Data Governance: A Critical Component of Good Workplace Management

By Kane Hochster
Chief Sales Officer

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.  


Why Wayfinding Apps Are a Key Part of Workforce Enablement

“Workforce enablement” is a broad term that can encompass many different strategies, policies and tools. At the core, it’s all about making it as easy and frictionless as possible for employees to do their jobs.

Away from work, we use our phones and digital assistants like Alexa to accomplish a huge number of tasks. We use apps to arrange for groceries to be delivered with just a few taps, get a weather report and play our favorite music with simple commands, or adjust the lighting or temperature with a swipe.

At work, we want things to be just as seamless. Companies that want engaged, productive employees are making workforce enablement a priority. Wayfinding apps, along with other tools and systems, go a long way when enabling your workforce.

Workforce Enablement Starts with Leadership

Many examples of workforce enablement in action involve technology: software, tools, and apps that make it simpler to accomplish tasks. This can include intuitive chat/video conferencing software to help remote teams collaborate, HR apps that let you update your employee info or request time off, reservation systems to quickly book conference rooms, and more.

But, for that technology to work, it needs to be backed up by an organizational philosophy dedicated to supporting workers.

How does your office layout and design empower your workforce? Find out here.

Your leadership team needs to be committed to providing employees with the right tools, assets, and educational opportunities that help them do their jobs with as little frustration as possible. An example of a workforce enablement tool that’s gaining popularity is the wayfinding app.

Wayfinding Apps Boost Efficiency

Wayfinding apps are meant to help workers navigate their workspace—either helping them find colleagues, specific desks or rooms, or other resources in the building. Depending on the app, they may be used on a computer, a mobile device or a kiosk.

The goal of wayfinding apps is to save time when people are looking for someone to collaborate with or a place to work. Searching the office for your colleague’s desk, a meeting room, another workstation or the cafeteria might be a great way to satisfy your activity tracker, but it’s not an efficient way to work together. With an app that indicates your colleague has checked into workstation 8 on the 5th floor, you can find her quickly and discuss your upcoming presentation, saving time and energy.

Learn more: 10 ways to optimize your workplace.

What about the complaint shared by just about every office worker: “I can’t find an open conference room”? Wayfinding apps, on either a desktop or mobile device, can show you which conference rooms are available at any given time. Locator, Serraview’s wayfinding app even allows you to search by certain criteria, like the room size or equipment available. There’s also a “just in time booking” function that lets you immediately reserve a room when you need one.

Wayfinding apps are especially helpful when an employee works in hybrid or activity-based work (ABW) offices or is visiting another office location. When an employee arrives each day, she can use the wayfinding app on her phone to locate an open workstation. She can select one based on her tasks for the day: near the conference room she’ll be using for an afternoon meeting, in a designated quiet zone so she can focus on putting together a report or slide deck without distractions, or next to the colleague she’s collaborating with. Or she can easily search for one of the few standing desks located throughout the office to see if it is available.

Wayfinding apps are an important way to enable your workforce, making their workdays easier and less frustrating. In 2017, an Office Worker Survey found that four in 10 workers spend up to an hour a week looking for workstations, conference rooms, or colleagues. We’ll let you do the math: 40% of your workforce spending an hour a week looking for something translates to how many hours lost? Wayfinding apps can reduce those hours to mere minutes—and you’re saving the less-easily-calculated costs of frustrated, harried workers.

Serraview’s wayfinding app comes in two versions: Locator Pro and Elite. Request a demo today and find out which one will best serve your needs.


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”.


Workplace Strategy: How to Go From Lifeless to Lively

The Journey to Workplace Productivity is a lot Like the Journey to the Wizard of Oz

Have you ever thought your workplaces were boring and lifeless? Have you ever wondered what could be done to turn your boring and lifeless workplaces around? I did. Once I inherited boring, lifeless workplaces. When you find yourself in this situation, you may be tempted to adopt the latest workplace trend. Remote working. Open office. Free address. Co-working. Back to the office. But how do you know that any of these trends will work for your business?

The best workplace strategies are designed around the people and the work. They boost workplace productivity by improving the employee experience, attracting and retaining talent, and improving business productivity. By how much? Here’s a striking example. One of Serraview’s large corporate real estate clients achieved:

  • 89% of people recommending their new workplace to others,
  • Four times more job applicants, and
  • 92% utilization of their corporate real estate portfolio, up from 50% three years ago.

How do you get there? The journey to workplace productivity is a lot like the journey to the Wizard of Oz. A tornado strikes. Dorothy is lost. She follows the yellow brick road to the Wizard of Oz. On the way, she meets three characters: the scarecrow, the tin man, and the cowardly lion.

  1. The scarecrow needs a brain. The brain in workplace strategy is gathering the data and creating design principles.
  2. The tin man needs a heart. The heart in workplace strategy is engaging people in the design and creating a design that engages people.
  3. The cowardly lion needs courage. Courage in workplace strategy is leading the change, especially when it’s difficult.

Brains, heart, and courage. Are you ready to get started? Here are three steps to transform your workplace from lifeless to lively with workplace strategy.

Workplace Strategy Step 1: Gather Data & Create Design Principles (“The Brains”)

“The role of the workplace strategist is to get to know the organization in a really deep way,” says Randy Howder, Gensler workplace strategist in Interior Design. “It’s more than just one vision session. It’s really living with the client, like how Frank Lloyd Wright used to go live with clients, to really respond to the environment.”

Gather Data

To get to know your company and inform your workplace strategy, gather the data to learn:

  • Business Strategies – for your entire company, every business line, and every function, especially human resources, information technology, and brand.
  • Industry Trends – for the industry your company is in, and perhaps even for related industries.
  • Employee Feedback – employee engagement surveys, workplace satisfaction surveys, and facilities satisfaction surveys.
  • Observations – real-time, in person workplace observation studies by a trained industrial engineer who observes activity in both dedicated and shared spaces.
  • Utilization % – how and how much space is used. This is where it helps a lot to have tools to collect and analyze the data. (Learn more from this white paper: Managing Workplace Utilization.)
  • Financial Results – operating expense, capital expenditures, and assets. Get it by site, if possible.

Gathering data to get to know your company and its business, can be the hardest and most time-consuming step, especially if you don’t have good systems, data, or relationships. But you must do it. Without it, you can’t design a workplace strategy that would meet your business needs.

Create Design Principles

When I gathered the data about my company and its business, and analyzed the data, here are the principles that I came up with. Some of them may apply to your company.

  • Connections – How can workplaces become the hubs and connection points for people, places, and partnerships?
  • Focus & Flexibility – Where will we work quietly, free from distraction and noise, and have the ability to change our workplaces based on our needs?
  • Engaging Experiences – How will we design engaging experiences rather than merely spaces?
  • Technology – How can technology bring the physical and digital worlds together? How can technology enlarge our world beyond the four walls?
  • Brand/Culture – How can workplaces communicate brand and culture?
  • Sustainability & Wellness – How can workplaces contribute to better health and better environmental outcomes?

Read more in this related article: Components of the High Performance Workplace

Workplace Strategy Step 2: Engage People in the Design & Create a Design that Engages People (“The Heart”)

Engage People in the Design

To create a design that engages people, start by engaging people in the design. If you prefer a more structured approach, consider ideation workshops or design thinking. If you prefer a less structured approach, consider focus groups or just talking with people.

Identify Work Styles

Identify the different styles of work at your company. They may vary within a business or function. They’re likely the same for one type of job or group of jobs. In technology companies and companies with a lot of technology, work styles may include:

  • Agile – flexible; where a person changes quickly and seamlessly between collaborative and concentrative work. Typical jobs include systems software engineers.
  • Communicator – connects and collaborates with his or her team; where a person balances face-to-face interaction with virtual meetings. Typical jobs include brand managers.
  • Concentrator – spends the majority of time on focused work; where a person shares ideas and builds community in a team setting. Typical jobs include region counsel.
  • Traveler – continually visits client sites when not in the office; where a person uses free address or touchdown space when in the office. Typical jobs include field technical support consultants.
  • Innovator – develops future products; where a person works heads-down, testing and building products, and also shares their work for feedback. Typical jobs include research engineers.

Create Work Settings and Zones

In your workplace strategy, create zones that bring the design principles to life and serve as primary or secondary work settings for each of the work styles. In the example below, the physical layout ranges from an active buzz at the entry zone to focused concentrative places in quiet zones. Here’s how:

  • Entry Zone – reception, business lounge, and showcase center. Emphasis on connections, engaging experiences, technology, brand/culture, and sustainability & wellness. Primary work setting for travelers.
  • Hub Zone – cafés, open dining, and break out spaces. Emphasis on connections, focus & flexibility, brand/culture, and sustainability & wellness. Primary work setting for agile, communicators, concentrators, and travelers.
  • Garage Zone – open and enclosed spaces. Emphasis on connections, focus & flexibility, engaging experiences, technology, and brand/culture. Primary work setting for agile and innovators.
  • Neighborhoods – team-based zone. Emphasis on connections, focus & flexibility, and engaging experiences. Primary work setting for communicators and concentrators.
  • Quiet Zones – little to no talking. Emphasis on focus & flexibility and technology. Primary work setting for agile, concentrators, and innovators.

You may also provide specialty areas in your workplace strategy, such as customer briefing centers and auditoriums. Consider where they belong relative to the other places. Close? Far away? Completely separated? And, will specialty areas sometimes serve a dual purpose as work space or public space?

Workplace Strategy Step 3: Lead the Change (“The Courage”)

Take accountability for leading the change. Dedicate time and resources to it, and get help when you need it. Communicate early and often. Leading the change is much easier if you’re completing or you already completed steps 1 and 2. Steps 1 and 2 help you make the case for your workplace strategy with facts & figures, as well as feelings.

Take accountability if and when the going gets tough. Ask for and give air cover. Ask for input, and make sure you both listen and hear what people say about your workplace strategy. And above all else, stay focused on the goal: boosting performance of the people and the business.

By following these three steps, you can achieve great results with your workplace strategy, as I did. Plus, you’ll be well on your way to lively, high performance, and perhaps world-class workplaces.

Download Creating an Activity Based Working Strategy today.


Sensor Data: What It Reveals About Workforce & Workplace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sensor technology for occupancy & utilization management

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

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

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

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

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

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

Using sensor data in the modern workplace

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

Meeting room utilization and availability

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

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

Real-time workpoint availability

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

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

Usage of wellness features such as staircases

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

Reduce maintenance expenses

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

Improve indoor air quality

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

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

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

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


Sensor data analytics for the modern workplace

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

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

Book a demo to see for yourself how it works.


Workplace Redesign: Building a Business Case

How do you develop financial justification for workplace transformation?

Even though office space is such a large chunk of the budget for just about every large corporation, until a few years ago companies didn’t seem to expect much of a return on that investment in space. It was simply considered a necessary cost of doing business. Today that’s changing in a hurry. Workplaces need to become business enablers that improve employee experience, attract talent, and boost productivity to help companies compete in the knowledge economy.

That’s why every day we see more companies embarking on the journey to implementing modern workplaces that help them meet their business goals. That process often starts small with pilot programs and small projects impacting a floor or a few teams at a time. Positive results at this stage encourage CRE teams to push for more of a good thing. However, gaining approval for a workplace redesign on a larger scale typically requires proving the financial payback for the workplace transformation with a business case.

How do you quantify what your business can expect to gain as a result of the workplace redesign? Here at Serraview, we work with large, global companies in all stages of workplace transformation, and these are the strategies we see them using to establish a solid business case.

3 Steps to building your business case for workplace redesign

Step 1: Calculate COST SAVINGS

Reducing your current expenses is the first place to look for the cost justification you need for your workplace redesign plans.


It’s no secret that office space is a big-ticket item, so reducing space by optimizing your property portfolio is where you’ll find the biggest cost savings with workplace redesign. Modern workplaces reduce property costs by eliminating assigned seating and implementing agile shared spaces instead. Think about how much space you could take back that’s currently under-utilized by mobile workers. A traditional office is commonly only 40 percent occupied at any given time. With an agile working strategy, you can eliminate that all wasted space by consolidating and exiting leases or subletting extra space, increasing utilization to 90 percent or more.

If you know your approximate space usage, you can make a ballpark estimate about how much you stand to save. Here’s an example: if your space is 40 percent utilized each day, how many workpoints (or desks) are being used each day on average? If your target is 90 percent utilization, how many workpoints can you eliminate? Most companies spend between $10,000 and $15,000 per workpoint on space. If you can eliminate 1000 workpoints, you can potentially save $10 million to $15 million per year in space costs.

This is just a starting point; with modern space utilization technology and analytics you can gather actual utilization data for each business team and each area you plan to transform. Having hard evidence from sensors, heatmaps and usage analysis allows you to plan your workplace redesign correctly so you have enough space (and the right types of space) to support each business team. That maximizes your cost savings while also ensuring you’re providing the best employee experience.

Learn more:
Activity-Based Workplace Design: Why One Size Does Not Fit All Managing Workplace Utilization


With workplace redesign, eliminating unnecessary space also allows you to eliminate the operations costs associated with that space, including:

  • Energy costs for lighting, HVAC and plumbing
  • Cleaning
  • Facilities maintenance
  • Security


According to the Society for Human Resource Management, every time a business needs to replace an employee, the cost is between 6 and 9 months’ salary. And that’s for mid-level workers. For a top executive, the cost can be double their annual salary. That’s just one reason why companies are looking to the modern workplace to help retain talent.

What’s the current attrition rates for the teams in your traditional workspaces? Comparing those figures to attrition rates in modern spaces with a better employee experience can be eye-opening. How many people can you save from leaving the company with your workplace redesign and how much in recruitment costs when you don’t need to replace them?

Step 2: Calculate COST AVOIDANCE

In some parts of your property portfolio, you may find that you’re not in a position to eliminate space with your workplace redesign. That’s because certain parts of your business may be growing very quickly and adding to the workforce faster than you can provide adequate space. That’s good news for your business. And it doesn’t mean you should skip over that property in your plans for workplace redesign.

Avoiding leasing or purchasing new space can save you just as much money as eliminating space in other parts of the business. When your business is growing and changing rapidly, you often find yourself having to pay top dollar for more space in the right location to meet an immediate need.

By implementing modern, agile workspaces in locations like this, you can accommodate more people in less space, and build in the flexibility needed to accommodate growing teams and changing business structures with short notice.

How much space do you expect to add in growing regions? How much could you save by accommodating that growth in your existing space with a workplace redesign? Also don’t forget to account for the operations costs you’ll forego when you don’t need that new space.

Step 3: Project TOP-LINE GROWTH

This may be the toughest part of building a business case for workplace redesign, but one you should not leave out, since it addresses the essential goals of your business.

Ultimately your company is looking to grow and be more competitive by increasing productivity and innovation. A well designed knowledge-based workplace clearly improves productivity levels, which can have a significant impact on the bottom line.

Here’s a recommendation from Peter Affleck, formerly head of real estate for Suncorp, a banking and insurance company that’s well ahead of the pack in implementing modern workplaces.

“Bank the space and operational costs as a first start, but then be bold and focus the conversation on the real value-add: the revenue side. Without even considering the extent to which a smart workplace redesign could ignite revenue growth, productivity improvement alone will significantly bulge enterprise profits. Even a very small 3% productivity improvement will expand profits per employee by ~$4,500 in most financial services companies, and significantly higher in the IT giants such as Google and Amazon. It becomes a no-brainer!”

That means quantifying the productivity impact of the modern workplace, using metrics like these:

OUTPUT: Each group within your company measures the efficiency and effectiveness of its team members according to their job functions.

ABSENTEEISM: How much work time are employees missing due to illness, family obligations, “mental health” days and the like? Those figures have a measurable impact on productivity.

ABILITY TO ATTRACT TALENT: This is the other half of the talent equation: how much time and money are you spending trying to recruit new talent, and what’s the impact on productivity when you can’t find people with the skills you need?

If you already have some modern work spaces in your portfolio, look at the differences in the above metrics for your modern vs. traditional workplaces. What differences are you seeing in levels of output, absenteeism, and recruitment efforts? Those numbers can help you project expected gains in productivity following your workplace redesign.

Learn more: How Do You Measure Knowledge Worker Productivity?

Download Best Practices for the Modern Workplace today.


Activity-Based Workplace Design: Why One Size Does Not Fit All

What are your goals for implementing activity-based workplace design in your company? If you are like most organizations beginning to move to this new way of working, you are certainly looking to reduce your footprint and your property costs. At the same time, you may also be tasked with delivering “destination” workplaces that enable collaboration and innovation, attract talent, boost productivity and improve employee experience.

When companies begin to move toward agile environments and activity-based workplace design, there is often a misconception that you can simply remove 20 percent of the desks from each department. If your goal was only to reduce costs, that might be an acceptable strategy. But given the need to improve the quality of the workplace and employee experience, you need a better way to create work spaces that meet the needs of your teams.

Activity-based workplace design: using data to drive your transformation

When companies begin to transition to agile and ABW spaces, it’s a big shift for employees and you’ll almost certainly experience resistance to the change. And for good reason: people maybe commuting 45 to 60 minutes (or more) to get to the office, and they are worried about traveling all that way and finding no desks available. That’s why it’s absolutely essential that you get the seat-to-people ratios right, and provide the spaces people need to do their jobs. You can’t do that based on assumptions or guesswork.

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

To create an activity-based workplace design that actually works for your business, you need to understand how each specific group is currently using space. That means taking the time to gather actual utilization information (for each individual team) over a period of time, minimally 6 to 8 weeks.


The reason for this is simple: different groups in your organization have varying needs for space. For example, an accounting group or a call center might have 90 percent of the staff in the office at any given time. However, a sales team might have only 40 percent of the staff sitting at a desk in the office each day. Your teams also use different types of spaces. The sales group might need small private areas for phone calls, and multiple meeting rooms that accommodate 3-4 people. A software development team might work best in a cluster of open workstations or a team table, with a larger conference room for team meetings.

That’s why your activity-based workplace design must include custom “neighborhoods” designed specifically for the tasks your teams need to accomplish on a day to day basis. One or more teams will be assigned to each neighborhood, and you will develop different seat-to-people ratios for each neighborhood. For example, you might aim for a ratio of 12 people to every 10 seats for the accounting neighborhood, but a ratio of 18 people to every 10 seats for the sales group. Each neighborhood will be designed with the types of spaces needed by the teams using it.

So how do you go about collecting the information about how (and how often) people use space? Read on to learn about two ways to get the data you need to develop an effective activity-based workplace design.

Gathering data the manual way

If you don’t have an automated mechanism in place to track space utilization, it’s possible to do so manually with spreadsheets. For a period of at least 6 weeks, you’ll need to record how many people from each team spend time in the office each day. That information will provide the basis of your seat ratios for each team.

Obviously this effort will require the cooperation of many people, especially in a large corporation, and is time consuming to say the least. For one thing, the number crunching alone will take a while and you’ll need to wait for the results. There’s also another limitation: you’re going to have to do extra work to determine which types of spaces people are using. For example: how much time are sales people spending at their desks making calls, versus in conference rooms collaborating with team members or participating in online presentations with prospects?

To get your activity-based workplace design right, you’ll want more granular intelligence that’s easier to produce and keep up to date. Using workplace technology is a much better solution.

Using workplace technology to gather intelligence

Workplace technology is becoming an essential strategic planning tool for developing and managing activity-based workplace design.

Badge readers, lighting sensors, network sensors and Low Energy Bluetooth gather utilization data automatically, enabling you to see which groups are using which types of space and with what frequency. These technologies are getting both simpler and more sophisticated all the time: some can track a specific person to a specific desk, and you can even get light-powered sensors that work without wires or batteries. However, it’s important to know that each type of technology has its strengths and limitations.

In all likelihood, you’ll want to deploy a combination of utilization tracking technologies to gather all the data you need to make decisions about activity-based workplace design.

Learn more about utilization tracking technology from this informative reference guide: Managing Workplace Utilization.

The next challenge is aggregating data from different sources and producing useful reports. For that, you’ll need workplace management software that acts as a central utilization platform, pulling together utilization data from multiple technologies. Instead of waiting for analysts to crunch numbers, you get real-time reports at your fingertips. You can easily roll up or drill down as needed to see the required level of granularity. And you can even view heatmaps that let you see what’s happening up-to-the-minute in a given area.

Armed with this level of intelligence, you can create the right mix of different space types and the right ratios of seats to people for each neighborhood or business unit. What’s more, you can also track the effectiveness over time so you can make adjustments to your activity-based workplace design as your business changes.

Related article: The New Workplace Space Utilization Metrics You Need to Know About


Leveraging data to gain buy-in

As we mentioned previously (and you probably already know!) one of the biggest challenges of transforming your workplace to an activity-based workplace design is convincing the business that your plan will work. Resistance to just about any kind of change is a given, and this change is a big one.

Being able to share accurate and detailed information about how each of your teams is using space is a valuable way to gain their trust. People are understandably concerned about having a space to work, and having the right space to accomplish daily tasks. When you can show them indisputable evidence about how many people are really in the office every day, anxiety about sharing space is reduced. Plus, people tend to come along for the ride when you share how much money the company stands to save (and then reinvest back into the business) with your plan. Not to mention the cool new features of the activity-based workplace design that improve employee experience, boost productivity and attract talent.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll address how to overcome obstacles to implementing activity-based workplace design and agile work environments:

  • Overcoming resistance with change management strategies
  • Gaining leadership buy in
  • Improving agile working benefits by reinvesting cost savings in the workplace

Don’t miss it!

Download a guide to creating an activity based working strategy today.


How Do You Measure Knowledge Worker Productivity?

Is your CRE team facing mounting pressure to create workplaces that better support employees and how they want and need to work? As if the demand to reduce property costs was not enough, CRE organizations are increasingly tasked with meeting additional goals like these:

  • Attracting talent in an increasingly competitive climate
  • Supporting employee health and wellbeing
  • Increasing collaboration, seen as the key to driving the innovation companies need to be successful in the knowledge economy
  • Improving knowledge worker productivity, which is essential for improving competitiveness and profitability

Corporations are worried by reports of slowing productivity growth, and rightfully so. That’s why even CRE teams are tasked with doing their part to remediate this growing problem. However, organizations are struggling to figure out how to measure the effectiveness of the work they do to improve knowledge worker productivity in particular.

Why measuring knowledge worker productivity is such an elusive target

Knowledge workers are those who “think for a living,” making productivity challenging to measure. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, measuring employee productivity means calculating “output per hour” of work. This formula is problematic for measuring knowledge worker productivity, because:

  • Outputs are intangible and difficult to define
  • Results are often based on team output rather than individual
  • Companies are not necessarily tracking hours for salaried employees
  • Time spent working is increasingly blurred as a mobile workforce integrates their professional and personal lives

Measuring knowledge worker productivity is situational, since outputs and how to calculate them varies widely across an organization. That makes coming up with broadly applicable KPIs very difficult or even impossible. So how can CRE teams measure the effectiveness of programs designed to influence knowledge worker productivity?

The 6 factors that correlate with knowledge worker productivity

Workplace strategy consulting firm Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA) partnered with the Center for Evidence Based Management to undertake extensive research to address the dilemma of how to measure knowledge worker productivity.

They studied the world’s major academic databases with rigorous, high-quality evidence from peer-reviewed research, and (not surprisingly) came to the conclusion that there is no valid universal measurement that can be applied to knowledge worker productivity. However, they did come up with an interesting and useful alternative: a set of 6 strong correlations that relate to knowledge worker productivity at the team level. That means, when these 6 factors exist within knowledge worker teams, or a workplace in general, there is a high statistical correlation with high levels of productivity.

These factors provide the framework to measure the results of workplace transformations designed to improve knowledge worker productivity: measure the levels of these 6 factors before and after program implementation.

However, there is even more value to be gained from understanding these 6 factors. CRE teams can use them as a guide for designing and implementing better workplaces that help meet other goals, like supporting employee wellbeing and attracting talent.

Here are AWA’s 6 factors that correlate to high levels of knowledge worker productivity, and how CRE can create workplaces to better support them.

Social cohesion

In the knowledge economy, each person is an asset bringing their own particular expertise, experiences and ideas to the table. The sharing of all that knowledge among team members is what drives high levels of output, which translates to commercial success for the firm. Social cohesion is the “glue” that fuses high performing teams and leads to knowledge worker productivity. When people feel comfortable with others and valued within the group, they are happy to share their ideas. And possibly more importantly, they feel more comfortable both sharing and accepting criticism.

So how can workplace design impact social cohesion? Two ways: by implementing agile “neighborhoods” where the right combination of people and teams are co-located, and by provided spaces designed to encouraging mingling and collaboration among these people.

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

Perceived supervisory support

The research shows that employees place a high value on how supported they feel by their supervisors. That support influences not only knowledge worker productivity, but their job satisfaction and retention. Employees expect managers to be available to the team to facilitate discussion and cooperation, set a positive tone, and proactively manage workload issues.

Here’s another area where workplace design can have a great impact on knowledge worker productivity. Agile work environments encourage managers to work alongside their teams, making it easier for them to guide interactions and decisions and facilitate problem resolution.

Learn more: 3 Ways an Open Office Plan Works for Corporate Leaders

Information sharing

Being productive means using the most efficient means possible to achieve results. In an organizational team, achieving high levels of knowledge worker productivity means understanding the resources available and what each person brings to the team. When teams do a good job with information sharing, everyone knows how and from whom to get information and assistance. That cuts down on “reinventing the wheel” every time a problem comes up or information is needed.

Promoting information sharing means breaking down the traditional “knowledge is power” value, which can cause people to keep what they know to themselves for their own use. Instead, teams should promote a culture of “knowledge generosity” by valuing those who freely share their expertise with others.

That goal is much easier to accomplish in an open office setting, where team members can readily witness workers (especially leaders) willingly sharing ideas and information.

Goal clarity

Knowledge worker productivity is highly correlated with workers being emotionally engaged with the work they do. That engagement often comes from teams having a common understanding of the underlying goals behind their work. That understanding helps them to empathize with team and organizational goals, develop a high level of commitment and willingness to go “above and beyond” to help achieve those goals.

It’s essential for the organization as a whole, as well as managers at every level, to clearly communicate goals to team members. At the team level, managers need to be mindful of helping individual workers understand how what they do helps both the team and the company to be successful.

While this is certainly a cultural issue to be addressed with change management programs, workplace can also have an impact. That’s because managers working in a modern “neighborhood” environment have more opportunities to interact with employees and provide clarity about goals.

External outreach

In the words of AWA, this is about getting people out of the “cocoon of their own world and that of their team.” To gather information and generate ideas that improve knowledge worker productivity, people need to expose themselves to more diverse views outside their own team, and even outside the organization. This practice fuels creative thought and more and better ideas.

CRE can have a huge impact on external outreach (and knowledge worker productivity) with workplace design and agile working. When people are no longer assigned to the same seat each day, they are exposed to different people as they move around throughout the week, and even the day, to work in different spaces.

Also, workplaces designed to promote movement for the benefit of employee health can also increase external outreach. For example, when people are encouraged to walk around to use shared services, or take the stairs to the next floor, or walk to a neighboring building, they have more opportunities for conversations and sharing information.

Learn more: The Psychology Behind Modern Office Design & Workforce Wellbeing


Employees want to be able to rely on their colleagues, and knowledge worker productivity depends on it. They want to believe in others’ knowledge and skills, know that the expertise they share will be used responsibly, and trust that others will act in their best interest (or at least not against it). They are much more willing to invest their energy and contribute their best work when they have that trust.

Trust is a problem CRE professionals are intimately familiar with. Getting business teams to provide information, when they are not sure you will use it in their best interest, has always been a challenge. So how do you gain trust? First, build relationships by involving teams in information gathering and regularly asking them about their needs and plans. Secondly, by providing value in the form of reliable information.

That’s why CRE teams need technology in place that provides concrete evidence about how space is being used, and by whom. Presenting this knowledge along with your strategic plans shows your business teams that you understand their needs and have their best interest in mind.

Learn more:
Property Team: How To Drive Space Utilization Planning Conversations Managing Workplace Utilization

When you’ve gained the trust of the business teams you support, you improve more than the productivity of the CRE team. It becomes faster and easier to implement workplace transformation strategies like agile working, which serve to reduce property costs, improve workplace culture, attract talent, and boost knowledge worker productivity and your company’s bottom line.

Download a guide to managing workplace utilization today.