6 Ways Corporate Real Estate Leaders Can Slash Expenditures

Although companies recognize the value of real estate, those costs are often one of the largest items on the balance sheet. Corporate real estate leaders are tasked with bringing the most value to the company while also controlling costs. Here are some ways you can cut your corporate real estate expenses (and as a bonus, most will also increase your ROI on real estate!):

1. Relinquish your lease or sell a building

Lease or mortgage costs are most likely the biggest corporate real estate costs you incurr, so on paper, this is the easiest way to cut costs.

Of course, in real life, moving—to a smaller space in your current building or to a new building altogether—is not easy. Lease renewals come up and they are renewed, even if the company knows they’re only using 50-60% of the space. To break this cycle, pay attention to your lease termination dates. Your opportunity to make strong business decisions, in most cases, is about 12-18 months from that date.

Using space planning software will help you identify how your space is being used or unused. If it includes utilization functionality, like Serraview’s workspace utilization software, it will also tell you when and how your space is being used. Both can also help you make better plans and decisions faster. With the right software and data, the decision cycle can be streamlined, saving time with the relocation.

Learn about the modern workplace strategies that can revolutionize your organization.

2. Review and renegotiate your lease options

If you decide to stay put, you can still negotiate for better rates or value-adds to your current space. Again, you need to pay attention to your termination dates and start this process early. Read your lease closely to understand all the available options and make sure you have strong understanding of your needs and usage. This is also an opportunity to rethink the utilization metrics you’re tracking.

3. Audit your utilities regularly

You might be surprised to learn how long your HVAC system runs when very few people are in the office. Pay attention to your employees’ patterns and habits—which may change seasonally—and adjust your utilities systems. Depending on the size of your company and your current corporatel real estate expenses, this can translate to six-figure savings or more annually.

4. Reuse and recycle

When you’re redesigning your office layout, look for furniture vendors who purchase used or recycled desks and cubicles for repurposing. You can purchase recycled materials, especially if you need to reconfigure one floor, but are planning a bigger move in the next year.

Using recycled furniture or decreasing your utilities usage can have a bonus benefit of highlighting your sustainable practices. Both employees and clients or customers will appreciate your efforts.

Discover other ways your workspace influences your company culture.

5. Coordinate with other departments

When you cut corporate real estate expenses, be aware of how that might affect other departments. By shrinking your footprint and allowing people to work remotely, you save on your real estate costs while increasing spend in another department, such as IT. If you work together on moves and policy changes, you can find creative ways to save money.

6. Look for potential multi-use spaces

Maybe you know that overall, you’re only using 50-60% of your building, but it seems like the conference rooms are always booked and people are clamoring for more space. Can you instead use the space you have in different ways? Maybe you can make it easier for people to have meetings in the cafeteria or lobby by adding some new furniture.

Add Value by Reducing Corporate Real Estate Expenses

Cutting corporate real estate expenses no longer has to mean sacrificing a nice, well-provisioned office. Slashing expenditures instead can free up funds for offices that function better and make it easier for employees to get their work done.

With space planning technology, you can make better, more informed decisions about your corporate real estate expenses. Find out how.


Why Corporate Real Estate Leaders Must Pay Attention to Space Planning

Do you see corporate office space planning as a “necessary evil,” maybe one that takes too much of your time? Do you often get frustrated by mandates to “manage the space well” without the proper resources to deliver? Do you wish that getting groups of people to move from the third to the fourth floor wasn’t so complicated?

You’re not alone.

Many corporate real estate leaders have a love/hate relationship with corporate space planning—or at least, a begrudging like/dislike relationship with it.

But the truth is, paying attention to corporate space planning—in the right way—can make your life a lot easier. Here’s how:

  • Build a business case for change initiatives
    Strong corporate office space planning practices will help you make informed business decisions. Whether your lease is coming up and you’re considering moving to a new space, you want to shrink your footprint in your current location, or you just want to upgrade your current workstations, you’ll be able to make strong arguments for your proposals.
  • Address company changes proactively
    Instead of being caught off guard, you can plan ahead and be prepared for changes in the company structure or business goals.
  • Escape the day-to-day churn of assignments and allocations
    If you’re challenged by corporate office space planning because you’re spending too much time dealing with move requests, it’s an indication you need to step back and look at the bigger picture: Why are people looking to move around so much? Are there patterns in who’s asking to move? Most employees don’t like moving their workstations, so it’s important to understand the reasons behind the requests.

Tips for Sound Corporate Office Space Planning

1. Don’t forget the human element

Many CRE leaders, over time, forget how challenging and emotional the moving process can be for employees, even if they’re just moving to a different space on the same floor, in the same building. When you’re in “corporate office space planning mode” and looking at data points on a spreadsheet and floor plans for hours, it’s easy to forget the labels and color-coded dots represent actual people.

Don’t underestimate the communication and change management required for even the simplest moves and reallocations. It’s always better to over communicate on the timing, expectations, and deliverables and make sure you’re emphasizing the “why” behind the change. Articulate the value for the company and the employees.

Learn how Suncorp uses Serraview’s platform to strategically plan and execute large moves.

2. Make the plan fit the people

One of the great things about activity-based working is its flexibility. There’s no one “right” way to design an office; there’s just the best way to make your workplace meet your employees’ needs. For example, if you want to move to an open floor plan with neighborhoods, but most departments have at least one employee who needs access to file cabinets, those employees need dedicated spaces. The solution? Neighborhoods with “anchors” or dedicated desks surrounded by unassigned workstations.

When it comes to corporate office space planning, don’t get too attached to standard templates or common best practices. Be flexible and accommodate your organization’s and employees’ unique needs and preferences.

3. Look for underused spaces

If you’re not able to shrink your current footprint or move to a new location, look for opportunities to make better use of your office. Watch how employees work and interact with each other—are certain spots used frequently? What makes them “work” and how can you duplicate that in other areas? Are there random nooks and crannies that have potential to be meeting spaces, “phone booth” type areas, or brainstorming stations?

4. Think about boosting revenue, not just cutting costs

If you’re optimizing your current space, saving money is almost a foregone conclusion. In some cases, you may end up spending the same amount of money on real estate, but spending smarter. This means you may not see immediate bottom-line cost savings, but over time you’ll see increased revenue because your employees are more productive.

Most companies look at cost per square foot (or per square meter) or square feet/square meter per employee, but some are changing their perspective and looking at revenue per square feet/meter. Try it—and look for ways you can improve by providing better spaces to work

Of course, saving money is great too. Learn more about how corporate office space planning helps cut costs.

5. Evaluate and re-evaluate

You may have trouble with corporate office space planning if you’re trying to conform to business standards that are years, or even decades, old. Is your square-footage-per-person target based on a time when most employees used desktop computers, but now they mostly use laptops and tablets? Have you realigned business units without updating their space expectations and guidelines?

To ensure that your space planning decisions make sense, first use proper standards. And as business goals and company needs change, re-evaluate those standards regularly.

Learn more about how sound space planning can make your life easier—get in touch today for a free demo of our corporate office space planning software.


3 Key Pillars of Space Planning Software

When you’re looking at commercial space planning software, you may be asking, “How easy will it be to upload and convert floor plan files? Is it more user-friendly than AutoCAD?” Important questions, sure, but first you need to take a look at what we call the “three pillars of space planning.” The most useful software will feature all three.

Pillar 1: Gathering Data

An incredible amount of data goes into corporate space planning—way more than just merging HR’s head counts with Real Estate’s desk assignments. At minimum, you need to collect actual usage data for the different rooms and spaces of your buildings. To be more effective, you can collect data from the devices employees are using, network or cloud usage, and from your building systems and utilities (lighting, HVAC, etc.).

With the latest technology, especially Internet of Things (IoT), businesses have access to more data about their offices and workforce than ever before, but it’s meaningless if they’re not able to collect and use it. If your space planning software isn’t able to bring all the data together in one platform, you won’t be able to make the most informed decisions.

Pillar 2: Analyzing Data

Corporate real estate teams used to manually organize and analyze the available data, which could be a simple, but time-consuming process. Now, even for small businesses, there’s simply too much information to consider, especially when you’re trying to keep up with all of the available data inputs and make smart decisions and projections. The best space planning software needs to use data science and machine learning to find links and patterns. It also needs to compare the real-time incoming information with historical data.

The analysis from your space planning software should be automated and ongoing so anyone in the company can access needed information at any time—examples include, a manager who wants an activity report on just her team, or the facilities manager checking on the usage of conference rooms while planning upgrades.  

Pillar 3: Taking Action

Once you have the data and it has been organized and analyzed, you’re in a position to make informed business decisions. You can now see more clearly how moving the sales team would allow for easier collaboration with the marketing team. Perhaps desks you thought were full are rarely used, and you can consolidate those workstations to create a new meeting space. If your lease is coming up for renewal, through data analysis, you would be able to determine whether or not it’s best to grow or shrink your footprint in the building.

How can you get started with an activity-based working strategy? Find out.

The final step in space planning is to actually plan the space in a way that increases worker well-being, job satisfaction, and ultimately, productivity. You should look for space planning software that allows you to easily experiment with different office layouts and configurations, estimate the costs and ROI of making your workplace more activity-based, and use your space more effectively.

Why Do I Need Special Space Planning Software for This?

There are two main reasons: one, because often, the data is stored with different departments. HR has head counts, IT has device and asset information, and Real Estate keeps tabs on building usage and systems. But all of that data should be considered with space planning and it needs to be integrated within a single platform.

The other reason is that the sheer volume of data large companies can get now makes it infeasible for people to manually collect and do anything with it. Space planning software can use algorithms and machine learning to identify patterns and links between data that most people would miss.

HR, IT, and CRE should all contribute to transforming your workplace: here what each brings to the table.

Adjusting for the Real World

Algorithms aren’t 100% perfect. Your space planning software isn’t going to broadly make decisions for you. You’ll still be using your experience and judgement to do that—but you’ll be making data driven decisions. A proposal with the analysis from your space planning software will carry more weight than one with observations and self-reported data.

But you can still look at that analysis and know what’s possible for your company. You can—and should—take into account individual personalities and preferences when making changes. 

Ultimately, corporate space planning software is a tool that helps improve the ROI of your real estate portfolio and other assets. But if your software doesn’t incorporate all three of the pillars above, you won’t be making the most of your investment.

Learn more about how Serraview allows you to gather, analyze and take action on crucial data your firm needs to make the right decisions—request a free demo of our space planning software.


Corporate Office Space Planning: The Unsung Way to Save Company Dollars

It’s no secret that real estate is one of the biggest costs for any company. When you look at everything that goes into a commercial portfolio—the lease, utilities, technology, maintenance, security—it should be obvious that closely examining and maximizing that portfolio should be a priority. But many companies refrain from doing this or try to cut costs in other ways and lose out on significant savings. Let’s look at how office space planning can have the biggest impact on your balance sheet.

More Than Just the Real Estate

Of course, real estate costs extend beyond the lease and ownership-related costs. Corporate real estate spending includes utilities, building systems maintenance, administrative services, and security. And although it’s usually in a different budget, the technology to run and manage all those systems is also related. Companies can—and should—look for ways to reduce utilities and maintenance costs by running those systems efficiently, but in almost all cases, the biggest impact comes from reducing your total square footage.   

Case Study: See How Suncorp Significantly Reduced Costs with Space Planning Software

Make the Space Fit the Work

If we accept the industry norm that 40% of the space in traditional offices is underutilized, right-sizing your office will create multiple cost savings beyond simply reducing the number of hours the HVAC is running.

However, office space planning doesn’t simply mean using less space. More importantly, it means using the space more efficiently with an activity-based or flexible working environment. A corporate space assessment should start with determining the types of work activities that are performed, along with their frequency.

A coder might not need a large private office, but she will need space for two or three large monitors. Someone on your legal team who still works with physical documents, however, needs a place to store them securely and enough desk space to spread them out. And your marketing manager, who splits his time between individual focused work, group brainstorming, and meeting with partners needs a variety of spaces to serve those different purposes.

Once you’ve defined the types of work and work-related activities your employees do, you can begin planning the space to facilitate those activities. Most companies would see huge benefits from adding dedicated collaboration spaces that can be used for planned or impromptu meetings between teams. You’ll also want to account for personal preferences—extroverts may love working in an open setting, while introverts will want to know they can retreat to a quiet area where they can work uninterrupted.   

Other Office Space Planning Benefits

Once you complete an office space planning design, you’ll begin to see the payoff quickly in the form of a less expensive lease and lower utility costs. But you’ll see other intangible benefits.

With a well-designed office, people will be able to work better. Over time, you can expect to see a reduction in absenteeism and turnover rates because your employees are equipped to do their jobs with greater ease.

Your workplace is also part of your company brand. It will make an impression on everyone from prospective clients to potential investors and partners—so in addition to cutting costs, your office might be responsible for numbers on the other side of the balance sheet as well.

Want to learn more about the benefits (cost-saving and otherwise) of a well-designed office? Contact us today for a demo of our next-level office space planning platform. 


8 Workplace Space Planning Solutions Stats [INFOGRAPHIC]

What we think of as the “traditional office” (clusters of cubicles in the center of a space, surrounded by private offices around the perimeter) is going away—about 70% of US offices have some type of “open office” design. Companies are starting to go beyond just workplace space planning by investing in healthy building features and looking for ways to provide more choice and autonomy to their employees, but why? Are these strategies actually working, or are they just following trends? Is it worth it to redesign your office layout and make dramatic changes to how your employees work?

Check out our infographic highlighting some statistics that shed some light on how the workspace impacts the employee experience and what that might mean for your company:

8 Workplace Statistics that Will Make You Rethink Space Planning

1. Innovative companies are 5 times more likely to have workplaces that prioritize individual and group workspace

Gensler’s 2016 U.S. Workplace Survey found that workplace design was one of the key drivers of innovation within an organization. They found that the most innovative companies had workplaces designed for the individual worker that also provided resources for collaborative group work. Employees at these companies reported better relationships with management and said they found more meaning in their work. 

2. 69% of businesses that implemented healthy building features reported improvements in employee satisfaction and engagement

A report from the World Green Building Council looked at companies around the world that have upgraded their buildings to offer healthy, “green” features and found positive results like:

  • Lower absenteeism rates
  • Increased productivity
  • More collaboration

Environmental factors like indoor air quality, lighting, acoustics, interior layout, and biophilia (adding plants in and out of the workspace) are all associated with worker performance. Workplace space planning can also mean testing your office’s air quality and ensuring it’s well-ventilated, which can increase cognition scores for your employees. Making sure your workers have access to natural daylight can improve their sleep, which can lead to higher productivity.

3. People are 12% more likely to report being happy with their job when they have freedom and autonomy in their work environment

Much of the backlash against open office layouts comes from concern over noise and privacy. An activity-based workspace, however, offers open spaces where large groups can work together (or at least near each other), but also provides spaces meant for focused, solo work.

Read blog: 8 Tips to Encourage Collaboration in the Agile Workplace

Throughout the day, people shift between four work modes: focus, collaborate, learn, and socialize. When your workplace space planning recognizes this, employees are empowered to choose the best setting for their work each day—either based on their to-do list (start in a breakout room for collaborating in the morning and move to a more private space to write a report in the afternoon) or on personal preferences. Let the chatty extroverts work in groups while the introverts use the focus rooms.

4. 37% of job candidates will accept a job with a lower salary if the company offers appealing culture, workplace facilities and technology

A study by Hassell and Empirica Research looked at how workplace space planning and office design affects how attractive the company is to job-seekers. In a nutshell, they found that it does. Employees today look at salary, yes, but if the offered salary is competitive and fair, they also pay attention to other factors, including workplace facilities and aesthetics, the technology provided, and workplace culture.

This means that even if you can’t offer top salaries, you can still attract top talent if you have an attractive workplace with appealing facilities and a positive culture.

5. 42.5% of the global workforce will be mobile employees by 2022

In 2017, the mobile workforce made up 38.8% of the global workforce. Employers should recognize this trend and prepare to manage an increasingly mobile talent force by providing the right technology and designing mobile-ready spaces to accommodate them (think: making it easy for your West Coast sales director to find a place to work in your Manhattan office when she’s there for meetings, or having conference rooms outfitted with technology to make video calls easy and glitch-free).

6. 85% of respondents in a CBRE survey expect to see increase in mobility in the workplace through activity-based workplaces

Mobility in the workplace doesn’t just mean working remotely. Employees who primarily work in one office also want flexible work policies and the opportunity to move around within that office. And workplace space planning doesn’t just affect employees in the office. Those who are working remotely or traveling need to still feel connected to their colleagues in the office. And in fact…

7. 70% of employees age 16-44 say they want to be more mobile at work

A report from Fuze looked at how work is changing and how technology—also a key part of workplace space planning—can help employees work more effectively, leading to more collaboration and innovation. Look at the technology your employees currently use, both in the office and when working remotely. Is it enabling people to work well, according to their preferences? Or are they forced to use cumbersome equipment and outdated applications?

8. 30% of energy used in a commercial building is wasted

According to Energy Star, it can be relatively easy to find ways to save energy—and money. Workplace space planning for your office allows you to manage building systems more efficiently. For example, you might find that your heater is set to turn on a full hour and a half before anyone comes into the office in the morning. There are huge opportunities to be a better environmental steward and save your company thousands or even millions of dollars on energy costs.

When considering workplace space planning, look at how you can best meet your employees’ needs and preferences now, but also how you can plan for the future. Serraview’s workplace space planning solutions help you do just that. With current data about how your space is used, you’ll be able to make decisions about how to better use the space next week while planning for next month, next quarter, next year. Request a demo today.



Wayfinding: An essential step for increasing productivity and engagement

In what’s being called “the modern workplace”, productivity and engagement drive everything. From large corporations down to rising startups, companies are exploring new workplace offerings to improve employee experiences. While some businesses experiment with 6 hour work weeks, others are testing out health and wellness programs. Both are often well received and even boasted about, but implementing and supporting these programs long term can be cumbersome and may not be the best fit for every company culture.

Instead of trying to increase productivity and engagement with supplemental tactics, progressive corporations are introducing wayfinding solutions to alleviate daily headaches for employees. Wayfinding is the leveraging of integrated building technologies to deliver employees real-time visibility into the availability of high demand resources; such as conference rooms, desks, and even fellow colleagues.

According to Steelcase Inc., 40% of employees waste up to 30 minutes a day looking for meeting space. And with most employees attending 62 meetings per month, that’s a lot of valuable time lost! Wayfinding tools show employees what rooms are available now, when the room is booked, and what amenities and technologies are available per room. When employers make it simple for employees to find the type of space they need, it not only improves the employee’s overall experience in the workplace but allows them to be more productive with their time.

In fact, according to CBRE’s 2017 Americas Occupier Survey, 53% of organizations name promoting collaboration as the main driver for their workplace strategy. To collaborate effectively, employees not only need the right resources but also must be able to find their fellow co-workers quickly and easily. Wayfinding tools simplify locating a colleague, and contacting them, by pulling in the employee directory. It’s as simple as searching for the person you need and clicking “call” or “email” to be instantly connected, making each collaborative session more efficient and effective.

To learn more about how wayfinding addresses these issues, watch our video blog.


Creating an Activity Based Working Strategy

Workplace transformation is becoming a primary focus for innovative companies. In fact, according to the CBRE 2017 Americas Occupier Survey Report, 86% of respondents are reinventing or adapting their workplace standards this year. But, where do you start? New and trending strategies seem to appear every week: open office design, hoteling, agile working. How do you know which strategy will work best for your business?

Today, corporations are relying heavily on their real estate teams to revolutionize their workplaces into modern spaces where employees and buildings are both effective and efficient. The multi-generational workforce has higher expectations from their employers and people want more from their office than just a place to sit. To accommodate these diverse needs and demands, leading enterprises are seeing the most success with activity based working environments.

Download Whitepaper: “Creating an Activity Based Working Strategy”

Leesman describes activity based working (ABW) as a transformational business strategy that provides people with a choice of setting, rather than forcing individuals to work at a singular desk location. Companies who have adopted ABW in their workplace strategy are finding it to be a long-term solution that addresses the modern workforce needs as well as aligning with business goals.

While many companies are realizing the benefits of ABW, the transition didn’t happen overnight. Their corporate real estate teams consider the multi-generational workforce, rising property costs, advancements in technology, and the war for talent when creating their workplace strategy.

To learn how progressive enterprises are developing successful ABW strategies, read our new step-by-step guide “Creating an Activity Based Working Strategy”.


High-Tech Commercial Occupancy Sensors for Agile Space Planning

The following is a guest blog written by Itamar Roth, Chief Business Officer at PointGrab.

Agile workplaces are a smart strategy for solving a number of pressing corporate problems: reining in mounting property costs by optimizing space, supporting workforce mobility, and attracting and retaining talent.

However, planning and managing these flexible environments is challenging because of the nature of agile spaces: people are constantly moving around and occupancy shifts from day to day, even hour to hour. Agile space planning requires a real-time in-depth understanding of how your workforce uses space, including the floor, room and desk level. If you attempt to implement agile workplaces without reliable business intelligence about space utilization, chances are you’ll fail to gain the benefits you’re looking to achieve.

Innovative occupants’ activity sensors can provide up-to-the-minute intelligence about space utilization that’s needed to plan and manage modern workplaces. In the past, commercial occupancy sensors most commonly were used for automating lighting or HVAC control. Today, intelligent Internet of Things (IoT) sensor technology can be used to help lower expenses and design workplaces that provide the optimal employee experience.

Here are some of the latest advancements in commercial occupancy sensors and how they overcome some of these challenges.

Horizontal sensing vs. traditional commercial occupancy sensors

Counting the number of people occupying a space is useful for a number of facilities operations, including managing lighting, controlling HVAC, managing meeting space usage and room booking systems, and even for building security. However, in the past, separate sensors managed each of these functions without crossover. Today, with the IoT transformation, computer vision and AI advancements, “horizontal” sensing devices can share data across many building systems, meaning facility managers can implement one sensor platform to communicate with and manage various building automation requirements.

TIP: Deploying a unified sensing platform also makes it easier to monitor and analyze data using Serraview’s space analytics tools and heat-maps.

Image sensing and AI improves ability to count people for space management

Many traditional commercial occupancy sensors use motion-detection to infer the presence or absence of people within a defined space. Therefore, such sensors cannot determine the number of occupants in the given space.

Other people-counting technologies, such as beacons, can provide location details, but they require employees to install a smartphone app, keep it switched on and carry the device wherever they go inside the building. Without participation, the accuracy of these systems is questionable. In addition, they might “count” nearby employees who are just outside the designated count area (e.g. a meeting room).

More advanced occupants’ activity sensors use imaging technology to “see” people (as opposed to objects) within a defined space to provide an accurate headcount and occupants’ tracking information. These sensors are surprisingly smart, as they not only “see” but also analyze the scenery. Using deep-learning neural network technology, such sensor devices can accurately detect the presence, location, count and movement of occupants across countless scenarios and environments. As a result, these devices can provide more detailed and accurate information about occupants, well beyond merely reporting the absence or presence of people within a space.

Edge analytics technology protects occupants’ privacy

Corporate space planners need accurate space utilization data to provide better work spaces that support mobility and collaboration. However, they must collect that intelligence without compromising the privacy of employees. Occupants’ activity sensors that employ edge analytics provide intelligence and the required level of privacy, since all the data processing happens within the sensor itself. That means no sensitive or identifiable information (such as occupant’s image) is stored or transmitted, therefore there is no privacy compromise.

Extending range and reducing maintenance

In a flexible office environment, it’s essential to track seat availability in real time to power wayfinding and desk booking systems that help employees find spaces to work. Even in traditional spaces, meeting room seating must be monitored for availability and occupancy tracked to better optimize meeting space. However, putting traditional and single-purpose desk sensors under every seat can become expensive. Even beyond the cost of the sensors, there is the cost of installation and the cost of replacing batteries regularly.

Occupants’ activity sensor technology is hard-wired to eliminate battery changes. And, instead of being installed under every seat, ceiling installations increase the range, allowing a single sensor to track up to 15 seats simultaneously.

Demand-controlled ventilation reduces energy use

Intelligent sensor technology is becoming useful for increased control of building systems like HVAC, which not only reduces costs but provides a more comfortable environment for the workforce. Demand-controlled ventilation is a great example. Ventilation brings air into the space from the outside, which must be heated or cooled to a set temperature. Traditional ventilation is designed to vent space according to its maximum capacity, which today is rarely 100%. Venting at 100% capacity wastes a great deal of energy, especially in very hot or cold climates.

Demand-controlled ventilation reduces HVAC energy consumption by 20% by using actual space utilization data from sensors to adjust ventilation according to real-time demand. Monitoring CO2 levels is one way to measure the need for ventilation within a space. However, occupants’ activity sensors can respond faster to changing numbers of people without waiting for CO2 levels to rise and fall, and reports these numbers to the HVAC system. The result is better indoor air quality, which can impact both workforce wellness and productivity.

Daylight harvesting provides smarter lighting control

The same occupants’ activity sensors that count people in a space can also be used to provide the optimal lighting conditions and further reduce energy consumption. In modern workplaces with lots of windows and natural light, photo cells are used to precisely monitor the lighting conditions within a space. The sensors take advantage of natural light, when and where it’s available, and reduce your building’s lighting accordingly. This process is called “daylight harvesting.”

While using a few photo cells for daylight harvesting has been shown effective, it is still limited in analyzing the complete light distribution in a defined space. By contrast, the same image sensor that is used for occupants’ detection applications contains thousands of photo cells, allowing it to “see” the varying lighting conditions within a region of interest. That data can be used to understand which lights can be dimmed and which powered up within a given area. The result is optimized lighting distribution, reduced energy consumption, and a better workplace experience for employees.

The workplace tools used by facilities and corporate real estate teams need to keep up with the smart technology the workforce is implementing. Smart building technology, especially intelligent sensor technology, has advanced rapidly in recent years, contributing to significant cost reductions and a more productive environment that supports the modern workforce.

Download Best Practices for the Modern Workplace today.

*PointGrab is a computer vision company that provides an innovative sensing platform to the smart building industry. The company applies its superior deep-learning technology to accurately track and understand human activity and space utilization. This enables building operation efficiency optimization, higher real-estate and space utilization, and energy savings.


Can You Adopt Agile Working Practices in Existing Office Space?

The following is a guest post written by Melissa Marsh, Senior Managing Director of Occupant Experience at Savills Studley, the leading commercial real estate services firm specializing in tenant representation. Melissa is also Founder and Executive Director of PLASTARC, a social research, workplace innovation, and real estate strategy firm dedicated to shifting workplace metrics from ‘square feet and inches’ to ‘occupant satisfaction and performance.’

Today’s workplace is taking on new responsibilities: building relationships between business teams, enabling a culture of collaboration, attracting and retaining the best talent, boosting productivity, and supporting innovation. It all adds up to a pretty tall order—one that’s especially tough to accomplish within a traditional office space.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably looking at agile working practices and/or activity-based workplace design for ways to meet the objectives above, but wondering how you can make such substantial change within the foreseeable future. It could be years before your organization will be in a position to build a brand new, modern facility—or maybe you’re thinking that day will never come.

Certainly, it’s ideal to kick off your workplace transformation with a fresh start: a signature architect-designed building with an impressive list of amenities, not to mention open staircases, near-exotic work settings, and tons of natural light.  

Don’t despair!

If it’s not feasible for your company to construct a big-ticket facility now, that doesn’t mean you have to forego the benefits of these practices altogether! In fact, it’s smart to do so even if (and especially if) you have longer-term plans to move to a new building. Keep reading to find out why.

Before we get started, a bit of vocabulary will help get us on the same page. Though they have a lot in common, agile working practices are generally characterized by the premise that “work” is an activity, not a place, and therefore it can happen at any hour of the day, in any location, and with help from any number of technologies. Activity-based working (ABW) is a design typology that eschews dedicated desks and seats in favor of activity areas made for different tasks: private phone booths for calls, a lounge for impromptu conversations, standing desks for independent work, etc.

Many workplace consultants (or architects) may hesitate to tell you this, but it is possible to make the move to agile working practices and activity-based work settings within your existing space, likely without making a huge investment in its architecture or interior design.

There’s no denying that there are challenges associated with implementing agile working practices in a space that’s not currently set up for them. However, in the right circumstances, and with proper planning, you can convert a traditionally designed space into an activity-based environment with non-assigned seating.

Assessing the challenges: Understanding agile working practices in an existing space

1. Mobile technology is essential 

If there’s a single biggest physical prerequisite to implementing agile working practices within existing office space, it’s technology. Your company needs to have a level of technology that allows people to be mobile where they work, full stop. Mobile phones and laptops make it much simpler for employees to embrace the new way of working and allow them to make full use of different types of space. In some cases, you can get by with existing technology—for example, desk phones that allow employees to log in to get their calls, or simple softphone programs that let people use their tablet or laptop as a phone.

Mobile technology is likely the most important investment you’ll make in your initial workplace transformation efforts, so it’s smart to plan for it up front.

2. People are creatures of habit

One big advantage of moving to agile working practices in a brand new office is that the space itself will help catalyze behavioral change. Switching between different spaces and working more collaboratively are still new concepts and behaviors to many workers, but they don’t feel so awkward when attempted in a new environment where nothing feels familiar. It’s more difficult for people to change the way they work in the same space where they’ve already developed habits and adapted to the status quo.

So if you’re not going the brand new office route, and are instead planning a redesign of your current workplace, how can you harness this same principle of sweeping change? With a carefully-planned change management program. See number 3, below.  

Learn more:
9 Steps to Implementing Change in the Workplace: Agile Spaces

3. Communication can make or break your efforts

The centerpiece of your change management plan must be proactive communication that includes the right messaging for your employees. Let’s be very clear: your message should not be about all the money your company stands to save by moving to agile working practices.

While that’s certainly good motivation for your CFO, it’s not going to fly with employees. Citing a happier ending for the company’s bottom line won’t gain you any fans from within a group that feels they’re being asked to give something up (in this case, their desks, and the sense of ownership that goes with them). If you go this route, you’re very likely to be seen as shifting responsibility for your workplace’s finances from yourself onto your employees.

Instead, your messaging to employees needs to explain “what’s in it for them”—how their own individual workplace experience will benefit from these changes. Stress that people who adopt agile working practices report being more productive, having more helpful “collisions” with their colleagues, and feeling a more empowering sense of agency within their surroundings.

Learn more:
Multiply Agile Working Benefits: Invest in the Employee Experience

4. Agile working practices are complemented by ABW

Don’t focus solely on moving to unassigned seating to increase your occupancy and utilization levels. If you do, you may reap the oft-cited cost-savings, but you won’t get more productive employees, or any of the other benefits mentioned above. In fact, if you ask people to give up their desks without giving them better choices, you may find employees giving you the emperor’s new clothes treatment.

Providing choice means addressing diversity within the workspace. A choice between a desk at a window and a desk in a hallway is not really a choice. If your new space is unassigned but still homogeneous, it won’t work. Instead, create different space types that align with the way your teams want and need to work: quiet areas, collaborative areas, private areas, social areas, etc. Make these spaces uniquely different, too, by varying elements like wall and accessory color and furniture style between them.

5. Start moving sooner rather than later

Most organizations tend not to experiment with their workplaces for learning purposes, so when it comes to design, it’s easy to become static. Then, when a lease is expiring or they need to add more space, the change can easily feel cataclysmic.

With that in mind, consider taking this opportunity to conduct a pilot that can show you how agile working practices might work for your company (see more in number 2, below). A pilot will help you figure out the types of spaces that work best for your people, and the policy changes that might be needed to make them work better. As an added bonus, the lessons you learn from your pilot-scale experiments with existing space will make you more successful if and when the time comes to invest in a larger design/build project for a modern facility.

At PLASTARC, we call this process “fail fast workplace planning.” Read about how Mozilla did it: Mozilla’s Open Source Workplace: Failing Fast, Creating, Succeeding.

Remember, it’s not only the CRE team that will learn from your initial efforts: your employees will also gain their first understandings of agile working practices and how the modern office can help them work smarter. So when you finally do open that fabulous new building (or even just unveil that fabulous new floor plan), they’ll be much more ready, willing, and able to jump right in.

Making the leap: How to set the stage for & begin tracking agile working practices

1. Start with a pilot

A manageable move for your foray into agile working practices could start with a pilot of 30 to 40 people; for larger companies, not more than 300 to 400 (for most large office buildings, that’s 1 to 3 floors). Convert a discrete existing space first, and measure success by whether or not people use it. If they don’t, there might be a problem with how it’s designed or allocated. Once you know, you can address the issues on this pilot-level scale, before you’ve spent too much time or money.

2. Mix it up

While most businesses spend a lot of time and money restacking to accomplish clustered adjacencies (similar teams working together), now’s your chance to try something different: encourage complementary teams to work together. In the agile environment, you’ll no longer need to move people around in the traditional manner; you can empower them to move themselves to the optimal place for cross-team collaboration.

3.  Plan smart

It can be tricky to figure out how to rework a floor to create a pilot space that will test your ideas without disrupting business or incurring major moving expenses. Serraview’s scenario planning and relocation tools make the process simpler, faster, and less expensive, and help companies think differently about their space from top to bottom.

4. Use technology to measure results and refine

To make the best use of your initial efforts as a learning experience, it pays to invest in utilization tracking technology like sensors. Such technology can provide a wealth of data about how your people are using the new space (or not), which can help you repeat your successes and identify and correct problems. Hopefully, since your pilot is taking place in a small area, this won’t be a prohibitive investment. But even if sensors can’t make it into your budget, you can at least take a new look at data you’re probably already tracking, such as badge swipe information, to help you measure space utilization.

Learn more:
What Location Intelligence Means for The Workplace
Sensor Data: What It Reveals About Workforce and Workplace

Ready, set… Get to work!

If you employ all the steps above when you’re ready to make an investment in your workplace of the future—whether that’s a brand new building, or just brand new interior design—you’ll be in a better position to confidently plan for that future. Because you will have experimented with and refined your agile working practices, you’ll already know what’s needed to meet your KPIs for utilization and enable the top-notch employee experience you’re after. Plus, you’ll have the data to prove that your agile workplace really works.


Making the Case for Workplace Management Software at Your Company

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

When you consider the expense of having a private workspace, you begin to realize where you can improve efficiencies and cut costs – and what company isn’t looking for simple, effective ways to do this throughout their enterprise?

To start, evaluate your workspace usage. As you can see from the diagram below, most businesses assume they have 60-70% workspace utilization, when it is significantly lower.

Take into account that real estate is among the highest expense for a business, the financial implications for more efficient workspace usage are huge.

Here’s why you should make the case for workplace management software:

4 Major Factors that Affect Workspace Needs

1. The Rising Cost of Corporate Real Estate

Globally, real estate costs are at an all-time high. As your operating costs rise, it is imperative your company maximizes real estate and monitors usage to avoid wasted space.

2. An Increase in Flexible & Remote Job Opportunities

As companies offer greater work flexibility, the number of flexible or remote employees has increased. By 2020, researchers predict that flexible working will be the main mode of working for 70% of organizations.

Related article: How the Gig Economy Is Impacting the Corporate Workplace

3. Productivity is Key

Rather than measure how long someone spends at a desk, productivity needs to be monitored in terms of goals and deliverables. If you adapt to the physical and virtual world of work, you can foster greater productivity.

Related article: How Do You Measure Knowledge Worker Productivity

4. Attract & Retain the Best Talent

The average cost to replace a team member is $40,000, so keeping your top talent is a worthwhile investment. Additionally, when seeking prospective employees from younger generations, think about building a corporate culture that’s more in-tune with today’s work and lifestyles.

Related article: 3 Workplace Strategies for Attracting Top Talent

Solutions that Save Time and Space

Modern workplace technology, including room booking and desk booking software, digital signage for meeting rooms and workspace occupancy sensors, help businesses address these four workplace challenges. Innovative workplace management software enables companies to simplify their space management, maximize workspace usage and minimize overall space needs, ultimately cutting costs. Smart companies today want workplace management software that comes with benefits such as:

  • Improving employee performance – your workforce will enjoy the accuracy, convenience and flexibility of the workspace. Whether it’s having meeting rooms available for collaboration or an open desk for individual work, employees will be able to use these resources when and where they need it – decreasing downtime, increasing productivity.
  • Driving better decisions – by knowing how workspaces are used on an hourly, daily, weekly and monthly basis, companies can analyze this data to develop their workplace allocation strategies and future real estate plans.
  • Improving the bottom line – with fewer wasted resources. Do-it-yourself workspace bookings, as well as better use of existing real estate and future real estate ventures, result in reduced costs.

To help bring the benefits of these valuable innovations to your company, take a closer look at how they can aid key individuals and support groups by downloading our Making the Case for Workplace Software guide. It details frequently encountered workplace challenges and the advantages of workplace management software for nine roles (or operational groups) found in most companies.

Transforming your business with these new technologies can be easy with the right workplace management software and technology partner. Many major corporations are already realizing significant savings on real estate and resource requirements, resulting in better performance on the bottom line. Be sure that your company joins that list.

Does traditional IWMS meet the needs of the modern workplace? Learn more.