Measuring and improving humanity’s footprint onthe world requires an international focus.
Today, we’re proud to share two related announcements. First, we’ve acquired Prevision.io, a Paris-based engineering team focused on AI and data science. Second, we’ve hired J C Groon to lead international expansion beginning with EMEA. We’re adding sales and marketing teams based in Dublin and London.
At Density, we’re building fast, data-rich systems that provide comprehensive insights of how space is used, including the ability to easily compare the performance of spaces to one another or to portfolio benchmarks. The Prevision.io team has been building tools that bring powerful AI management capabilities to data science users so more AI projects make it into production and stay in production. At Density, they will contribute their data science expertise to scale Density’s algorithm, deployment, and analytics platform. The Prevision team will remain in Paris.
The acquisition of Prevision.io is our third in the last year. In June 2021, we acquired Nashi, a brilliant company with a fast, elegant system for allocating, managing, and reserving space, and in November, we acquired HELIX RE, a LIDAR scanning software company that creates 3D digital twins of buildings. Both of these teams and the technology they brought with them to Density have been vital to what we’re building; with Prevision.io, we’re most excited about the data science and AI acumen the team will bring to ours.
Their presence in Paris complements our broader international expansion, which will be led by J C Groon, our Managing Director of International, who joined the team in March. J C was most recently a Global Clients leader at LinkedIn, and has held roles at Cisco, NAVTEQ, and Accenture; he brings more than 20 years of experience building go-to-market strategies, developing products and services, and leading strategic initiatives. He will be focused on establishing sales and marketing teams in Ireland and the UK.
EMEA has some of the most advanced privacy protections in the world. Our position on privacy is unique amongst providers in EMEA. Our goal is to deliver valuable insights to companies without compromising employee privacy. We’ve also found customers in EMEA are leading the way in awareness of measuring and reducing their carbon footprint. Leaders in the region understand that measuring and optimizing physical space is a meaningful way to reduce their operational costs and environmental impact.
Our customers are already using Density globally – sensors are already deployed in 32 countries. Building a team in EMEA is a natural step as we continue to scale operations and deliver for customers. If you’re looking to join the team and help us on our mission, check out our open roles; if your company is based in Europe and you’d like to learn more about how Density can help you measure, analyze and optimize your physical space, you can request a demo anytime.
Building in Public is our ongoing series where we share an early look at the products, prototypes, tools, and technology we’re building behind the scenes.
The process of managing a portfolio of buildings is inherently collaborative. You have colleagues, leadership teams, embedded consultants, etc. Sharing should be fast and easy.
In Atlas, we’ve worked to make it easy to create and share a report with a colleague quickly. If a senior team is interested in return to office, the URL should be usable by anyone with the same permissions. Just copy the link, share, and if they’re logged in, they’ll see what you see.
Another small but important function is simplifying report creation. Building portfolios are large, nuanced spaces. The larger a portfolio gets, the harder it is to find your way through. This is a navigation problem. We’ve worked to make navigation fast and forgiving. This is embodied in the drop-down system. Notice how the drop-down has native search, scroll, and doesn’t disappear if you move your mouse off-target.
We’re continuing to make and test improvements to our dashboard, Atlas. Follow us on LinkedIn to stay updated on our latest advancements and to learn when these changes become available to our customers.
More than a dozen workplace leaders, from companies including Twitter, Uber, and Zendesk, came together in late May at Okta’s San Francisco offices for Density’s VIP event, Beyond Work Experiences: San Francisco.
Beyond Work Experiences is our ongoing events series where workplace and real estate leaders come together for dinner, drinks, and a lively discussion about the future of work.
Guests to our San Francisco event also got a guided tour of Okta’s San Francisco offices.
Key themes from our discussion
Listen to employees
Meet employees where they are. That was one of the biggest themes of our event. If you don’t know the pain points and challenges of the people who use your spaces, you can’t create a better workplace experience for them.
One example: The shift to unassigned seating may leave employees anxious about where they can sit when they come to the office. They have no place to put their coffee cup.
Having open conversations with employees can help you understand how they’re feeling, so you can create solutions (like team-based neighborhoods).
Surveys are, of course, one way to gather employee feedback. So too are roundtable discussions and employee portals.
Developing a workplace strategy today should be viewed as a program, not a project. There is no set end date when your work is done. Experiment quickly and often. Some tips from industry leaders:
Work with an MVP mindset. You don’t have to build the final version right now.
Set experiments with specific timelines and project leaders (think DRI, or directly responsible individual).
Make sure stakeholders know, from the start, that your experiments will take time to measure and assess.
Communicate often. If end-users don’t know a design is a prototype or experiment, they’ll likely reject what you’re testing. Let them be a part of the journey.
Make feedback easy. Your end-users are busy, so simplify the feedback loop.
Get data that matters
Everyone wants data. But not all data is useful or ideal.
It’s hard to get employees to adopt to reservation systems, for example. If employees don’t use the system, you can’t leverage its data.
Privacy-focused data was a big topic during our roundtable discussion as well. Employees have demonstrated a distaste for systems that capture any personally identifiable information, including badge data.
The takeaway from workplace leaders at our event is it’s nearly impossible to rebuild trust. If you don’t need to capture PII — don’t.
Lastly, a key milestone for the next six months is figuring out how to combine qualitative and quantitative data to unearth the story of the workplace. Companies that achieve that will create better employee experiences and more efficient spaces.
Today is the first in a new series about what our product teams are building at Density.
We plan to give you an early look at the products, prototypes, tools, and technology we’ve been investing in behind the scenes. While everything we share here is subject to change, we believe there is more value in being open about what we’re building than doing so behind closed doors.
Since our founding, eight years ago, we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the science of how people use buildings. But we’ve always learned the most when talking to you: our community and customers. You are experts in the design and management of the most iconic workplaces in the world.
Our beliefs about buildings, the hybrid workplace, remote and “dynamic work,” and the ingredients for a sustainable future have all been shaped by thousands of conversations with you all. Building in Public is meant to facilitate more of these conversations out in the open.
We’re going to share and talk about our work openly because we believe it will make our products better. We’ll get more critique, more criticism, more copycats — but we’ll learn faster than we would if we just built in the dark.
The Atlas Project
Up first is an internal project we call “Atlas.” The project focuses on navigation, labeling, and benchmarking. Atlas was designed to improve on our current analytics platform.
Our customers manage billions of square feet of space. These office portfolios can range from 250k square feet to 50m+. When you’re operating at that scale, the datasets can get overwhelming and it can be easy to lose track of how and why all this space is used.
Customers want fast, data-rich systems, that make benchmarking the performance of any given space or building a breeze.
Labeling & Space Functions
A building is like a nesting doll. Rooms within floors, floors within buildings, buildings within a campus, and so on. The right context can breathe life into these space types. It just requires the right tooling.
In the interface, as an example, you’ll notice a comparison between Focus and Collaboration. These are spaces that have been explicitly designed for those two types of work and categorized as such. The goal is to help users measure the performance of a space against its purpose not just its capacity.
Most software limits context to a space’s name, location, and a generic utilization metric. And we’re no exception. Humans deserve more nuance than “% occupied.”
Atlas is designed to change this. Everywhere you go, you will encounter a space’s context (e.g. team assignment, room amenities, space purpose, relative size, geo-location, similarity to other spaces, and eventually anomalies).
You can also see a snapshot of the most-used desk types or amenities — “traits” inherent to a space. They can be as unique or as general as you please.
The more you use labels, the more interesting your queries should become. Like a video game, the more you play, the more utility you get. Software should be fun.
Mini-maps are useful because they provide context and situational awareness. This map is designed to do the same.
First, you’ll always know where you are. In large datasets, it’s easy to lose the context of the data you’re analyzing. If you’ve ever spent any time deep in an Excel sheet building a report about “return to office” spanning a million sqft of space over six regions and two timezones, you’re probably familiar with the hours of painstaking detail and various datasets it requires to normalize and report on even the most basic questions about use.
Second, the map changes with the scope of your question. If you’re wondering if your San Francisco teams are using the office neighborhoods allocated to them, you can select the region and your mini-map and the scope of its associated data (locations, spaces, capacity, sqft, etc) will all adjust live.
We have a number of exciting things coming to this feature that will expand on the map’s native capability.
Over the years, we’ve learned there’s a simple but often forgotten second part to the question: “How often do people use X?” What most users are really asking is: “How often do people use X when compared to Y?” It seems comparison (at least in real estate) is at the heart of understanding.
We’ve tried to bake benchmarking into as many places in Atlas as possible. Wherever you see a blue ⚡, there is a comparison against a broader dataset. This is a benchmark. The goal is to unearth relative performance everywhere you go.
Although Atlas is designed to have a helpful opinion, you’re able to modify the benchmark at any time. In other words, compare against anything (and as much as) you’d like.
Atlas is also more literal. Utilization, Occupancy, Time Used, Dwell Time, Surplus, Time at Target. These are all now fast, explicit, and pre-defined metrics.
Quality of Life improvements
Atlas is a snappy and forgiving interface. It’s borderline fun. Our goal is to give you tools you love to use. To do that, we’re trying to build tools we love to use. In that spirit, there are lots of little quality of life improvements to Density’s core platform in Atlas v1.
Here are a few:
Response times (on the largest queries) are now measured in milliseconds. It’s fast. Like 10x faster than our current system.
Drop-downs are forgiving. They won’t disappear on you if you move your mouse off-target.
Benchmarking is visible everywhere, editable, and active by default.
Icons are easier to understand and the system has been designed for legibility and comprehension.
And there are tooltips explaining how we did our math, the definition of a metric, or how a widget works.
Atlas’ benchmarking and API will be available to a small set of customers in July, and the landing or “insights page” will follow. We’ll be expanding access and pushing updates throughout the Summer.
Atlas is in active development with updates pushed every week. If you have any questions or feedback or just want to push our thinking, please feel free to contribute in the comments of our accompanying LinkedIn post.
And if you’re a Density customer and would like early access, you can send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andrew Farah, Density CEO
ps. At the moment, “Atlas” is just an internal codename but I kind of dig it as a potential product name.
The benefits of onboarding are well documented: higher employee engagement, faster time to proficiency, increased productivity, and lower turnover, to name a few.
But the world of work has changed dramatically in the last two years, and traditional onboarding isn’t enough to support the new hybrid workforce. Pre-employment onboarding is a better strategy for the modern office, especially those with hybrid or remote models.
What is pre-employment onboarding?
Pre-employment onboarding, or pre-boarding, happens between the time a new hire accepts the job offer and their official start day. During this time, new employees tackle many traditional first-day tasks, such as completing tax forms, reviewing the employee handbook, and setting up accounts for company email and software.
Why waste a new hire’s enthusiasm and energy on a mountain of tasks that don’t move your company forward? It’s more efficient to get those out of the way early, so your employee can hit the ground running on their first day.
In addition to being a more effective use of time, pre-boarding can also guard against ghosting. The longer you wait between the words “you’re hired” and the start of onboarding, the higher your chance of being ghosted. Considering that 65% of employers report hiring people who never show up, getting your new employees engaged immediately is essential.
Why hybrid offices need pre-employment onboarding
Pre-boarding is great for all types of companies, but it can be especially useful for hybrid offices. Hybrid is hugely in demand from employees, and it offers many great benefits for businesses; however, it does come with unique onboarding challenges:
It can be harder for new employees to integrate into a hybrid office. With employees’ varying in-office schedules, the new worker may never be in the office at the same time as many of their colleagues.
Information overload is more likely to go unnoticed. In a physical office setting, it’s easy for an onboarder to recognize the deer-in-headlights look of an overwhelmed new hire, and they can slow things down, reassure the worker, and repeat any missed information. In a virtual setting, it’s unlikely anyone will notice that the new employee is feeling stressed or confused, so there’s no opportunity to reset and ensure the experience stays positive.
IT issues plague virtual onboarding. 90% of new hires experience IT problems during remote onboarding. When tech issues happen in the office, it’s easy for a new employee to find someone to help or switch to an analog task. In a remote environment, everything depends on technology, so the worker is left anxiously twiddling their thumbs while they wait for IT to work its magic.
Pre-employment onboarding can address these problems by providing valuable adjustment time before a new hire’s official start date. In traditional onboarding, there’s often an unstated but ever-present expectation to get these tasks done quickly so the new hire can move on to their real work. Tech problems and information overload have less impact during pre-boarding because there’s no time pressure.
Pre-boarding also gives new employees more time to get to know their colleagues before they’re expected to start seamlessly collaborating with them. When done right, pre-employment onboarding provides ample opportunities for new hires to begin integrating into the team well before their first official day on the job.
6 pre-employment onboarding ideas for hybrid companies
Send your team a message about their new colleague. Informing people about a new hire lays important groundwork for team integration. Include a little personal background information about the new employee, detail the role they’ll be filling, and invite colleagues to reach out with personalized welcome messages.
Let the new hire meet their colleagues, either in a physical or virtual setting. The goal is to have them meet the people they’ll be interacting with regularly so they can start to form connections. This can take the form of a team Zoom chat or a meetup at a local restaurant for lunch. This may seem like a small gesture, but it can impact how valued a new hire feels.
Create a welcome kit. Starting a new job comes with countless little questions that can lead to a lot of stress. A welcome kit answers these and helps put workers at ease. A great way to identify the best information to include in your welcome kit is to poll current employees about what they wish they’d known when they first started. A few ideas: Let new hires know how to get into the building on their first day, what time to “clock in” when working virtually, whom to contact if they have IT problems, and etiquette for communication channels (e.g., Slack for quick questions and socialization, email or video for complex discussions).
Create a pre-employment onboarding schedule. During pre-boarding, new hires are likely still finishing their notices at former jobs. It’s important to clearly outline what days and times pre-boarding will happen and whether it will be virtual or in-office. Set expectations by letting them know what tasks and topics you’ll cover at each session.
Get paperwork out of the way. Don’t waste your new hire’s first-day energy and enthusiasm on administrative tasks. During pre-boarding, have them complete their paperwork, set them up with a company email and business tools such as Slack or Google Drive, and go over the employee handbook.
Assign new employees a mentor or buddy. The virtual aspects of onboarding can leave hybrid workers feeling isolated and forgotten. Assigning a mentor to stick with new hires from pre-boarding through the first several weeks of work ensures that they always have someone to reach out to, whether they have a question or just need a connection to remind them they’re part of a team.
In this competitive labor market, hybrid companies need to maximize the effectiveness of their onboarding processes. Moving from traditional to pre-boarding can help prevent new hires from ghosting, get them up to speed more quickly, and help reduce exorbitant turnover costs. The tips above can help you create a positive pre-employment onboarding experience that will engage workers and get them to proficiency quickly.
Workplace experience surveys give your employees a voice, allowing them to shape their work environment. When you optimize the workplace experience, you raise morale, increase engagement, and improve retention, all of which are crucial to maintaining a successful business.
There are several best practices for workplace experience surveys that ensure you receive quality feedback. We’ve put together a checklist of eight tips to help you create a positive and effective employee experience survey.
8 tips for designing effective employee surveys
A good survey experience begins with your company culture. Your company culture plays a decisive role in how comfortable your employees feel being honest with their opinions. Honest responses are essential to developing office design and effective workplace strategies. Establish an environment where constructive criticism is valued by all levels of leadership. With that in place, you’ll reduce the effects of social desirability bias, which occurs when respondents give you the answers they think you want to hear.
Allow employees to answer surveys anonymously. Even in the most supportive company culture, employees may still feel uncomfortable being completely honest with their feedback. Giving them the benefit of anonymity will help you collect the most accurate and helpful information.
Be transparent about your goals for the survey. Employees will be more likely to provide thoughtful answers if they know how the survey results will affect them. Emphasize that the workplace experience survey helps your team create a work environment that supports everyone.
Provide free-form areas for additional feedback on questions. Allowing employees to provide context about their answers can provide priceless insights and ideas for your team. Surveys with open response areas require more time to evaluate than straightforward multiple choice answers, but the potential for higher quality data is worth the extra time investment.
Include definitions to clarify terms. Everyone must be on the same page about what specific terms mean in the survey. Let’s say you asked, “Do you feel that your manager is accessible and supportive?” An employee who reports to both an assistant and senior manager may not know how to answer. You can address this by stating at the start of the survey that all questions about “managers” refer to your most senior manager.
Be transparent about survey results and anticipated changes. Employees will grow tired of putting effort into survey feedback if they don’t see any changes to the status quo. You don’t have to have a concrete plan before informing employees about the direction you’re looking at. Here is an example post-survey script: “Thank you for completing our hybrid work survey. Your thoughtful feedback allowed us to see that we have some work to do in areas of equitable experiences between in-office and remote workers. We are developing new strategies to improve the hybrid experience for all workers and will keep you informed of anticipated changes.”
Avoid survey fatigue by keeping surveys under 10 minutes long. Surveys longer than this often have high dropout rates. Eliminate repetitive questions or ones you can answer with existing organizational data. Also, let people know how long you expect the survey to take. This makes it easier for employees to work the survey into their schedules.
Do surveys more than once a year. Attitudes and opinions can change quickly in the workplace, and it’s important to keep your finger on the pulse of the employee experience. Consider conducting workplace experience surveys quarterly or every six months. This will keep your data fresh and allow you to identify trends more quickly than you could with an annual survey.
Example questions for your workplace experience survey
Your survey questions should be tailored to your end goal, so it’s important to nail down the core objective first. Do you want to know how the workplace is performing overall, or are you trying to determine how certain policies are working out? The specific questions you need will depend on your survey goal; however, you can find inspiration for survey questions below.
Do you feel like you can be your true self in the workplace?
Do you feel that employee well-being is prioritized in the office?
Would you recommend our organization as a good place to work?
Do you have the technology and equipment you need to work remotely?
Are you physically comfortable in the office?
Do you feel empowered to reconfigure a workspace to fit your needs?
Are you satisfied with the number of conference rooms in the office?
Is there any additional information you’d like to share about your workplace experience?
Use these sample questions and the tips above to help your workplace team create an effective employee survey. The more feedback and data you can collect about the office, the more tailored and successful a workplace you can create.
Adopting a hybrid work model isn’t a “follow this playbook” strategy. There are many types of hybrid work — not all types will work for you.
To build the best hybrid work model for your team, your company culture, and your organization’s long-term goals, you must first get familiar with the many options in front of you.
What: Office-centric hybrid lets employees work from home as long as they visit the physical office space a number of days per week.
Why: To provide some flexibility without sacrificing serendipity and the human touch. It’s the lowest rung on the hybrid ladder and can either be a welcome policy or a dealbreaker for employees, depending on how you roll it out.
An office-centric hybrid strategy can work but your employees need to be able to justify the gains from working onsite several days a week. In many cases, they can’t.
What: An office exists and employees are free to walk in at will but there’s no strict policy demanding that they do.
Why: A flexible hybrid approach is a step ahead of an office-centric model and it offers employees more control over their time.
A flexible hybrid strategy works when a company is willing to invest in the technology that makes communication and collaboration possible and as well, design policies to guide the switch.
After nearly two years of working fully remotely, Twitter reopened its offices on March 15, 2022, in a push for a flexible hybrid policy. All employees are still fully remote and they’re not required to work onsite —they just have the option of visiting whenever they feel like it.
What: A remote-friendly hybrid strategy is essentially the same as the flexible hybrid approach we discussed above, but in this case, companies prioritize asynchronous working and there are no strict working hours.
Why: Remote-friendly hybrid work is built on trust and is designed to help teams achieve better work-life balance, whether they choose to meet or work remotely 100%. A remote-friendly model can come in handy when you have a global workforce across different time zones who can’t possibly check in every day.
Employees are only required to be accountable to their teams and meet reasonable deadlines so that work can go ahead, no matter their timezone or where they’re located in the world.
Asynchronous work radically opposes the industrial revolution office culture, and as Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic (fully distributed since 2005, with no offices since 2017) puts it, “your customer is not buying how many hours a day people are at their desk. People don’t want a drill, they want a hole in the wall. The old model of work wasted people’s time.”
What: Deviating from a hybrid model, remote-first refers to a workplace where working remotely is the default and companies come to depend on asynchronous communication tools and systems to stay in touch.
Why: Remote-first is the future and it aims to drive productivity without making work the center of an employee’s life. Research shows that remote-first teams are better engaged and ultimately more productive, which in no small part is thanks to an employee-friendly work experience.
Notable examples of remote-first companies include Gitlab, Basecamp, Google alternative DuckDuckGo, Toptal, and Buffer.
Gitlab has been fully remote since 2013 when co-founders Dmitriy Zaporozhets (based in Ukraine) and Sid Sijbrandij (Netherlands) started building a company around an open-source project.
Nine years later, Gitlab is a publicly-traded company valued at $6.71 billion, powered by 1,500+ employees across the globe — and still has no physical office.
Likewise, Buffer’s team of 85 is currently distributed across seven time zones spanning 12 hours and crossed $19.7 million in annual recurring revenue in 2021.
The benefits of a hybrid workplace strategy
No matter the strategy you choose, hybrid work offers a variety of benefits.
Increase employee engagement
Hybrid work may reduce the number of hours employees spend on work every day. But it manages to increase productivity while doing that.
Why? If employees can find a balance between their personal and work lives, they can dedicate more bandwidth to their careers and get more done in less time.
Reduce turnover & boost retention rates
Millions of workers are willing to quit if a job doesn’t offer enough flexibility to suit their lifestyle.
Hybrid work helps you compete in a labor market where employees are willing to take a cut in pay to work more flexibly.
Tackle burnout & help staff build better work-life balance
The flexibility hybrid work offers can help your employees take back control of their time, set better boundaries, and achieve more work-life balance.
Save on real estate & onsite utilities
Companies spend anywhere from 2 – 20% on real estate for workspaces.
When you factor in lunches, furniture, gigabit internet, etc. the numbers can look more substantial.
A hybrid workforce will eventually come to rely less and less on physical offices as everyone switches to their preferred work style and as a result, you get to save on rent and utilities.
Making the switch
Be intentional about tackling proximity bias
Proximity bias is the idea that employees who work onsite will be perceived as more productive, responsive, and dedicated, and will have better chances of getting promoted and advancing in their careers.
Hybrid doesn’t work if your remote employees can’t expect fair footing with those working onsite.
Engage employees in the decision-making process
No matter how eloquent your plans to switch to a hybrid model sound, eventually, what matters is the changes it brings about in your company’s culture and your employees’ lifestyles.
Measure your performance and double down on what’s working
Performance assessment starts with asking the right questions to help you understand how your hybrid work policies are affecting your employees (remote workers and their onsite colleagues alike), company culture, productivity, and general employee satisfaction.
This includes questions like:
How quickly are action items getting completed?
Has productivity increased or dropped since your switch to hybrid?
Are employees reporting better work-life balance? Or do you still have managers sending messages over Slack at 10 PM Friday night?
Are employees comfortable unplugging from time to time, or will they face passive aggression for not being “committed enough” to the team?
Do you factor in each team member’s time zone when planning meetings or do certain team members have to jump out of bed by 4 AM to catch up on daily standups?
Invest in asynchronous communications tools, systems, and culture.
The evidence points to the fact that asynchronous communication helps build a better employee experience in the workplace. But there’s more to it than yet another SaaS license.
Signing up for Loom is the easy part, but designing a culture where it’s okay to reply to messages an hour later rather than mashing up your keyboard right away takes more work.
An asynchronous culture includes letting employees design their work schedules, choosing video conferencing and recorded messages over real-time, onsite meetings, and letting hybrid workers optimize for their well-being with flexible working hours.
Stick to the fundamentals of hybrid work
These fundamentals include:
Assuming good intentions
A commitment to privacy
Giving onsite and remote employees equal footing and opportunities for growth, and
Providing feedback proactively
Build a culture of feedback & set clear expectations
Create onboarding documentation that clearly defines how quickly to manage check-ins, reiterate ideas, reply to messages, take time off, share feedback on projects, etc.
Hybrid work arrangements often fail because boundaries are not clearly defined and employees have to figure it out themselves. As a result, employees and managers have to figure out how to navigate team building alongside their full-time work.
For a hybrid work environment to truly work, you need to design inclusive, yet enforceable policies for how colleagues should communicate, handle deadlines, ship deliverables, and manage their workload, both inside and outside the office space.
There are six core benefits to incorporating workplace utilization in your workplace strategy:
Reduces costs — Facility managers and executives concerned about reducing square footage need to know what space is underutilized. Underutilized space can be repurposed to fit a new need or downsized to cut costs.
Improves portfolio management — Workplace utilization tools (like Density) offer deep insight into portfolio management and how every square foot is used. Cost-saving changes such as moving to a hot-desking model can be tested in one office, and if successful, applied across the entire portfolio for additional savings.
Simplifies space planning — Occupancy data can help you design more efficient office spaces and policies by tracking utilization trends and providing real-time information. You can make on-the-spot modifications to address a bottleneck, or you can use trends to guide future planning.
Improves the workplace experience — Understanding your space allows you to make informed decisions about workstation ratios, the best amenities to offer, and when you need to expand your space. These all improve the workplace experience, which in turn can boost employee engagement and retention.
Validates needs — Employees are always asking for things, but knowing how they use your space tells facilities managers what they actually need.
Supports sustainability — Utilization data can help your workplace go green by identifying areas where you can cut utility usage or repurpose space instead of expanding your square footage. Eco-friendly practices like these are becoming increasingly important to workers, and they offer a strategic advantage for recruitment and retention.
This article will cover four important metrics to measure and highlight several examples of how teams use workplace utilization data to make data-driven space decisions.
4 space utilization metrics to measure — and how to improve them
The building utilization metrics below provide insight into how employees use your space and whether it performs as needed. You can apply these metrics at every scale — from an entire portfolio to a specific workstation — to make informed decisions that optimize your space planning.
Peak occupancy is an important metric that identifies the days and times your space is busiest. You can track peak occupancy for the building or individual areas. Understanding the peaks and valleys of your space occupancy means you can make changes as needed to ensure the work environment can meet the demand for dedicated desks, quiet rooms, and other office resources.
If demand exceeds supply, consider making schedule adjustments to level out occupancy throughout the week. This ensures better resource allocation and keeps the office operating smoothly.
For example, a hybrid office could designate particular days for each team to come in for collaborative work. Instead of sales, marketing, and design all converging in the office on Wednesdays, you could have sales on Tuesday, marketing on Wednesday, and design on Thursday. (Try not to assign Fridays as any team’s in-office day. Historically, Friday is the least productive workday.)
If you want to allow teams to maintain more flexibility while still balancing supply and demand, you can use scheduling software that allows them to see which days and times the office resources they need are available.
The average utilization rate of your office indicates the typical amount of time employees use the space you’re measuring. The higher the average utilization, the more value you get for that space.
To calculate average office space utilization, take the total number of employees present in the space, divide it by your office capacity, and average it across your given time frame.
Let’s say you want to find out which day of the week your office typically has the best utilization rate. Looking at every weekday in turn, calculate the utilization rate for each hour and average it across the entire workday. You’ll be able to see the average utilization for each day and pinpoint the days that see the most activity.
This metric is where the “efficiency versus experience” tension happens. You don’t want square footage and resources that are paid for to go unused, but you also have to consider the employee experience. Employees don’t want to feel crowded or have to fight for last-minute meeting room space. If you hit your average utilization benchmark, that’s a great time to do an employee feedback survey to find out how workers rate the experience.
When determining average utilization for your workplace, remember to compare the occupancy rate against the total usable space capacity. Including square footage that’s not usable office space, such as an elevator or electrical room, will give you an inaccurate picture of your utilization.
It’s important to know where your high-traffic areas are and when they see the highest number of people. These areas will need more frequent cleaning, maintenance, or inventory (depending on the type of space) to keep them hygienic and functioning as needed.
People vote with their feet for the areas they like or find useful, so high-traffic areas can also show you what spaces, resources, and amenities your employees value. These are the areas worth investing in. For example, if the kitchen sees nonstop traffic from employees in search of a snack or another cup of coffee, that’s clearly an amenity that workers value. Keeping the kitchen clean and well stocked will optimize this amenity for your teams.
Meeting room and desk utilization
For an optimal workplace experience, employees need reliable access to conference rooms, dedicated desks, and collaboration spaces. Monitoring utilization for these areas of the office will let you know if they’re underperforming (a sign that you need to make changes) or if there isn’t a satisfactory ratio of employees to workstations.
To determine utilization rates for specific workspaces in the office, take the total number of occupied meeting rooms or desks on a given day and divide it by the total number of those particular spaces. Review this data to find out how each type of space is performing.
Many companies are seeing a trend of ghost or zombie meetings. Ghost meetings are those that are scheduled but no one attends. These ghost meetings turn into zombies when they’re set as recurring reservations that were later deemed unnecessary — but no one remembered to cancel them.
If your reservation software shows higher utilization than your occupancy data reveals, you’re dealing with these ghoulish non-meetings. This leads to valuable resources going to waste, not to mention frustrated employees who can’t book the meeting spaces they want. To remedy this, set a time limit for check-ins. If no one checks in within 10 minutes of the reservation time, the room or desk is automatically freed up for others to use.
Checking your meeting space utilization metrics can also help you identify the most popular rooms. Once you know this, you can begin extrapolating the “why” behind it with a quick game of “spot the difference.” Does it have newer technology than the other rooms? Are there more soft seating options? Is it closest to the snack bar? Use this information to improve the meeting rooms that are underperforming.
Additional tips to optimize your workplace utilization
Let technology do the heavy lifting. Technologies such as occupancy sensors and space management software are a faster and more accurate way to see how your space is performing. They’re also the only way for facilities managers to get real-time data for a large area.
A/B test your space. Not every change in office policies or floor plans is going to be a winner. Use A/B testing to find out which updates lead to increased utilization.
Get feedback from employees. Space utilization is about more than reducing expenses and optimizing every square foot of real estate. You also have to consider the workplace experience for employees. Seeking their feedback provides valuable context to your data, and it shows workers that their office experience matters.
Be mindful of trends. Use historical utilization data to see days when office occupancy has peaked in the past. This can help you project everything from inventory to staffing for those peak days.
Offer amenities employees want. If your office occupancy is low, you’re not getting the value you need from your space. If downsizing isn’t an option, focus on enticing employees into the office with popular amenities such as commuter programs and free lunches.
Employees want both location and schedule flexibility, but they value flexible schedules the most.
Create flexible policies that balance your business needs and your employees’ needs. If you can’t offer total flexibility, look for areas where you can make policies a little more flexible for workers. Some are better than none when it comes to flex policies.
Flexible work conditions provide a range of benefits for both employees and employers.
Flexible work options are a dealbreaker for employees
Employees wanting flexible work conditions isn’t a new thing.
In 2016, 62% of workers said they would turn down a job that didn’t offer any flexibility. But in 2016, it was still an employer’s market. If workers left because they weren’t happy with company policies, plenty of candidates were available to replace them.
That’s not the case anymore. Now employees hold all the cards.
Companies are scrambling to attract and retain talent, and workers can ask for what they’ve always wanted: flexible work policies. This bucks tradition, so it’s easy to understand why some organizations might see giving in to flex demands as losing valuable control. But there’s a better way to look at it.
Here’s what can happen when employers move to flexible work options:
Improve recruitment. 95% of employees say they want flexibility at work. Updating your policies to accommodate this is an inexpensive way to massively improve your company’s appeal to job candidates.
Reduce turnover. Policies that cater to workers’ needs create an unbeatable employee experience, ensuring workers want to stay with your company long-term.
Increase productivity. When employees can skip their long, stressful commutes, they have more energy to put into their work. 43% of workers report that flexible work hours enabled them to be more productive.
Reduce sick days. Flexible policies give employees more opportunities to spend time with family or focus on their mental and physical well-being. This healthier work-life balance can help reduce the number of days an employee can’t work due to illness.
Repurpose real estate or downsize. Flex policies often come with office design or real estate changes. Dedicated desks can be repurposed into collaborative or social spaces. You may even find that you can reduce your real estate footprint and net huge savings on office space.
To help your company move in the right direction, we’ll break down the differences between flexible and hybrid policies and explore three companies getting flex right.
Flex and hybrid work aren’t the same
There’s some confusion around the terms “flexible” and “hybrid” work. It’s important to understand the distinctions because one is more highly sought after than the other. Future Forum has the numbers — 78% of workers want location flexibility (aka hybrid), and 95% want schedule flexibility.
Focused on location flexibility only
Employees split their work between the office and another location, typically a home office or coworking space
Employers dictate location flexibility rather than the employees
Example of a hybrid policy: A company decides to allow employees to work from home on Mondays and Fridays.
Why it falls short: While this is more flexible than not having a work-from-home option, it still doesn’t fall into the realm of the true flexibility employees want. With this policy, workers have to customize their schedules to fit the rule rather than have the leeway to choose what works best for them.
Empowers employees to customize their schedules to suit their individual needs
Often includes flexibility for location as well
Takes an employee-first approach wherever possible
Example of a flexible policy: A company adopts a results-only work environment (ROWE), meaning an employee’s performance is based on their results rather than how many hours they worked.
Why it works: ROWE provides the ultimate flexibility for employees. They can choose when, where, and how to do their best work. Each individual’s schedule and preferences can be met, meaning everyone is satisfied.
4 great flex policy examples from companies doing it right
1. Treat employees as individuals
Sodexo prioritizes the work-life balance, and their flex philosophy is to go with the FLOW. FLOW, which stands for Flexibility Optimizes Work, is Sodexo’s version of ROWE. The policy allows employees to choose their work hours and locations based on individual needs. The company encourages managers to keep open lines of communication, so employees always feel comfortable asking for what they need or sharing feedback.
For Sodexo, flexible work policies have clear company benefits. Their website states that “when employers demonstrate respect in this way, employees gain a greater sense of well-being, which enables higher levels of engagement, loyalty, and productivity.”
2. Have comprehensive and easy-to-understand guidelines
Moving from a traditional work model to a flexible one is a big change, and it can lead to confusion and stress if it’s not done right. MIT avoids misunderstandings about its flex policies by having clear, documented guidelines for employees. The document identifies who approves flex work arrangements, expectations for productivity, and special considerations such as what employees should do if they’re working alone on site.
3. Create reasonable limits based on your business needs
Every business is different, and it’s okay if yours can’t adopt a policy as flexible as Sodexo’s FLOW. There is room for some flexibility in almost every company. San Mateo County is a great example of finding ways to cater to employees’ flexibility needs without disrupting business services.
San Mateo County was way ahead of the hybrid and flex work curve, with memos about alternate work policies dating back to 1985. While it’s clear they’re fully on board with the flex work revolution, the organization has limits in place to ensure their business needs are met such as maintaining office hours for customers. They encourage departments to create “core” hours where employees must be in the office. Outside of these hours, workers can customize their schedules to suit their needs.
4. Think beyond basic schedule flexibility
San Mateo County is also notable for its voluntary time off (VTO) option. This program lets employees reduce their work hours between 1% and 20% and adjusts their pay accordingly. Employees can request VTO for any reason, whether it’s to care for a sick family member or take a personal enrichment class. This flex option allows employees to reduce their workloads when needed without losing their jobs.
Employees want control
Many companies have embraced hybrid work models as a way to offer employees more flexibility. While that’s a great start, it falls short of reaching the level of flexibility workers really want. Employees want to have at least some control over their work hours so that they can create healthier work-life balances and work when they’re at their best. Organizations that cater to this can expect to see just as many benefits as their workers do.