Data collection and an increased scrutiny placed on the workplace was already gaining traction before the COVID-19 pandemic, but it now seems to have solidified its footing amongst leading organizations. In fact, expanded data collection was the second trend listed in Gartner’s recent report, “9 Future of Work Trends Post COVID-19,” and it seems to be one of the more complex topics to both digest and execute.
IoT platforms that use overhead sensors, booking data, and smartphone space-reservations to pull analytics, are increasingly playing a key role in supporting the growing data-driven workplace. This technology gives facility managers a deep understanding of their real estate while also empowering employees to find the best spaces to work efficiently.
While some may view this as an encroachment on privacy, most organizations are not gathering any personally identifiable data, but rather using occupancy, behaviour, and usage data to improve employee experience and better support the health and safety of those who work in and visit their facilities.
The following are four important ways facility managers can leverage data to not only make returning to work easier, but also promote a more flexible, healthier and more effective environment for facility end users.
Understand space usage
As many leading organizations prepare to return at least a portion of their workforce to the office, it is important they understand how full their spaces are and what sort of usage capacity they can support. Only with headcount and usage data can teams begin to measure how well they’re performing with regards to maximum capacity regulations. This data supports both a deep understanding of how spaces are being used now, as well as how future spaces might best support the needs of the changing workforce beyond 2020.
Increase employee and occupant awareness
Many employees are being told to continue working from home indefinitely, while others are expected for scheduled intermittent office visits. Making meeting room, workstation, and huddle space availability easily accessible is essential to lowering “return to work” fears and showing users that their organization cares about their concerns. Smartphone apps, interactive map displays, and digital signage are all professional ways of delivering this data to users. These methods increase the flow of information and help users identify an ideal and unoccupied place to get work done—whether that be based on capacity, location, or amenities to support work preference. Gartner’s research also showed that many full-time employees are being replaced with contracted or contingent workers—making the need for office information visibility even more relevant.
Inform space changes
Will cubicles be an appropriate workstation going forward? Does our office need more open collaboration spaces? Are our current meeting rooms too large for the desired capacity? These questions should be expected as real estate expenditure continues to become more scrutinized in the days ahead. Measuring space usage to adjust furniture and space allocation and configuration to support workplace habits and norms will become increasingly important as offices continue to reopen. Gathering data to see which spaces are high-demand vs lesser-used is a key metric—and not one that’s particularly new to the corporate real estate market. Understanding these spaces so that proper new buildings can be secured and built out with the best spaces to support the work of today and tomorrow is more important than ever before.
Improve building services
Leveraging usage and occupancy data to better understand when and where workstation, common area, and restroom cleanings need to take place not only ensures that the appropriate places are cleaned regularly, but can also save time and money over traditional scheduled cleanings. Many organizations are exploring and adopting this type of usage-focused model to support their workers and demonstrate their commitment to employee health and safety in the workplace.
While no one is certain how exactly corporate North America will move through 2021 as “return to work” strategies will differ across organizations—one thing does seem certain: data will play a key role. Employee experience, data science, visibility, and an emphasis on health and safety will continue to move to the forefront of organizational concerns. The workplace of the future is upon us, and facility managers need to understand how to access, gather and use available facility and workplace data to ensure their spaces can evolve to meet changing needs.
Jarrod Easterwood is director of marketing and partner relations at AVUITY. Based in Atlanta, Jarrod has a history of supporting the technology and collaboration needs of his clients both as a consultative sales specialist and technology subject matter expert across the southeast U.S. as well as New York City.