It’s no secret that organizations with large portfolios of office space need to rethink how they’re using their space. Yours is probably like many CRE teams: pressured to make workplaces work better for the modern business and the mobile workforce. It’s a tall order, and there’s no magic formula for workplace transformation guaranteed to work for every company and every situation.

Are you struggling to create workplaces that get teams to collaborate, attract and retain talent, and enable the company to produce and innovate? Read on to learn why you may not be seeing the results you expected, and how to get your workplace transformation on the right track.

What’s wrong with your workplace transformation design?

This is a common scenario we see with companies just beginning to move toward modern workplaces: their first attempts at workplace transformation only go so far, and are sometimes disappointing.

Does this sound familiar? You get approval for a pilot program based on all the modern workplace benefits you’ve heard about. You begin to put together a workplace transformation strategy by doing observation studies. You might even go to the trouble of asking the impacted teams what they want in the new space. You purchase white boards and other enablement technology, put in lots of comfortable space for collaboration, and make sure to include those phone booths everyone wants for privacy.

After the workplace transformation is complete, your CFO wanders through the space and comes to you in dismay. Where is everybody? Why does the space still look underutilized? Why is nobody using the technology and furniture we spent so much money on? Why is the business still asking for extra space?

If you have found yourself in this situation, you are probably facing two problems:

  • How can you prove what’s working?
  • How do you fix what isn’t?

Learn more by watching this video: 5 Tips for Companies Moving to Agile Office Space


The problem: workplace decisions based on perception

When you began your workplace transformation project, you thought you were doing the right things: getting expert designers involved (either your own, or outside firms) to do observation, and asking employees about what they need. The problem is, both of those strategies can provide you with misinformation instead of reliable data.

Manual observation studies typically involve people walking around with clipboards, taking notes about the spaces that they see being used. The problem is, those observers can’t be everywhere at the same time. They can only record what they see. And the studies are only conducted for a period of days or a few weeks at the most, so they can’t capture changing conditions over longer periods. The issues are the same as using manual methods to record occupancy. (Read more about that here: Why Bed Checks for Commercial Space Planning Are So Yesterday.)

Asking your teams what they want is a great way to get them on your side. However, taking that information as gospel without verifying it often leads to poor decisions. Remember that teams being asked to move to a new way of working will be anxious about giving up their assigned space. In an effort to hold onto what they have, it’s likely they will ask for more space than they are actually using or overestimate how many people are in the office each day.

When you base your workplace transformation on these sources of misleading information, it’s no wonder that the results don’t work out as well as you hoped.

Here’s another problem: even though your new space may not be humming with collaborative activity all the time, you know that utilization has improved. But you have no way to prove that to the casual observer who walks through at the wrong moment.

So, how can you show your superiors what’s working better today? And get the reliable information you need to improve your workplace transformation strategy moving forward?

The solution: data-driven workplace transformation

The answer lies in turning to technology to gather reliable data about how your space is being used.

There’s a wide variety of different utilization tracking technologies on the market. Here are some examples of the kind of data you can collect and how you can use that information to prove what’s happening in your space, and also to plan more efficient and effective workplaces.

Badge data

Many companies begin by leveraging the badge scan data they already collect as employees enter the building. That data doesn’t provide details about where people are, but you do know who is in the building and what part of the business they work in. Using that information, you can produce average attendance by business unit or team to help you in calculating more accurate seat ratios for agile neighborhoods.

You’ll probably find that you underestimated those ratios in your initial workplace transformation attempts. Now you can adjust and take back the underutilized space. The result? A more active space that leads to more collaboration.

Badge data is also useful for building your business case for your next workplace transformation project. The data can show who is spending time in the office and help you estimate cost savings based on wasted space.

Learn more: Workplace Redesign: Building a Business Case

Because badge data can’t tell you specifically where people are, it won’t be able to help you plan the right mix of space types based on actual utilization. That’s where sensors can be useful.

Occupancy sensors

Sensors help you pinpoint where people are in your space, as well as how many are using different types of spaces over the course of a day, a week, or a month. That data can be very useful for learning things like:

  • Are meeting spaces optimized? You might find that a room designed for 12 is most often used for groups of 3 or 4, while others have trouble finding an open room. Using that info, you might decide to reconfigure the space into several smaller conference rooms.
  • Are people using collaboration spaces? In the scenario described earlier, walking through the space at a slow time gave a false impression about use of space and technology. Occupancy sensors can prove how often (and in some cases how many) people are using various areas in your workplace.

IMPORTANT: There is a wide range of sensor technologies available, and they don’t all provide the same level of granularity. For example, lighting sensors usually only tell you if someone is in the room, whereas desk level sensors pinpoint location down to a seat level. (We’ll explain more about sensor technology in an upcoming blog). Sensor data is anonymous, so you won’t know who is using the space. There’s also a capital investment you’ll need to make to install and maintain the sensors.

Network sensors

Network presence technology (such as Serraview Live) uses software to track where people are spending time in the office. As long as they are using their laptop, you can track their location in real time and over periods of time. There’s no hardware to install or maintain, and you’ll know who is where as well as how many people are using space and which spaces are available.

That data is extremely useful for another purpose: powering workforce enablement tools such as wayfinding technology. Using a kiosk or a mobile app, employees can easily find work spaces, meeting rooms, and colleagues in an agile work environment.

The downside is that people may not always bring their laptops to meetings in a conference room, so you may need to supplement this technology with room sensors in meeting rooms.

Because each utilization tracking technology has its strengths and limitations, most organizations deploy a mix to gather all the data needed to plan workplace transformation and manage effective and efficient space. That means you’ll also need a way to aggregate all the data from multiple sources and make it useful for making decisions.

Heatmaps: making sense of utilization data

You could employ a team of data analysts to pull together your utilization data and show you trends and actionable opportunities. Of course, then you’ll always be waiting for answers. Instead, deploy a workplace management solution designed to integrate utilization data from multiple sources (along with your space plans) and visualize it for smarter decision making.

Heatmaps provide you with a visual representation of how people are using space. You can drill down to the level of detail you need, and see real-time or data compiled over a specified time period. Heatmap data can show you hot and cold spots in your workplace, which can help you adjust your workplace transformation strategy to get the mix of space right for each team and each neighborhood.

If your workplace transformation isn’t producing great results, it’s time to take a hard look at your strategy. Is it based on perception or actionable data?

Here’s a resource that explains more about the different utilization tracking technologies: Managing Workplace Utilization.

Can traditional IWMS meet the requirements of the modern workplace? Learn more today.