Insight 28 February 2022

Better Connected: Embracing data to optimise Real Estate assets

In the second of our Better Connected series of articles, which each take a look at the impact of digital transformation on different aspects of facilities management, we turn this time to workplace occupancy management.

This piece reveals how organisations are increasingly turning to data-driven decision making to inform their real estate strategies.

The Space Race

With the cost of commercial office space continuing to rise, organisations must strike a fine balance between providing staff with spaces that support the work they do and ensuring the cost-per-seat of office-based employees doesn’t spiral out of control

So, how is this possible? Rationalisation might feel like a contentious answer but using the right occupancy management technology and data analytics can turn the process into a hugely positive force. Organisations that do this well can make informed real estate decisions that would previously have been made on a largely subjective basis.

By way of example, a major UK business and Mitie customer recently carried out technology-led occupancy management across its estate to formulate a property optimisation strategy. First, staff badge building access data was used to agree the overall opportunity for change. Then desk occupancy and floor access data was employed to validate the success of the work and avoid the risk of over occupancy.

The results have been decisive. This data-driven rationalisation has led to considerable cost savings, a dramatic improvement in employee satisfaction with their workplace, and a total realignment of the organisation’s property strategy.

As in the case of Mitie’s customer, organisations that have insight into traffic patterns and behaviours will learn which areas remain in high demand over those that are rarely used. Identifying these underused spaces will allow FM and property teams to determine whether new designs are required, or whether there is an opportunity to consolidate into a more productive space. This also eliminates the possibility of decreasing office space too drastically and frustrating staff that are searching for a place to work.

Data-informed decision making also supports the ongoing movement toward agile work spaces to ensure businesses can fully leverage the square footage they have.

An accurately measured office will prevent unnecessary wastage, too. Floors or even whole buildings can be closed – either on certain days or permanently – thereby reducing energy costs. Usage data can be employed to predict the demand for, and drive the delivery of, cleaning and other technology-enabled facilities management services. And the number and size of meeting rooms can also be optimised to ensure they provide the appropriate level of capacity required.

Of course, technology is not infallible and will never paint the entire picture, which is why it’s important to corroborate findings with staff as part of a wider change programme. An occupancy sensor can determine whether a desk is left unoccupied, and is therefore technically available to use, but nobody will sit there if a colleague leaves their coat on the back of the chair.

By the same token, occupancy management can also inform the desk usage policy to avoid this issue, ensuring that staff take their things with them if they are going to be away from the desk over a certain period of time.

Even so, not all management technology is created equal. The most effective will combine sensors with a software interface and a team of data scientists that can decipher the large amounts of information produced. It makes little sense to accrue data if no one is able to convert it into evidence-based decisions, after all.

Ultimately, when this rich data is combined with users’ experiences, it gives businesses the best opportunity to win the ‘space race’ by creating the most effective environment for colleagues at a cost they can afford.

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