side, if you’re just looking to reduce your lease costs, any savings will quickly be forgotten if you damage your employee value proposition (EVP) in the process. Don’t ignore the most critical people component of the transition.

2. Ensure the C-Suite is fully on board
As the biggest change to the way people work in over a century, it’s going to require strong support and advocacy from your senior exec team. Having them lead by example, becoming visible early adopters of activity-based working, will shut down a multitude of self-important arguments that will invariably surface.

3. Equally respect the three pillars
Ensure there is equal focus on the people, technology and spatial elements of the change. There’s no point providing people with a suite of great collaboration and concentration spaces if (a) they don’t have mobility enabling technology to go and use them, and (b) their leader still equates ‘work’ with sitting at a desk.

4. There is no ‘one size fits all’ model
There are a wide variety of activity-based working models around. Explore the various options and then settle on (or indeed create) the model that best suits your organisation.

5. Invest in change management
You can have the latest and greatest technology and a beautifully designed workspace, but if your people haven’t bought in to why the organisation is changing and if they can’t see the benefits i.e. ‘what’s in it for me?’ then the shift to activity-based working will be a failure.

An effective change management program is more than a communications plan. An effective change management program will take the organisation on a journey – it will involve and engage with people through a variety of mediums and at every level of the organisation so that everyone knows what’s changing, why the organisation has chosen this strategy, what the future looks like, how we’re going to get there, and the opportunities for individuals to be involved.

6. Try before you ‘buy’
Setting up a working pilot space is a very effective change tool as it enables you to trial new technology, spaces and behaviours before committing the organisation to such a huge change. Not only will you learn a great deal from the pilot that will help tailor your chosen activity-based working model, but a pilot also provides a tangible mechanism for engaging with your employees about their future ways of working. On a change of this magnitude, this hands-on approach is far more effective than a program based only on emails and PowerPoint presentations.

7. Don’t lose your conviction
It’s inevitable that some of your people won’t be excited by the change. Learn from these people, but don’t allow small vocal minority groups to determine the agenda. After a large, highly successful activity-based working transition, one middle level manager made the observation of a handful of naysayers, “You could give everyone a bag of gold and some people would still complain that it’s too heavy.”

8. Commit culturally
For activity-based working to be successful it needs to quickly become part of ‘the way things are done around here’. A good change management plan will look for ways to embed and promote new behaviours through a broad range of channels and initiatives.

9. Get rid of paper
Few people are completely paperless, however it’s almost impossible to work in a mobile way if you’re weighed down with lots of paper. Systematically address the processes and systems within your organisation that create paper. It’s unavoidable – activity-based working requires a significant investment in electronic records management.

10. Recruit for cultural fit
Activity-based working requires a different style of leadership, one that is based on trust and is primarily focused on the delivery of outcomes. If the organisation doesn’t recruit new leaders with these skills, it could see the investment in activity-based working quickly unravel.

Related article: 10 Keys to Success With the Agile Work Environment

Download a guide to measuring workplace utilization.


Activity Based Working: How It Can Work for the Public Sector

With all the buzz about activity based working environments these days, property teams worldwide are starting to sit up and take notice. That’s especially true in Australia and New Zealand, where some of the largest organisations, such as NAB, ANZ, Commmonwealth Bank, and Westpac are leading the way in creating modern spaces with non-assigned seating.

These workplaces of the future are not only driving down the cost of real estate for these large firms, but helping to attract top talent and to create a culture of collaboration and innovation.

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

Large corporations are not the only forward-thinking organisations making the move to activity based working. Several Australian government departments have already implemented flexible work environments. You can read more about them in these articles:

Office for Digital Government: Activity Based Working and Adaptive Workspaces
Department of Human Services: Government agency jumps on activity-based bandwagon
Defence pilots activity based working

While we can’t name names, we also know of more Australian government departments currently exploring the option, with pilot programs in the works.

Here’s why exploring a move to activity based working is smart for the public sector.

Why activity based working is a win for government departments

It’s true that government agencies do face certain challenges in making the move to activity based working, above and beyond the ones faced by private enterprise, such as overcoming employee anxiety and resistance to change. For government departments, older buildings and lack of budget to refurbish can also hinder plans to change to an activity based working environment. In addition, government departments face restrictions from Enterprise Bargaining Agreements and mandated business practices.

Related article: Top 3 Challenges of Moving to an Agile Working Environment

However, the benefits to be gained from activity based working are so compelling that some government pioneers are pushing the envelope in spite of these challenges. Here’s why:

Huge cost savings.
Real estate represents one of the highest costs faced by organisations, second only to the cost of labour. Most property teams are facing pressure to reduce the cost of workspace, but Australian government departments face an even greater challenge. They are mandated by law to reduce costs every year, in the form of the yearly efficiency dividend.

Since activity based working allows organisations to accommodate more people in fewer square meters, it’s an attractive option for helping to meet occupational density and vacancy targets, as well as reducing overall real estate spend without any reduction in headcount.

According to a report by global property services firm JLL, Australian government agencies can reduce their property footprint by as much as 40 percent by adopting activity based working environments.

Workplace productivity.
While many organisations initially face objections to activity based working, once they demonstrate the benefits for workers and ease their anxieties, these modern environments help workers to be more engaged and productive.

After all, in exchange for the desk they lose, employees stand to gain spaces that are better suited for the work they are doing, more collaborative spaces where they can connect with co-workers, and fun features like employee lounges, kitchens are areas for relaxation. It’s a proven fact: happy workers produce better results.

With constant pressure to reduce cost and meet the challenges of changing government initiatives, the public sector must be constantly looking for ways to improve. When you need ideas and innovation, fostering a collaborative culture within your organization is a good place to start. When teams have spaces that encourage them to work together, as activity based working spaces do, there’s a significant increase in creative thinking.

More agility.
There’s a reason activity based working is sometimes referred to as “agile working.” These environments are more conducive to changing business conditions and implementing new initiatives quickly. These are challenges that government agencies face regularly. Whenever a new regime takes over with new priorities and new laws are enacted, public sector departments need to be able to turn on a dime. Agile spaces can more easily accommodate fluctuations in numbers of workers and reorganizations due to new plans.

Attracting and retaining talent.
It’s no secret that there’s a shortage of skilled and talented workers in many industries and regions. Government agencies are competing for talent with private companies out there providing comfortable and even fun work environments. Millennials in particular are drawn to the cool new features found in activity based working environments.

Technology can ease the transition to activity based working

If you’re considering a move to activity based working, even if that move might be years down the road, now is the time to implement technology that can help you on the journey to right-sizing your office space.

Any plan to move to a non-assigned seating model must begin with understanding and taking control of your current utilisation of space. Workplace management software helps you build reliable data about your work space and how it is being used, stating with business unit allocation and down to the seat level. When you have this accurate information, you can use it to gain the trust of your business units, drive conversations about strategic changes, and even build a business case for a move to activity based working.

Technology also provides the data you’ll need to design and implement the activity based working environment that’s right for you. For example, to decide on people-to-seats ratios for each business unit, you must have a deep understanding of space utilisation, not just who sits where. That’s where utilisation tracking technologies come into play, such as RFID tags, badge swipes or speed gates, lighting and desk sensors and network capture tools. Besides giving you the data to make good decisions, the data from these technologies can also power wayfinding tools for employees to find work spaces and each other in the new environment.

To learn more about the different technologies for collecting utilisation data, take a look at this helpful resource: Measuring Workplace Utilization.


You Should Be Getting More ROI From Your Office Space Planning Tool

Evaluating office space planning tools can be a tricky business. Whether you’re looking at implementing a full-blown IWMS or a more modern cloud-based tool that’s focused on workplace management, there are many options to consider with a wide range of features. And a wide range of price tags. That makes it complicated when you’re trying to build your business case for the purchase.

Or you may be in an even trickier situation: trying to replace an office space planning tool or augment an IWMS that’s not meeting your needs or delivering the promised return. In that case, it can be even harder to get approval and you need to build every benefit you can into your business case. The good news is, today’s best-in-class office space planning tools provide cost-saving benefits that you may not have considered in your ROI calculations. It’s a matter of knowing which features provide the most ROI, and understanding how these features reduce costs so you can build those numbers into your business case.

Office space planning software features that maximize ROI

Quick implementation
Modern office space planning systems built on a SaaS model can be drastically faster to implement than a big, cumbersome IWMS. We’re talking a few months instead of years. If getting the most for your money and getting it fast is important to you, the cloud is the way to go.

Related article: 6 Ways Your IWMS Software Is Failing You

When it comes to speeding implementation, also look for a company that will do the integration with your internal systems. That minimizes the burden on your IT group, which can also reduce complexity and get you going much quicker.

Automated collection of occupancy data
Speaking of integrating with your systems, you want an office space planning tool that pulls employee and company structure data directly from your HR and Finance systems, then provides automation for collecting occupancy data. You’ll get the most cost-saving benefits from a system portal that allows business units to access, update and validate their own occupancy data.

Easy scenario planning
Technology for office space planning needs to be simple, intuitive and engaging. Otherwise, people just don’t use it and you won’t get the value you’re expecting from the tool. Look for a visual user interface that makes it quick and easy to complete tasks and get information. That’s especially important when your business space champions will be using it as well as the property team. Here’s one example: what if you could see a visual representation of a building and its floors, showing the business units and teams occupying each floor? And then create move scenario plans in minutes by dragging and dropping? That interface just saved you days of work.

Integration with multiple sources of utilization data
When your goal is to maximize space usage, you need to use every source of utilization information you have, such as data from badge swipes, sensors, wired and WiFi networks and more. Look for an office space planning tool that pulls in data intelligently from various utilization tracking technologies, allowing you to see how your space is used down to the day, hour or even minute.

Related article: What’s New In Smart Building Technology: Occupancy Sensors

Dashboards, analytics and business intelligence
Everyone has reports, but you need more than a bunch of canned spreadsheet reports to get the best return on your investment in an office space planning system. Visual dashboards and analytics let you drill down to see data at the level of detail you need. For example, get information sliced and diced by geography or by business unit, and even down to the team level. Even better: look for a custom report builder that lets you create the exact reports you want using your own terminology.

If you’re not getting these features with the tools you’re currently looking at, it may be worth rethinking your evaluation criteria. Here’s a resource that can help: 5 Critical Comparison Points for Workplace Management Software.

How these office space planning features impact your ROI

Occupancy savings
When 50 percent of your workpoints sit vacant on any given day, and each workpoint costs you $10,000 per year, it’s easy to see how optimizing your space can add up to massive savings. Focus on the features that help you get the data to reduce wasted space.

ROI Calculation 1

Time is money
How much money are you wasting when you have to wait a couple of years to reap the benefits of your office space planning tool? And remember that those benefits build year-upon year, so the longer you wait, the more money you waste.

Reduce audit costs
How much does it cost you to do manual audits for collecting occupancy data? Not only is it extremely time consuming (and therefore expensive) but the data you get is not accurate. Teams have been known to “game” the system by leaving coffee cups and other signs of life on vacant desks. Also, people move around more frequently than you can possibly keep up with. That means the information is out of date almost as soon as you’re done. In the end, nobody trusts the data and you just end up arguing over it.

The cost of collecting data is drastically reduced with the right office space planning tool, especially when you get a portal that lets you “crowd-source” your occupancy data from the people who know the space best (the business themselves) and you can pull in data automatically from utilization technology.

Reduce cost of relocations
The cost of manually collecting data for relocations is even higher, since there are so many more details to capture (and the stakes are even higher for getting it wrong). When your office space planning tool automates collection of this data, it not only reduces cost, but also speeds the process and provides for a smoother move experience for your employees.

Minimize asset leasing losses
There’s a fringe benefit to keeping all the equipment data that you collect to prepare for a relocation, including PCs, laptops, tablets, phones and more. Once that information is collected and stored in your office space planning database, you then know where all your key assets are located and who has what, helping you keep your asset leasing and write-off costs under control.

Productivity is a benefit that keeps on giving
When your property team no longer needs to spend so much time collecting and manipulating data, they can use some of that reclaimed time to plan new scenarios that improve space utilization. What could you accomplish if your planning time dropped by 90% to 95%? If you could create a half dozen alternative plans in a few hours? Imagine how much could you save by preventing unplanned leases, and even subleasing space you no longer need.

Reduce dependency on business continuity cold sites
Instead of maintaining expensive, vacant cold sites for disaster recovery purposes, the right office space planning tool can identify where there is existing vacancy within your portfolio that would meet your DR needs.

The most efficient building is the one you no longer need
The most effective way to reduce energy costs and environmental impact is by reducing your real estate footprint.

Energy Savings 1

Looking above and beyond ROI

All that being said, don’t forget to consider the benefits of a modern office space planning tool that are harder to quantify (for your own sake and for your employees’ if not for the business case).

Co-location productivity benefits
With an office space planning tool that makes it easy to do scenario planning, you can quickly visualize where your lines of business are located, and collocate them together to take advantage of business synergies.

Making your job easier and making you look good!
Have you imagined how your career prospects (and even your life!) could change with the right office space planning tool? You can impress your superiors by providing them with professional quality reports, and by pro-actively modeling scenarios that save the company millions. Best of all? You get out from under a pile of spreadsheets and accomplish more in far less time.

Want some help working out your ROI numbers? Call Serraview and we can walk you through our ROI calculator that can help pull it all together.

Download 5 Critical Comparison Points for Workplace Management Software.


8 Tips for Optimizing Churn Management

What’s more anxiety-provoking than living through a move? If you work in corporate real estate planning relocations, you know the answer: workplace churn management.

When you’re involved in churn management on a daily basis, it can take its toll on your nerves, not to mention your reputation and prospects for growing in your career. There are so many details to manage and so much that can go wrong. Most of your company’s employees have probably lived through a relocation in the past, so they know all too well what can happen: delays, inconvenience, interruption in their work, and even lost possessions. That’s why people dread moving and business teams are not often on your side when you let them know that you’re planning to move them to a new floor or even to a new building.

The good news is, there are proven strategies to minimize problems with moves and optimize your churn management process, making employees happier with the move and increasing their trust in you and your team.

8 Tips for Improving Your Churn Management Results

Here are some tips for improving your churn management and making relocations happen faster, smoother and with less anxiety.

CHURN MANAGEMENT TIP #1: Start With Accurate Data

Have you ever accidentally tried to move a team into a space already occupied by another group? That’s what happens when you don’t have accurate occupancy data before you create your relocation plan. Or when you fail to keep it updated throughout the churn management process.

It’s essential that you know who sits where, what space your business units are currently assigned to, which groups need to sit near each other, and how much vacancy actually exists. Collecting this data manually will always be a flawed process, since it’s so time consuming that the information is outdated even before you finish collecting it. If you’re planning a major move, invest in a space planning tool that allows business units to own and validate their own occupancy data.

Related article: Using Business Intelligence Analytics to Drive Better CRE Decisions

CHURN MANAGEMENT TIP #2: Align Moves With Business Objectives

This churn management tip is the secret to getting business units on your side. Engage them in the process early and often. Ask them about their business objectives and plans: you’ll want to know if they are planning a major restructure or significant addition or reduction in staff. And work with them to schedule the move around any critical projects or deadlines they are facing. Assign client relationship managers from your team to work with business unit stakeholders to make sure everyone’s needs are met.

When you’re having these conversations with business stakeholders, use your data to take emotion out of the equation. When you can convincingly show how much vacancy actually exists, the LOB’s real space requirements, and how much the company stands to save with your plan, you’ll have a much easier time getting everyone on board.

Also, don’t forget to sell your business units on why the move is good for them: better facilities, amenities, locations, and opportunities to consolidate the team or sit near a team they work with closely. And how about the chance to reduce their chargeback cost if you are consolidating space?

CHURN MANAGEMENT TIP #3: Automate Communication To Ease Anxiety

Getting business stakeholders on your side is challenging enough, but to win over those 500 people who have to move to a new desk or a new building, you need to think bigger. The way to do that is with regular, helpful communication.

People have had bad experiences with moves, so to gain their trust you’ll need to set the expectation that this time will be different. Create a communication plan that details what everyone involved needs to know, and when. Then set up email templates that let different groups know what’s happening every step of the way, what to expect and who to contact with questions and concerns before the move and on Day 1. Make all that communication easier for you by choosing a tool that helps you automate sending emails to different teams.

CHURN MANAGEMENT TIP #4: Tackle Large Moves in Phases

Unless you want a nightmare on your hands, you can’t shut down 5,000 people at once. For a very large move, break the move into phases over a period of days or over several weekends.

Before taking on a significant move project like this, it’s essential to have the right space planning tool in place. When you have easy access to accurate data and up-to-date floor plans, you’ll be able to visualize the change at every stage of your move to assess the status and make any needed adjustments to the next phase of your churn management plan.

CHURN MANAGEMENT TIP #5: Freeze Small Moves Before the Big Move

It’s enormously helpful to draw a line in the sand after which you won’t implement any more churn in advance of the big move. This gives you a better chance of having all your data accurate on move day. However, it may be unrealistic to expect NO changes in that timeframe, so keep your ear to the ground and make sure any changes that DO happen are documented and your data updated.

CHURN MANAGEMENT TIP #6: Create a Detailed Logistics Plan

As far in advance as possible, create a detailed move schedule showing dependencies and sequence of move activities. Make sure everyone involved knows important milestones, such as:

  • Move-freeze date
  • When packing will be complete

Churn management happens more smoothly when everyone understands the entire picture and can plan their tasks according to the move schedule.

Using the right relocation planning tool can take much of the work out of creating & updating these detailed plans, and can even provide detailed floor plans for reference by both internal teams and outsourced service providers.

CHURN MANAGEMENT TIP #7: Early IT Involvement

Enlist the support of your IT group on the move planning team from the beginning to avoid expensive problems on move day. Make sure they are ready to manage changes to mainframe printers, telephony, call routing and diversions, system availability, firewall burns and domain availability.

Hundreds of people without network access for even a day costs the company a great deal of money. Not to mention adding to their frustration and destroying their trust in your CRE team.

CHURN MANAGEMENT TIP #8: Plan for Move Day Support

Establish a Real Estate Operations Center (ROC) to handle issues on the day of the move, such as:

  • Logistical questions: How do I move my chair? What to do with carts and boxes?
  • Maintenance: Address any needed repairs that are discovered during and after the move
  • Facilities instructions: How to adjust desk heights or use the tech features in new conference rooms
  • Location: Provide site tours as well as information about nearby amenities such as ATMs and shopping
  • IT issues: Including network access, printers and phones

If you are moving to a new free-address workspace, even more support will be required for employees who are expected to change the way they work every day. Plan training sessions that explain how to use each of the new spaces, as well as wayfinding tools for locating people and work spaces.

The Right Automated Tools Are Essential for Optimizing Churn Management

Workplace management software tools can save you time and headaches in your churn management process. They help you collect and validate your data, engage your business teams, visualize your current block and stack and available space, create relocation scenarios, provide dashboards and reports, and can even provide room availability and wayfinding features for agile work environments.

Yet with such a wide range of features and functionality in different systems, it can be difficult to compare apples to apples.

Here’s a resource that can help you hone in on the essential features that make the difference between a successful implementation and an expensive mistake: 5 Critical Comparison Points for Workplace Management Software.


Workplace Space Utilization Metrics You Need to Know About

Efficient space utilization is critical as today’s workforce is increasingly mobile and working from home or from wherever they need to be. Yet with fewer and fewer people in the office, the costs of corporate real estate are still mounting. Walking through most office buildings, it’s easy to see how much space is wasted: about 3 out of every 5 desks sit empty at any given time.

It’s not surprising that in most companies, the pressure is on to improve space utilization and reduce corporate real estate expenses. But before you can begin optimizing your workplace, you need to fully understand your current utilization. That’s where space utilization metrics can be so useful… or not. If you’re tracking the wrong data, it can’t help you make the best possible use of your space. Or worse, the wrong data can cause you to focus on the wrong areas and away from the low-hanging fruit. The right space utilization metrics can not only drive down the cost of real estate, but even help you drive innovation throughout your company.

Are You Still Using Old Space Utilization Metrics?

In the old days, tracking space utilization metrics meant tracking how much you spent on space: cost per square foot. Unfortunately, this information is not all that useful, since the only thing you can do to improve it is look for cheaper space. That may not be an option for many reasons: less expensive space may not be available where you need to be, you may be in long-term leases, or the cost of relocating may negate the space cost savings.

Another outdated way of approaching space utilization metrics is to track density, or square feet per desk. Once again, there is only one thing you can do with this information: squeeze more desks into your existing space. That means changing fit-outs to use smaller cubicles, smaller offices, and smaller shared spaces such as conference rooms. This approach adds the cost of retrofitting, but doesn’t address the basic problem: people are not using those desks all day, every day anymore. It may even compound the problem since those claustrophobic spaces may encourage more people to work remotely. Even worse, to fit in more cubicles you may need to lose shared spaces that increase employee collaboration and drive innovation.

When you focus on cost per square foot or density for space utilization metrics, you’re missing out on much more effective ways of driving down workplace costs.

The New Space Utilization Metrics

Modern companies have moved to tracking cost per person as a more useful option for space utilization metrics. Measuring the cost of space per person as your key metric provides the necessary data to actually optimize the usage of the space you have, rather than merely swapping out for cheaper space or cramming in more desks.

Taking this approach to space utilization metrics gives you the information you need to move from the old assigned-seating model to an agile work environment. That means transitioning from dedicated workstations for each employee to shared spaces that workers use as needed, which allows you to get rid of wasted space and cut your cost per person nearly in half. What’s more, since you don’t need to cram in so many desks, the agile work environment can be a much more enjoyable and productive environment for your employees.

Related articles:
What Does the Agile Work Environment Look Like?
10 Keys to Success with the Agile Work Environment

More space utilization metrics that drive down cost per person

Within the agile work environment, you’ll want to track these additional space utilization metrics to further improve your cost per person:

Daily Peak Utilization by Space. This metric tracks the maximum number of people coming into a particular space on any given day.

Daily Peak Utilization by Business Unit. This metric tracks the maximum number of people from a specific business unit entering a space on a given day.

Average Peak Utilization. The average peak usage of a space over a specified period of time. This number can tell you if you have enough seats in the space to meet your average demand, especially if you plan for two standard deviations above your average.

Frequency of Peaks. This number tells you how many times you reach your peak utilization over a period of one month. You might find that you reach peak only on days when certain meetings are taking place, but the rest of the month the space is nearly empty. Knowing these space metrics can drive adjustments to assigned ratios and/or alternate plans for peak utilization days.

Target Ratio Per Building or Group. This is the target you’re working toward for the number of people you can accommodate per seat, for a particular building or group. For example, you might have a KPI to accommodate 1.5 people for each seat.

Assigned Ratio Per Building or Group. This is ratio of people assigned to seats in a particular building or group. Many companies begin by assigning 12 people to 10 seats as a starting point when moving to an agile work environment.

Actual Ratio. This is the actual number of people using the seats. You might have only 5 people actually coming in to use 10 desks.

4 Benefits of an Agile Work Environment With Modern Space Utilization Metrics

Moving to an agile work environment and adopting better space utilization metrics is all about making your buildings work better for you and for your employees.

1. More efficient use of space

When you track the more useful space utilization metrics described above to truly understand your space requirements by building and by line of business, you can design an agile work environment that allows your workplace to become more fully utilized. When you take a walk through the building, you will no longer find a sea of empty desks.

2. Virtually eliminate move costs

In a traditional assigned seating model, as much as 14 percent of your real estate budget is spent on moving people around. When every person is attached to a desk they barely use, a great deal of money is spent unnecessarily to accommodate business requests for more space every time they increase head count. In an agile work environment managed with the right space utilization metrics, these costs are greatly reduced, since people can largely move themselves.

3. Encourage collaboration and innovation

The agile work environment will often have activity-based working spaces that are designed for the type of work an employee needs to do on a given day. For example:

  • open and comfortable areas for group work sessions
  • small conference rooms for team meetings
  • video conference rooms for meetings with people from different regions
  • isolated quiet areas
  • “phone booths” for people making calls

These spaces boost efficiency and productivity since employees can choose the space the need depending on the task they need to complete. People can also choose where to work based on the people or teams they need nearby. These features increase interaction and collaboration, and foster creative thinking and innovation.

4. Attract and retain talent

In many industries and regions of the world, corporations are struggling to attract top talent and retain the employees they need to be competitive. Offering the modern and comfortable features of an agile work environment (managed by the right space utilization metrics) can be a valuable perk that leads top candidates to choose to work for you.

Gaining the benefits of an agile work environment depends on your ability to track the right space utilization metrics.

To learn more about the technology you need to get started, get your copy of this helpful guide to Measuring Workplace Utilization.


10 Steps That Drive Better Space Efficiency in the Workplace

You know your work spaces are not used efficiently. Many desks sit empty, conference rooms designed for 10 are mostly used by groups of 3 or 4, and meeting spaces with expensive video conferencing equipment are being used for traditional face-to-face work sessions. With so much waste combined with pressure to reduce property costs, many workplace teams are looking for strategies to take control of space efficiency in the workplace and make the best use of space.

You have probably heard about workplace management tools that can help you improve efficiency in the workplace. Yet implementing these sophisticated new technologies might seem overwhelming if your workplace team is currently managing things with manual audits and spreadsheets. The good news is, you don’t have to sprint out of the gate and you don’t have to do everything all at once.

10 Steps to Space Optimization and Efficiency in the Workplace

We all know “big bang” projects are hard to get right and often fail. By choosing a phased (or agile) approach, you are much more likely to succeed. You’ll see results faster, gain the confidence of your business, and also have the opportunity to get their feedback and bring everyone along for the ride.

Here are 10 steps that you can take on at a pace that’s comfortable and realistic for your organization. With each one, you’ll move closer to optimizing your space and achieving maximum efficiency in the workplace.

1. Start with the basics

Workplace data is the key enabler to driving efficiency in the workplace. That means the best place to start is by gathering the fundamental data you’ll need in order to improve the way you’re managing your workspace:

  • Current floor plans. Floor plans allow you to visualize your space, and provide the foundation for layering further information on top. Your floor plans should ideally be in AutoCAD format, be well polylined and clearly labeled.
  • Cost centers and organization hierarchy. With accurate information about your organization’s structure, you can relate workplace data back to each business unit. Normally this data will come from a finance system such as SAP, Oracle Financials or Workday.
  • Personnel data. To get the best understanding of workplace occupancy and efficiency in the workplace, you’ll need information about all company personnel, including both employees and contractors. This data comes from your HR database or Active Directory (which often also includes contractors too).

2. Overlay space allocations to support charge-back

Space allocations allow you to report on the demand for and usage of space by line of business. They also allow you to charge each business unit for the amount of space they’ve asked for, providing them with a financial incentive to work with you to optimize their own space usage. Charge-back is one of the strongest levers you’ll have to motivate your business units to do the right thing and work towards space efficiency in the workplace.

Even if you don’t have support to deploy a charge-back model within your organization, simply reporting on the cost of space by business unit (a notional chargeback) can often be enough to encourage the right behavior.

3. Deploy a business unit portal to engage your teams

To drive efficiency in the workplace, first you’ll need to convince your business units that change is not only possible, but desirable for them as well as for you. To convince them, you’ll need to gain their trust. How? By providing transparency to your data. When you implement a business unit portal that allow business units to access their own workplace data, there are benefits for both sides:

  • Key business unit representatives have a quick and easy way to visualize the space they have and check who is sitting where
  • Teams can easily provide updates when their space utilization changes
  • Business units can also provide workplace teams with information about their future plans and anticipated demand for space

4. Foster a community of space champions

Once you have a business unit portal in place, the next step to efficiency in the workplace is to find, engage and train space champions throughout your business. Start with your executive and personal assistants, who typically have responsibilities for managing space on behalf of their teams.

You’ll probably find that they have their own ad-hoc spreadsheets and floor plans to keep track of their area and personnel. If so, they will love the business unit portal, because you’re now giving them a system that’s tied into your database and enterprise systems. Easy access to accurate information makes their job easier and allows them to produce professional-looking reports.

Your space champions will also be able to self-service and improve their own efficiency in the workplace: see how much space they have, work out when they need to request more space, and have confidence that real estate will be able to support their growth plans when needed.

5. Get support from the top for driving efficiency in the workplace

Your CFO community is in the best position to drive your business units to get on board with your space management and optimization program. So how do you get the CFO community not only on your side but motivated to drive your initiatives for efficiency in the workplace? Start providing them with monthly reports on space utilization that show how much money is being wasted on space that’s not used. Given the cost of real estate, those numbers never fail to make an impression. Make it clear that every dollar you save goes directly to the company’s profit, and before you know it you’ll have a much easier time getting your processes implemented.

6. Implement a formal space validation process

Your reports and analysis is only as good as the data that goes into them. A formal space validation program, where your space champions confirm their occupancy information on a monthly basis, will give you (and those who read your reports) the confidence that your data is current and a reliable basis for driving efficiency in the workplace.

Validation also prevents arguments with your business units about data accuracy; they can’t deny the accuracy of your data when they gave it to you!

7. Use scenario planning to right-size and align business units

At this point, you’re ready to start using scenario planning tools to quickly see (and showcase) possibilities for improving efficiency in the workplace. With the right tool, you can quickly right-size your space allocations based on occupancy data, utilization data or even target occupancy ratios. At the same time, you can move groups around to take advantage of business synergies and adjacencies. With the latest user-friendly tools, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you can develop multiple plans to give your business units options and test different cost-scenarios.

8. Improve the experience and the cost of relocation

Improving the relocation process is another significant opportunity to increase efficiency in the workplace and ease employees’ anxiety about moving at the same time. You’re probably intimately familiar with the inefficiencies of the manual move process: multiple move champions collecting data in spreadsheets, collating all that data, and then throwing it all away once the move is done.

Can you imagine what happens to the time it takes to complete a move (not to mention the cost) when everyone can collect the required information in an online database?

  • No more 60-column spreadsheets to collate
  • Identify exceptions that could prohibit or delay moves and mitigate the problem in advance
  • Reuse the same data instead of collecting it again for every move
  • Quickly and easily communicate with those who are moving to keep them in the loop and provide helpful information

9. Drive Further Savings with Space Utilization Data

Now that you’ve developed the trust of your business units and shown you can deliver results, you’re in a position to drive towards an even higher level of efficiency in the workplace by overlaying space utilization data.

It’s time to explore implementing sensors and other utilization measurement technologies that capture actual usage of your workspace. That data helps you better understand how much space each business unit actually needs. Then you can use your scenario planning tools to showcase what-could-be, making it easier to get approval for changes that further improve space efficiency in the workplace.

To learn more about the different types of utilization measurement technologies and get advice about how to collect the right data for your needs, read our informative guide to Measuring Workplace Utilization.

10. Consider transitioning to free address space

At this stage, you’ve made many improvements to efficiency in the workplace. Yet there is still one outstanding issue. The increasing mobility of the workforce means few people sit at their desks all day anymore. They are traveling, working remotely, working with groups in a conference room. That means you still have a great deal of wasted desk space.

Further improving efficiency in the workplace means moving to an agile work environment, or free address space based on a non-assigned seating model. It means transitioning from dedicated workstations for each employee to shared spaces that workers use as needed. This model allows more people to share the same space without waste, reducing your overall footprint, and bringing down your real estate cost per employee.

Once you have completed the other steps in this plan to improve efficiency in the workplace, you’ll be in a great position to champion a move to agile working. With fact-based reporting to support your recommendations, you can take emotion out of the decision-making process. You’ll have the data you need to build the business case, and the trust of your management and lines of business, so you can convince them that the move is possible and achievable.

To learn more about the agile work environment, read these related posts:

The right workplace management software makes a world of difference in driving better space efficiency in the workplace.

If you’re evaluating tools for the first time, jump-start your research with this helpful guide: 5 Critical Comparison Points for Workplace Management Software.


What’s New in Smart Building Tech: Space Utilization Sensors

The corporate workplace is changing before our eyes. Gone are the days when every employee sat at their desk from 9:00am to 5:00pm. The workforce is increasingly mobile, and as a result, more and more office space sits unused every day.

With real estate being one of the top costs faced by employers, smart companies are turning to smart building technology to help them optimize the use of their workplaces.

Why Smart Building Technology is Essential for the Modern Workplace

When strategically planning for new spaces, ending leases, accommodating growth or consolidation as well as the never-ending requests for more space from business units, workplace teams must understand a vast array of information about their portfolio. That’s where smart building technology is essential: occupancy sensors are used to collect data about how space is actually being used in order to drive those tough decisions.

What’s more, forward thinking companies are no longer assuming that they need a desk for each worker, and are moving to free address work environments to consolidate space and provide a better employee experience. When moving to this new way of working, it’s critical to collect accurate data about how workspaces are utilized in order to plan the right amount of space assigned to each team or business unit. Occupancy sensors and other smart building technology help the workplace team to make fact-based decisions when looking at space requirements. Utilization data also drives wayfinding tools that employees need to locate colleagues and places to work in a free address environment.

Related article: What Does the Agile Work Environment Look Like

Smart Building Technology: Utilization Data Collection Sensors

Driven by the need for workplace utilization data, there are numerous smart building technology options on the market for collecting information about space usage. These are some of the most widely used types of occupancy sensors:

Lighting Sensors
Smart lighting is a popular smart building technology option because it helps reduce environmental impact and save money on power. The lights have motion sensors that detect occupancy and control the lights throughout the day. Often smart lighting solutions have a back end that can also collect utilization data.

Watch these videos to learn more about lighting sensors:

Space/Desk Sensors
Tracking utilization using occupancy sensors installed at each space (desk, room, breakout space, etc.) provides precise results at an anonymous level (without knowing who is using the space). A deeper understanding of how teams are working can be achieved by pairing the utilization data with allocation data.

Facial/People Recognition
Using specialized cameras that process images in real-time to count the number of people in a space (but do not record the images) it is possible to collect utilization information in certain cases. Some solutions can also do facial recognition to identify who is in the space, although these solutions often raise privacy and security concerns.

Low Energy Bluetooth (iBeacon)
Low energy Bluetooth solutions (such as iBeacon) use existing smart phone technology to provide much more accurate indoor positioning than traditional Wi-Fi. This smart building technology can capture utilization across a space and improve the reliability of location services information.

Making sense of these technologies and deciding what’s right for you can seem like an overwhelming task. To learn more about the pros and cons of different types of occupancy sensors as well as other smart building technology options for collecting utilization data, take a look at this helpful Guide to Measuring Workplace Utilization.

Occupancy Sensors: Important Features to Consider

When comparing different types and brands of occupancy sensors, look for these features to be sure you’ll be getting the most accurate and useful data for your requirements.

Wired vs. Wireless
Wireless occupancy sensors are easier and less expensive to install, not to mention easier to move around when you reconfigure your space. However, keep in mind that wireless sensors require batteries for power, which need to be checked and replaced periodically.

Watch this video to learn more about wireless sensors: Condeco Workspace Occupancy Sensor

Real Time Data
Some occupancy sensors report data continuously in real time, which is important for wayfinding tools that need current occupancy information to allow employees to find available space. Other sensors report data only periodically, which is fine for ongoing analysis and reporting.

It’s important to understand the level of precision that a sensor can report on. Can it count the number of people in a conference room? What is the diameter of the beam? How does it react to people walking by? In order to judge the accuracy of the data, you need to know the answers to these questions. To find out, you can ask vendors for details. In some cases, vendors will allow you to test the product to see how well it meets your precision requirements.

Communication with the cloud
How occupancy sensors communicates data is another critically important feature in smart building technology. If a sensor requires access to your network to communicate with the cloud, that can be a security concern. Wireless sensors that use an independent 4G connection are a better option, and can be rolled out faster without the need for installing cables or as much IT involvement.

In order to use data from the sensors to power a business intelligence or wayfinding application, the sensor system must provide an API for integration with third-party software tools.

Battery life
If you’re going wireless, consider the battery life since this can affect the cost to maintain the technology. Look for at least 2 years of battery life.

Physical features
Don’t overlook the size and placement of the sensor, since these factors can affect data integrity. Will they be installed on ceilings, walls, or under desks? Are the sensors noticeable and placed in awkward positions that make employees feel uncomfortable? Could the sensor be blocked, tampered with or accidentally damaged?

HVAC integration
Some cutting-edge occupancy sensors also monitor temperature and air quality, and integrate with HVAC and other building automation systems. These smart building technology options can help you cut operations costs as well as optimize space utilization.

Get the Most Benefit from Sensors with Software Integration

Here’s an important caveat to keep in mind: different types of sensors as well as other technologies used to collect workplace utilization data (such as badge swipe and RFID tags) all have their strengths and weaknesses. There is no one technology that will capture all the data you need to get a true picture of space utilization. That’s why most companies choose to implement a combination of smart building technology options.

So how can you make the best use of all the data captured by both sensors and other smart building technology options? It may seem overwhelming to think of pulling together all that data so that it’s useful to both employees and workplace teams. The way to overcome this hurdle is to implement a workplace management software system that integrates data from multiple sources and makes it fast and easy to access.

Wayfinding systems for employees

In a free address environment, companies are using workplace management software powered by real-time utilization data to help employees find workspace and find their colleagues. Just-in-time data is displayed via digital signage and kiosks that show floor plans with available desks highlighted. Employees also have the ability to search for a person to find their location, or for available conference rooms. In some systems, employees can even use a mobile app to find space.

These systems not only make employees more productive, but they also help overcome the objections raised by employees about being “watched” by sensors. When people understand how the data is being used and see how they personally benefit, those objections go away in a hurry.

Data analytics dashboards for workplace teams

For the workplace team, data analytics dashboards bring together all the data collected by smart building technology in a way that’s easy to access and analyze. Workplace teams can rely on this accurate information to drive decisions about moves, acquisitions and consolidations, as well as finding hidden vacancies where business units are holding onto desks that have not been used for months.

Here are some of the features to look for:

  • Views that show how utilization rates change over time: month to month, day to day, and even hour to hour
  • Ability to drill down by geography, including region, building, floor and even heat maps showing an area on a floor
  • Ability to relate the data to an allocation system to understand how various teams are using their space (or not)
  • A customizable dashboard that allows you to easily access the information that’s important to you

Just like navigating all the smart building technology options, evaluating workplace management software can be a challenge, since the systems on the market differ so much in scope, design and usability.

Here’s a resource that can help when you focus on the most important areas for comparison: 5 Critical Comparison Points for Workplace Management Software.


Condeco & Serraview Partner to Provide Smart Building Experience

Campbell, Calif. and New York, NY  – Condeco Software and Serraview, two global leaders in workplace management technology, today announced a partnership that will provide enterprise clients with the tools needed to optimize their space utilization, move towards agile working and support the productivity needs of their workforce in today’s modern working environments.

Serraview Kiosks showing Condeco Occupancy Data


The new integration feeds smart utilization data gathered by Condeco Sense wireless sensors in workstations and conference rooms into Serraview’s cloud-based workplace management platform. Serraview’s touch screen kiosks, most often installed in elevator lobbies, display floor plans with this utilization data thereby allowing building occupants and visitors to find a free desk or conference room in real-time. The just in time, at-a-glance nature of this platform reduces the three to five- minutes it usually takes to find a free conference room or open desk to a matter of seconds.

Serraview Dashboards showing Condeco Utilization Data


Additionally, Serraview’s analytics tools allow corporate real estate departments to compare space allocations to measured workplace utilization for each business unit with high-quality visualization tools such as charts and heat-maps displaying areas of high and low utilization overlaid on a floor plan. Interactive space planning tools allow for quick right-sizing of space allocations, and the rapid development of business cases combined with detailed relocation plans to support the move to agile working and the space optimization process.

The two companies will be evaluating further joint-solutions, including the integration of Condeco’s Meeting Room and Desk Booking Software with Serraview’s tools. The integration would allow for Serraview’s floor plans to be available within the Condeco booking system as well as provide an additional layer of occupancy data based on bookings and check-ins to Serraview’s analytics tools.

John Anderson

Our combined approach really is a case where one plus one equals three. We have Condeco’s expertise in collecting utilization data and Serraview’s workplace management tools as the aggregation platform. Together, we remove the need to manually maintain multiple systems and provide extraordinarily valuable insight to business leaders.

John Anderson, Chief Revenue Officer, Condeco – LinkedIn

Ian Morley

Serraview has always been passionate about making buildings actually work for people. Condeco’s technology helps us take this vision a step further by providing the smarts to accurately measure space utilization and desk and conference room devices for employees to interact with. When you combine this with our interactive space planning tools, you have the ultimate toolkit for saving real estate spend, providing a modern employee experience and supporting an agile work environment that leverages best-of-breed technology.

Ian Morley, Chief Evangelist, Serraview – LinkedIn

Download the Serraview Powered By Condeco Flyer

About Condeco

Condeco develops and delivers workplace management solutions that improve the way people work and how organizations operate across the globe. Through our workplace scheduling and office utilization software and hardware, companies are maximizing the use of their office space, from ensuring high-pressure meetings and flexible work areas run smoothly, to providing essential real-time data on workspace usage for future planning. That’s why global Fortune 500 companies like Chevron, Barclays, and GE, are implementing our solutions worldwide.