As the way we work changes, companies are implementing more remote work scenarios, both in response to the changing priorities of workforces and more pressingly, as a result of social distancing requests from health officials and governments during the current COVID-19 outbreak.
While on the surface, this seems to be a fairly easy thing to implement—after all, remote work has been around for decades—there is still a strain placed on IT teams who are already seeing a threefold increase in meeting minutes every two years (before COVID-19) and have faced flat team hiring as well as stagnant and declining budgets.
We observe now, more than ever before, the confluence of technology, spaces, and employee engagement. Companies want to make the right decisions about how they build out spaces, and to do that, they want information on how employees are spending their days. The terminology that has emerged from this movement is employee-centered design. As employees make decisions about where to work based on the technology that’s available, companies are turning to methods that help them support their employees moving in and out of the planned workspaces. An informed design requires analytics and metrics, and the insights to apply them.
The continued evolution of technology creates a critical need for innovation in facilities and workspace management, where there is currently an underinvestment in change management in relation to the accelerated pace of digital workplace transformation.
Some of the elements to consider when planning for the growing remote work trend and the resulting ramifications on your physical space include:
- Readily available mobile technology that seamlessly integrates into workspaces
- Standards and technology for booking spaces that supports just-in-time needs while not creating a false perception of scarcity from unused bookings
- Technology that supports collaboration for meetings with employees in and outside of the office
- Accurate and actionable analytics that express the changing needs of employees and workspaces as remote work ebbs and flows.
With some of these elements in mind, IT leaders in organizations should look at the changing collaboration technology requirements for their organizations as well as the changing needs for space allocations and configurations. More remote work doesn’t necessarily mean that you need less in-office space. However, it changes the way that space should be allocated.
Now, let’s evaluate the kind of data that could help inform your strategy. Sensors—whether through an in-room collaboration device, IoT lighting fixtures, or other endpoints that may already be approved and on your network—provide a key piece of data: occupancy.
Is that five-person room fully occupied or is one person using it as a personal office 72 percent of the time? Your largest conference room appears booked on the calendar continuously, but it’s actually empty 2.4 hours a day. There is a difference between perception and reality in that 40-50 percent of time that a room is scheduled it is actually sitting empty.
If we go beyond occupancy, we can evaluate if the room is being used for what it was intended. You’ve invested heavily in upgrading the technology in a video immersive room. Is that technology actually being used, or is that space being used for in-person one-on-ones with no technology utilization?
In addition to helping you define how to leverage your spaces, data can help you identify systemic issues within your network that can turn IT from a cost center into a major area of increasing efficiencies across the business.
Some areas technology can help you influence are:
- Systemic issues affecting collaboration quality
- Change management
- Collaboration adoption and growth
- Technology transitions
- Informed design
- Employee efficiency in spaces
- Employee engagement and reduced turnover
- Sales engagement and efficiency
When companies have these data points at their fingertips, they can readily make the decisions necessary to increase efficiency and save money. As an example, a consumer products company wanted to better understand how their meeting spaces were used. After tracking occupancy, capacity, and scheduling, they were able to uncover a perception that “all of the rooms are always booked” when in reality, actual room usage was ~50 percent. This allowed the company to create data-driven spaces that resulted in an $80M reduction in real estate spend.
In another example, a $25B entertainment company wanted to better understand room activity in and out of calls. As a result of the data and insights obtained, they redesigned their global headquarters after learning that greater than 60 percent of their room activity was outside of video calls.
We expect to continue to see stories like this as technology, spaces, and people continue to converge. The path to workspace optimization lies in the insights you are able to glean from data and analytics on how people interact with spaces and one another—whether that’s from a remote location or across the hall.
Nick Wiik is a Product Manager at Vyopta. He writes about collaboration monitoring and analytics and workspace insights to empower data-driven companies.