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Data Governance: A Critical Component of Good Workplace Management

By Kane Hochster

Chief Sales Officer 

SpaceIQ 

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

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

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

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

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

Bob Sits Where? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Data Governance and COVID-19 

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

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

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

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

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SpaceIQ: Powerhouse, Industry-Leading Workplace Solutions

SANTA CLARA, Calif., Sept. 21, 2020 — When Archibus + Serraview acquired SpaceIQ in May 2020, leadership realized the combined brands needed a new name to accurately reflect the true power of the global workplace management technology business. They chose SpaceIQ. 

“The goals in selecting a new company name were to choose a name that clearly states what we offer and represents all three product lines. SpaceIQ met all of the criteria,” said Wain Kellum, SpaceIQ CEO. “We now have a business identity that describes the category we compete in (Space) and shows we will continue to build intelligent, category-leading products (IQ).” 

The new SpaceIQ is unlike any other workplace management company in that it provides products and services for small business to enterprise organizations on a worldwide scale, Kellum said. Archibus is known globally as the premier integrated workplace management software platform while Serraview is the go-to solution throughout much of Asia Pacific. SiQ, though a younger product, is considered one of the most innovative SaaS products in the industry. 

To avoid confusion with existing customers, the SpaceIQ product has been renamed SiQ. The other product lines will be known by their legacy names: Archibus and Serraview. The company created a new brand look and feel, including revised product logos. A new website is slated to launch in 2021. 

“We do understand that this change may cause some confusion in the market, which is why we have kept each of the product line names,” Kellum said. “Everything we offer, no matter the product line, always comes back to space. Archibus and Serraview are cornerstone products and will continue to be so—now under the SpaceIQ company name.” 

SpaceIQ helps our customers with: 

  • Real Property — Manage owned and leased space locally and across the globe 
  • Capital Projects — Manage projects and budgets related to space 
  • Maintenance — Keep up with space needs and prevent workplace downtime 
  • Assets — Manage and track assets within space and the workplace 
  • Sustainability & Risk — Ensure workplace compliance with safety in mind 
  • Workplace Optimization — Optimize your space use and occupancy 
  • Space Planning & Management —Explore, analyze at department and team-levels 
  • Reservations — Find and reserve space 
  • Employee Experience — Meet the digital needs of your most important asset: people 
  • Forecasting – Use future growth models to determine space and workplace demands 
  • Agile Seating – Flex your space to meet the needs of your evolving workplace 
     

To learn more about each of the product brands, visit spaceiq.com, archibus.com, or serraview.com

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Build a Better Business Case: 5 Tips to Set Yourself Up for Success

Luckily, now we have access to more and better data—but numbers alone won’t get your business case approved. Whether you’re looking at taking on a new lease, consolidating employees, moving to a new office, or transitioning from a fixed workplace to an agile or hybrid one, here’s what you should know about building a strong business case.

1. Know Your Audience

First, does your company have a standard template or guideline for building a business case? Make sure you have them and are comfortable with the format.

Second, the odds are the executives at your company won’t be impressed with subjective factors or soft dollars. What may seem like common sense recommendations won’t hold much water if you can’t tie them to a projected dollar amount based on facts.

Hard dollars are still what drives approval. You want to be able to state your case with hard numbers and evidence-based data backing it up. For example, an argument like, “Moving to a new campus will pay for itself in three years due to lower real estate costs,” (with clear cost comparisons) is more likely to get buy-in than simply stating, “A new campus with better outdoor space will create a more positive work environment.”

This isn’t to say you should never include soft dollars in your strategic business cases. They shouldn’t be a key driver, but should be considered additive to your ROI. Instead, you could say, for example, “We expect the new campus will make commuting easier for most employees, resulting in decreased lateness and absenteeism rates.” After the move, you can compare the data (absenteeism rates at the old and new campuses) and gather evidence that proves your hypothesis. In the future, you’ll have the data to tie “ease of transportation” or other subjective factors to hard dollars. In the future, you can use this data when calculating total cost of ownership/occupancy (TCO) and, for example, justify subsidizing mass transit for employees who could require a longer commute.

2. Consider the Big Picture

Look beyond just the dollars that could be saved in real estate costs. What is the potential impact on employees? For example – you move to a new campus and the commute is significantly worse for some employees, so approximately 10% of your staff choose to leave the company. Check with HR to ascertain the cost of replacing that portion of your workforce. How will that affect the projected three-year timeline for the move to pay for itself?

How can CRE leaders slash expenditures?

In the early stages of building the business case, when you’re still gathering data and exploring possible scenarios, it’s a good idea to check in with the executive team. Make sure that what you’re planning is aligned with the company’s long-term plans (which may have changed since you last looked at your five-year strategic plan). For example, you may be looking at a scenario that moves a division to a different office, only to find out that there are plans to sell that division in the next 18 months.

3. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like most things, the best way to get better at something is to practice it—so get in the practice of putting together mini-business cases for all your plans and initiatives, even if a proper business case isn’t required.

When you work on a move for five people in one department, come in with a well-defined plan that sets objectives and expectations. And then review the business case to ensure you met your goals.

An added bonus to this practice is elevating the work that CRE does within the company. Think of it as a way to “advertise” the CRE skill sets, and then, when it’s time to plan something on a larger scale, not only will you feel more prepared, the executive team and other staff members will have confidence that your team will handle it in a strategic, professional manner.

4. Use Valid, Evidence-Based Data

This is where tools like Serraview make all the difference for CRE. When you bring in data from activities like badge entry swipes and conference room usage, plus validated data from each business group about allocations, you can actually put hard dollars to items that were only estimated in previous business cases.

Find out which space utilization metrics will help you build the strongest case possible.

Look for data in industry benchmarks and documented research. “We’ll have more collaborative space” isn’t as strong as “Records show that companies similar to ours that increase collaborative space see revenues increase.” This can also make your soft dollar items stronger.

5. Remember Change Management

This is something that CRE teams often overlook or underestimate when building their business cases. Moving, whether it’s across the floor or to another building, can have an emotional effect on many employees. Don’t just assume that “millennials want an agile workplace” and neglect how you’ll “sell” any kind of move to the staff. It’s important to have a strong change management plan in place to anticipate and mitigate any negative effects the change can have on teams.

Some space management and planning software will let you see estimates on the cost of moving each employee. This is a great start, but you should also talk to other teams that would be facilitating the move—like HR and IT—to get a full picture of the associated costs.

Building business cases don’t have to be onerous for CRE teams. Use these tips the next time you’re putting one together—large or small—and see for yourself.

Building a business case for a hybrid or activity-based workplace? Check out our guide on how to transition to activity-based working.

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Making the Move From Excel to Automation to Manage Space Utilization

Traditionally, a large part of a Corporate Real Estate (CRE) professional’s job was physically walking the floors of an office building and then manually entering the data she collected into a spreadsheet with dozens of formulas and macros. Over the course of weeks or months, she would turn these complex spreadsheets into a report showing how the company could consolidate and shrink their square footage by 20%.

It’s exhausting just thinking about it.

Now, with so many tools and software platforms available, it’s hard to believe that so many companies still do things the old way. Spreadsheets certainly have their place, but maybe not in space planning or workplace optimization.

Why it’s Time to Move from Spreadsheets to Automation

Let’s look at what automation offers:

Save Time

space planning and management tool, like Serraview, pulls in real-time space utilization data from a variety of sources. Instead of spending several weeks physically walking floors and conducting manual audits to see who’s sitting where, you can generate reports in minutes that perform space utilization calculations and show data in real time. You can also look at space usage trends throughout the day and go back weeks or even months to see trends over time.

Serraview’s internal CRM system allows CRE to share the responsibility of maintaining the integrity of the data with the business. Each business unit can independently validate their data, so the CRE team doesn’t need to physically walk each floor. This is huge for enabling the CRE team to work more efficiently and with better data. Plus it also helps to share accountability about the organization’s space management between CRE and the business.

Process More Data

More data is being collected in your workplace than ever before—data on office space utilization, yes, but also data on building systems and efficiency, air quality, lighting use, and more. There is simply no way mere humans can process and analyze this much data in an accurate and timely manner.

With an automated system, you can quickly make space utilization calculations and be able to see patterns and correlations more clearly. For example, you can see opportunities to save on utilities if you notice that your HVAC is set to turn the air on at 8:00 am, but the majority of your employees don’t come in until 9:00, so you can run the AC for one hour less each day.

Depending on the systems and devices you have in place, you can also look at the usage rates for conference rooms and soft seating. With this data, you can make more informed decisions about office layouts.

When it comes to IoT devices, how can you collect the most impactful data? Find out here.

Get More Accurate Analysis

When data collection and analysis are done automatically, you remove—or at least drastically reduce—the risk of human error. How many times have you had to start a space utilization calculation from scratch when you realize you had entered data into the wrong column of a spreadsheet, or weren’t using the latest file?

When the data is stored in a central, cloud-based system, it’s accessible to everyone who needs it, from the CRE team to individual business units who can validate their data. Plus, the data is always current, so you’re not working with assumed or old data.

What You Can Do with Automation

So you’re ready to ditch your spreadsheets and start using a better tool for space utilization calculations…now what?

Occupancy Reports

Using data gathered from automation tools like badge entry systems, desk sensors or check-in systems, you can instantly get statistics on:

  • Average occupancy
  • Conference room utilization
  • Times of peak utilization
  • …and more, all without doing walk-through space audits

Discover why many companies fail to optimize their buildings for peak utilization.

Scenario Planning

In Serraview, the color-coding functionality and drag-and-drop tool makes it simple to experiment with different layouts and allocations to optimize your space. You can use the occupancy reports to test different co-locations or ways to consolidate your space.

Because Serraview pulls in real-time data from other systems, when you start experimenting with different scenarios, you can also immediately see how it will impact key CRE metrics like square foot per person or cost per person.

Track and Manage Lease Options and Renewals

Serraview’s space planning tool also pulls in data on your lease options and renewals, including key dates for planning. Because generating occupancy reports and scenario plans will take less time, you don’t have to work so far ahead—which means when it comes time to decide if you need to release or add space, you’re make space utilization calculations using the most up-to-date, accurate data.

Plus, the Conflict Resolution tool tracks changes in the VBS (Visual Block & Stack) and alerts you when those changes could affect the scenario you’re planning. This means that when you finish your planning and have selected a scenario, you won’t end up with months-old data— you’ll be able to easily incorporate updated data for the actual execution of the plan.

Build Strong Business Cases

Ultimately, switching from spreadsheets to automation means you’re able to use evidence-based decisions to build stronger business cases. Space utilization calculations from data that’s been gathered automatically by IoT devices and other systems is usually more “bulletproof” in the eyes of the C-suite, compared to the data gathered from walk-throughs.

For example, with a space planning tool like Serraview, you can display occupancy data from the last six months showing that your building is 40% utilized and make the case for transitioning from fixed to flexible seating with a 2-1 desk ratio. You can show two scenario plans, one for average utilization and one for peak utilization, or have different options for co-locating different business groups. Most importantly, you can also bring in data on the fiscal impact of these changes.

Find out how easy it is to make the switch from spreadsheets to our space planning tool and transform your space utilization calculations—request a Serraview demo today.

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Space Allocation vs. Space Utilization

Traditionally, CRE teams have been able to work with space allocation data, but that kind of information alone shouldn’t be relied upon to make space planning and space management decisions. Now, teams can also use space utilization data, which offers a wealth of possibilities, but can also be overwhelming. Let’s start by defining each term:

Space allocation describes the assignments or allocations of a workplace. For example, you might have 100 desks and 75 employees assigned to them, meaning you have 25% vacancy and 75% of your desks have been allocated.

Space utilization captures real-time data of how the space is actually being used. In the scenario above, you might have 75 employees, but 10 are part of the sales team and they travel 70% of the time, four work from home one or two days a week, and six more are working on long-term projects and spend at least 50% of their time at other campuses…and so on.

In short, space allocation describes the plan or expectation, while space utilization goes a step further to describe the reality of how a workplace, or even a workspace, gets used.

The Benefits and Potential of Space Utilization Data

Now that CRE leaders can easily capture office space utilization data, they have the tools to solve problems that space allocation data alone couldn’t tackle.

Optimize the Entire Workplace

With good space utilization data on, for example, conference room usage, you’d be able to see that according to Outlook calendars, the conference rooms are booked 80% of the time, but actually in use only 30% of the time. Depending on the type of data you’re able to collect, you might also be able to see that large conference rooms are mostly used by groups of just 3-5 people. Instead of recommending the company build out more conference rooms, CRE leadership could do a number of things with this data:

  • Analyze the disparity in bookings and actual use (Are people not cancelling their reservations? Why?)
  • Change the structure of conference rooms (breaking up the large rooms into more smaller rooms)
  • Update or create additional spaces, like soft seating areas, cafes, or kitchens/break rooms, to accommodate meetings or collaborative work
  • Incorporate technology that improves the booking process or better manages the use of the space, such as sensors that automatically “cancel” the booking if they don’t register anyone in the room or check-in devices to verify the room is in use
  • Implement policies that discourage people or teams from booking rooms and not using them

Build Stronger Business Cases

Space utilization data also makes it possible to plan your workplace and ensure that your floor plans, layout, and design are meant to enable your employees and encourage productivity and collaboration.

Find out how to make your workplace “employee-centric.”

Because space utilization data is now collected through IoT devices, sensors, software, and other technology, it makes a stronger case when CRE leaders propose initiatives and plans about the space—they’re able to truly say that decisions and recommendations are backed by evidence. Getting everyone from department heads to the C-suite on board is easier when you have accurate, verifiable data.

Obstacles and Challenges

While adopting and using space utilization data can help you gain greater insights on your space and better inform decision making, there are a few things to consider before executing your plan.

Financial Considerations

There are often some significant upfront investments when it comes to new technology—whether you want building sensors, advanced entry badges, or other IoT devices or software. CRE leaders need to demonstrate that the data they collect and analyze will be accurate, valid, and valuable to the organization. Whether you implement new technology or leverage technology that you already have in place, you also need to consider its cost-effectiveness: what is the ROI of the data you’ll get?

Nevertheless, while there will be costs to purchase, install and maintain the technology, the potential savings in real estate costs might easily justify the investment.

How do you build a business case for redesigning your workplace?

(Lack of) Stability in Tech

We hear a lot about the success stories when it comes to Silicon Valley start-ups—but the reality is, the lifespan for the average new tech company is…not very long. According to industry estimates, only about 10% will last longer than five years.

One common scenario is when a company promises some incredible new technology that gets people excited. But for some reason—lack of money, the founders’ inexperience, or poor execution of the actual product development—the tech doesn’t deliver as promised.

The CRE and IT teams must do careful research and due diligence into technology companies before making significant investments and commitments if they want to see long-term value. Be sure to select a vendor that has proven experience and demonstrated ROI in your field.

Privacy Concerns and GDPR

We think it’s likely that more countries, including the US, may adopt the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) in the near future. This would limit the useful, valuable data that companies will be able to collect. CRE teams can still make a lot of decisions based on anonymized, aggregated data, but they may be hindered in their ability to increase productivity by co-locating certain teams or individuals, for example.

That said, we think more companies will rise to the challenge of developing tools that provide actionable data without capturing personally identifiable information (PII), or limiting its capture. Additionally, more employees may be willing to make that trade-off—allowing their employer to collect and use certain personal information—once they see how that data can be used for their best interests. With the value space utilization data promises for CRE, the use of it will only continue to grow.

Find out how Serraview provides actionable space utilization data and how you can use it to make stronger business decisions—request a demo today.

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IWMS vs. Utilization Software

A good IWMS (integrated workplace management software) is a great tool, and adds a ton of value to almost any organization. But for today’s Corporate Real Estate (CRE) teams, who are dealing with the new demands of modern workplaces, even the best IWMS may not be able to completely meet their needs.

An IWMS is designed to support all five pillars of facilities management:

  • Real estate/property
  • Space management
  • Operations and maintenance
  • Capital planning and project management
  • Energy management

The key word is “integrated.” An IWMS brings all the data about your workplace, from asset tracking to maintenance upgrades to space planning, into one system so you can see how everything works together. Most of these systems perform these functions well.

For a company’s CRE team, their IWMS is invaluable when it comes to lease management, asset tracking, and the very basics of space planning and management. However, most IWMS systems are designed to be jacks-of-all-trades, not specialty masters. Especially for CRE, many systems lack the advanced space planning features and functions that are needed to meet today’s challenges.

As companies have realized that the workplace can play a big factor in their employees’ work experience, CRE teams are now tasked with creating modern workplaces that boost productivity, inspire employee engagement, and help attract and retain top talent. They need a robust tool that does more than just manage leases and perform basic space planning.

Enter…Utilization Software

On the surface, utilization software looks like a bonus add-on—something designed specifically to capture and understand space usage. Serraview takes this a step further: it combines traditional space planning and management capabilities with real-time space utilization data.

By combining allocation with real-time usage data and analyzing within the Serraview Workplace Optimization solution, CRE professional are able to glean greater insights about their space. Understanding these usage patterns is helping them to make evidenced-based decisions about their space planning, management and forecasting.

For example, you can use reports generated from Serraview to make better plans about how to handle peak utilization in your building – whether its the overall use of the buildings or understanding the specifics of your meeting room usage. If you discover, for example, that multiple departments schedule “all-hands” meetings every Thursday, you can use that data to talk to department heads about staggering those schedules. Or, you might determine that you don’t have enough collaborative spaces or the spaces that you have are under used or not used efficiently (e.g. large conference rooms are being used for 4-6 person meetings)

Another point in utilization software’s favor is its agility and flexibility. IWMS are huge platforms and setting one up in a company is a lengthy, thoughtful process—but a system like Serraview can be set up relatively quickly. Serraview specifically, is source-agnostic and can accept data input from almost anything: your current IWMS, entry badges, or IoT devices like sensors, beacons or even smart lighting systems.

Plays Well Together or Separately

In many cases, our clients use Serraview “on top of” their existing IWMS. Serraview takes in space management information provided by the IWMS, combines it with space usage data collected from various sources and then provides actionable reporting and insights.

Also, with real and veriafiable data, Serraview can help you visualize different scenarios when space planning or forecasting. With the analysis Serraview provides from your usage data, you can determine whether or not you can move from fixed to flexible seating, or downsize your current workspace when your lease options come up. And most important, you can see the immediate impacts of these changes, all within the system.

Why should CRE leaders pay attention to space planning?

Serraview and other utilization software can also be used to analyze data and make decisions related to the other five pillars—like adjusting your HVAC schedule to better reflect the times when most of your employees are in the workplace. If you can set your air conditioning to kick in one hour later because you see that most of your employees actually get to the office at 9:00, not 8:00, that can translate to significant savings in utilities costs.

While a tool like Serraview is designed to be synergistic with an IWMS (along with a variety of other platforms and systems), some clients find that they don’t actually need all the bells and whistles of an IWMS. In this case, utilization software can be used alone to manage your space, gather usage data and provide those actionable insights.

If you decide to implement Serraview as a standalone software, it’s a simple matter of redirecting the input feeds from the IWMS to Serraview, and ensuring that data like floor plans and employee information is uploaded directly to Serraview.

Learn how Serraview’s Workplace Optimization Solution can support your space utilization needs. Request a demo today.

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How Companies Can Benefit by “Saving in Place”

Should we stay or should we go? Raise your hand if you’re a corporate real estate executive who’s asked that question before. As you review and re-evaluate different workspaces, you may wonder if staying in your current office will in fact be double the trouble of going elsewhere.

Why You Should Consider “Saving in Place”

Even though it may seem like your current space just is not working out (you’re growing or shrinking too much to justify the space, it’s underutilized more often since you adopted a more flexible work policy, or your current office floor plan no longer meets the needs of your restructured departments), you probably have more options to save in place than you think. Here’s why you should do that:

  • You’re limited to your existing location due to ownership or an extended lease term. Owning the building means you can redesign the office building floor plans or consolidate your team to open a floor and find a tenant. If you lease, you may be able to negotiate for better lease terms or benefits, or work with your landlord to adjust your workspace to better meet your needs.
  • You’re in a beneficial location. You may be paying a premium rate for a high-rise downtown or in an urban core, and lower rents in the suburbs look enticing. But consider this: Is your current location convenient to public transit, or close to where most of your employees live? Will they be burdened by the commute? Are you close to amenities that your employees value? Does your location make you attractive to prospects or give you access to a larger talent pool? Moving somewhere else might end up costing you in other ways (in addition to the actual move costs).

Ready to Save in Place? Get Informed

The first step when deciding how you’ll save in place is to get good data. Utilization software like Serraview’s can help you understand your current occupancy rates and usage patterns. It can also help you project and plan different scenarios for expansion or downsizing. Imagine being able to easily visualize how you could best configure your office floor plans to accommodate different rates of growth two, three, or five years out. A tool like Serraview will allow you to confidently say “yes, we can downsize our current space by 20% and still use it effectively for the next three years.”

This could be your opportunity to start transitioning to an agile or activity-based workspace. Learn why that’s a superior option to an open office floor plan.

Seeing and understand usage patterns—like the spike each Thursday when 90% of your employees are in the office, or that two conference rooms are used every day and the third is empty 80% of the time—will provide the evidence-based data to develop alternate ways to use your space.

Find out other strategies corporate real estate leaders can use to reduce costs.

Optimizing Lease Terms

Data-based knowledge about your needs allows your to bring a clear vision to your landlord. If, for example, your company takes up one floor and wants to downsize by 30%, your landlord might argue that 30% of one floor can’t be leased to another tenant. With good data, you may be able to determine that you can give up 50% of your current space to be leased out.

Understanding your current state vs. future state allows you to request first right of refusal. If you’re aware of your space use, you can negotiate for additional amenities, such as more allocated parking spaces, or other services.

Optimizing Office Floor Plans

If you are able to downsize—and hopefully reduce your rent payments—you’ll want to use space planning software that delivers utilization data to create efficient office floor plans and layouts. You can also put some of that savings towards improving your space—perhaps by investing in standing desks, updating office furniture and decor, or offering other perks to boost employee engagement.

In the event that you are unable to physically downsize space and lease obligations, you still have options to better use the space.

If you pay for utilities, see if you can consolidate your employees so you can turn off the lights and other systems in one section of your floor or building.

Think creatively about the unused or little-used spaces in your office. For example, instead of having a large, open room that’s only half-occupied, you can use demountable walls to create a separate room that could be a breakroom/hangout spot or brainstorming space. Or perhaps you could knock down walls so that you get more natural light (and reduce your lighting needs). Utilization software can help you identify needs and change your office floor plans so it’s a more pleasant place to work as well as save you money.

Want to see how you can update your office floor plans to better use the space you have? Contact us today for a demo of Serraview’s space planning tool.

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Rethinking Your Building Space: How Office Layouts Are Evolving

Here at Serraview, we’re fascinated by the workspace and the data it can provide – how it functions in order to help work and create a positive workplace.

Today, we know more than ever about the factors that contribute to productivity and collaboration in a workplace, but now that we have the data, we’re challenged to figure out what it all means. Once you understand that, you can make decisions about open office layouts, closed offices, collaborative spaces, and other usage and space planning questions. Companies that don’t use space planning and space utilization software like Serraview don’t necessarily have the data to make those informed decisions.

Let’s look at how office layouts have evolved and how (we believe) they will continue to do so.

A Brief Timeline of Office Layouts

When we consider “modern offices,” we go back a little over one hundred years to the early 1900s. These offices were modeled after factory floors, with long rows of desks and no walls or dividers—a completely open layout. Private executive offices overlooked these worker spaces.

In the 1950s-1960s, the office layout was still open, but the German “office landscape” concept brought executives out of their private suites and arranged assigned desks according to job function.

In the late 1960s, furniture designer Herman Miller introduced “modular business furniture” that was intended to promote collaboration and flexibility. Today, we call modular business furniture “cubicles.”

By the 1980s, “cube farms” were the norm (perhaps best displayed in the 1999 movie Office Space).

With the rise of the internet in the 1990s, the “virtual office” gained traction. Thanks to increased internet access, email, and cell phones, employees didn’t have to physically be in the office to get their work done. Some companies, trying to reduce real estate costs, started encouraging virtual or remote work.

Since the early 2000s, office design layouts have been shifting in all sorts of ways. Cubicle farms started to disappear in favor of open office plans. Trendy tech firms started building creative offices designed to cater to employees’ needs and wants.

Paying attention to your employees’ experience matters—learn why.

Current Trends: Open Office vs. Activity-Based Working

As open office plans grew in popularity, so did the backlash against them. In many cases, these office layouts discouraged collaboration instead of promoting it as promised. Frustrated by noisy spaces and lack of privacy, employees would stay hunched over their computers with headphones on if they wanted to get work done.

In contrast, the activity-based workplace recognizes that different types of work activities, and different types of employees, need different spaces. A marketing manager, for example, might divide her day into focused work, meetings, and collaborative work. In an activity-based workplace, the office layout would provide distinct spaces for each activity. She might start her day in a “quiet zone” workstation, move to a conference room for a couple hours, and end her day at a desk in the marketing department’s “neighborhood” where she can brainstorm and share ideas with her team.

What other advantages does ABW have over open office layouts? Find out.

The Pendulum Swing: Back to Equilibrium

It’s hard to predict what trends in office layouts will prevail over time. Right now, we’re seeing companies go to various extremes: Some are encouraging remote work as much as possible (some don’t even have an office at all; everyone in the organization works remotely), while others, including tech giant IBM, have reversed course and started mandating all employees work in an office.

Everyone is looking for the right mix of efficiency, productivity, collaboration, and innovation. IBM found that something was lacking when people weren’t interacting face-to-face. They needed to bring people back to the office to create “water cooler moments” of spontaneous collaboration and develop mentorship relationships. Other companies are depending on communication platforms like Skype and Slack to build that virtually.

If we expect anything, it will be a softening of extremes. A few companies will choose “all or nothing” when it comes to a traditional office or no office, but the majority will settle somewhere in the activity-based or hybrid office layout.

Tech Continues to Drive Change

One thing we can be sure of is that technology will be used in offices in more ways. Most importantly, in one sense, technology like Serraview’s space planning and space utilization software will become indispensable as companies seek those functional spaces that work best for their employees.

Getting accurate, real-time data about your space—everything from your building systems to activity in Conference Room B—will help you make evidence-based decisions about everything from lease renewals to reconfiguring a floor to getting new office furniture.

Learn how your workplace can attract and retain talent, enhance your employees’ experience, enable collaboration, and more—download our whitepaper on best practices for the modern workplace.

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Workforce Empowerment: What’s in a Space?

It’s not news that your office—its layout, style, decor, and overall design—can profoundly impact your employees and their performance. Your space planning design can help make this impact positive by encouraging productive and collaborative activities.

Space Planning Design for Business Needs

Ultimately, your office design should facilitate your employee’s work so the business can achieve its goals. Productive, engaged employees (i.e. those who can do their work better and faster) usually mean more business goals are met.

So, when looking at the space planning and design for your office, you must be clear on:

  • Your business goals
  • The work your employees need to do to achieve those goals

For example, one business goal might be to expand into a new market by the end of the year. To do that, your marketing team needs to be able to research and develop a solid marketing strategy. What does that research and development look like? Lots of time and space to brainstorm ideas? Onsite research in that new market? Maybe focus groups to test different strategies?

Once you understand your business goals and how they’ll be achieved, you can begin your space planning design to best facilitate that work.

Getting Good Employee Input

When you’re planning a change in your workplace, whether it’s relatively small or radical, getting and using input from employees is a good way to help them get excited about the change. The key is to get constructive input. There are three methods companies use most:

  • Surveys: These can be very helpful, but it’s often challenging to design a survey that will give you complete and accurate data. Employees may not have time to fill out surveys, so you may have to offer incentives to get responses.
  • Focus groups: Focus groups allow you to ask deeper, more specific questions to a select group of people that represent each department or business unit.
  • Audits: Walking around your workplace, observing what people are doing—and asking them, what they’re doing and what would make their jobs easier—can give you a lot of good information. But, you’ll need to conduct this exercise several times to get a complete picture.

Space planning and utilization software, like Serraview, can provide an accurate picture of the type of work people are doing. Empirical data can illustrate how often employees are in meetings or conferences or how frequently they collaborate or work solo. Of course, it also will show many people or which teams are typically in the office on any given day.

The data you gain from strong utilization software can be invaluable. You may know, based on data that your utilization software provides that approximately 60% of your employees are in the office at a given time. But, does that mean 60% of every department? More likely, maybe 25% of your sales staff is in the office most of the time, along with 80% of your HR department, 50% of your legal team, and 40% of your IT department (except on the various days each week or month when different departments have “all hands” meetings). Utilization software will be able to provides specific data so your space planning design can account for the different needs of each group.

How does space planning software maximize ROI?

Create Water Cooler Moments—but Don’t Force Them

Most companies today want a space planning design that encourages collaboration, both planned (breakout or brainstorming rooms that teams can book) and spontaneous (cafe-like settings where people can stop and chat while having coffee). You should intentionally try to design a layout that encourages a certain flow through the space. You can add furniture and other items, like whiteboards, that will encourage people to share ideas when they meet. But don’t get so fixated on creating the “ideal water cooler” space, and don’t worry if the space doesn’t get used exactly as you intended.

Learn how to make your workplace go from lifeless to lively.

If certain spaces are being used differently than designed, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re being used incorrectly. If a space is designed to meet people’s needs, they will use it—but their needs might not be exactly what you envisioned. Flexibility is a crucial element in every space planning design.

Flexibility does not have to mean a completely open office, or even an activity-based workspace. It just means that, as you design your space for your current needs and you keep potential needs in mind. This may mean choosing smaller desks for offices to make it easier to move them (and people) around. Or it may mean running cables and wires through ceilings to make it easy to convert an office to a conference room with video capability. You will not be able to plan for every possible scenario, but with some forethought, you can make it easier to adapt to different possibilities.

Strong space utilization software makes office space planning and design a snap—request a demo today and find out how.

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Why Many Corporations Fail to Optimize Their Buildings for Peak Utilization

You’ve made the switch to activity-based working and have reduced your footprint. You’ve removed desks and individual workstations, and now your people-to-seat ratio has been adjusted based on your usage data. You managed the transition well and your employees seem happy and productive.

Until…somehow, every department decided to schedule an all-hands meeting on the same day. Will there be chaos as everyone tries to find an open desk and sufficient meeting room space? Or have you planned for peak utilization of your building?

What Is Peak Utilization?

It’s the scenario above—when everyone, or nearly everyone, shows up to the office, expecting to have a desk or workstation. Will there be enough to go around? As companies adjust their people-to-seat ratio (on the understanding that, on average, 40% of their space isn’t being used) and move to hybrid or agile working environments, planning for peak utilization is a crucial exercise.

Change how you track space utilization to get a more accurate picture of your building usage.

What it Takes to Plan for Peak Utilization

There are two main approaches that go hand-in-hand:

1. Understand work patterns so you know when/how often to expect peak utilization

Each department likely has slightly different needs and work patterns. Maybe Monday through Thursday, you can safely assume that only half the Sales team will be in the office, but that department has a meeting every Friday and almost all of them will be there in person.

Maybe the Marketing team, which works next to Sales, also regularly schedules a team meeting the last Friday of every month, so you know that’s the day when that space will be crowded.

2. Encourage work patterns to keep resource utilization balanced

You could just accept that on that last Friday, Marketing and Sales will be fighting for space. Or you could share the data you have with Marketing and Sales to help them make a decision about their schedules.

Take a close look at employee work patterns so you know what to expect on any given day.

Activity-based working is not a one-size-fits-all—learn how it can be adapted for your company.

What’s Stopping Companies from Planning for Peak Utilization

Historically, getting accurate data on building usage required time-consuming manual audits. Now, thanks to space planning and utilization software and other technology, the bigger barrier is effective communication. Employees often resist being told to change the way they work—whether that means giving up their desk or scheduling meetings earlier or later to avoid overbooked conference rooms. Having a strong change management and communication plan will help you implement policies to handle peak utilization.

But What Do You Do When Everyone Shows Up?

Sometimes, no matter how much you plan and prepare, you’ll be surprised by a full office. If you’ve been creative and purposeful with your space planning, you won’t have chaos. Set up multi-use spaces that people can use: lobbies, hallways, cafeterias or breakrooms can all be outfitted to serve as part-time workstations or meeting spaces. Some companies can make use of outdoor spaces as well.

When you create multi-use spaces, make sure they will function well when being used for work activities. Check that your Wi-Fi can support them and that they have adequate technology available.

Communication for Resource Utilization

Having these multi-use spaces or a plan to handle peak utilization won’t do any good if no one knows about them. In addition to a communication plan that eases employees into new ways of work, your change management strategy should also explain how various spaces can be used and what to expect when office traffic is above average. You can also share your usage data with department heads so they understand how they can adjust their team’s work patterns to minimize occurrences of peak utilization.

Find out other ways activity-based working serves your employees. Download our guide to creating an activity-based working strategy in your office.