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A New Way to Measure the Dynamic Workplace

The Workplace Transformation

As a result of post-pandemic norms, the typical use of the workplace has shifted. As workplace leaders have reported in a 2023 CBRE study, the move to a hybrid environment is well under way, steadily increasing to almost ⅓ of the entire corporate workforce. 
For example, the number of employees choosing to work remotely in 2022 increased by 24% since 2021. And those choosing hybrid work went up by 16%. Interest for in-office work, conversely, dropped by 24%.

CRE leaders are standardizing around the hybrid sharing model, and consequently, adopting a new workplace metric: the Sharing Ratio. Sharing ratios are a critical planning concept that defines the number of people to a seat that can be shared.  

But a blanket sharing model is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution. One workplace may be blended with a range of sharing ratios, just as one site or campus might have different needs and variables that require different sharing models. 

For example, a large office floor might include a range of teams with a range of hybrid schedules. In the example below, three different sharing ratios have been implemented on the same floor. 

Illustration of a floorplan with various examples of hybrid/in-person work models overlaid.

Multiply this complexity across different geographies, divisions, cultures and workplace policies. The practical reality is hybrid needs to remain flexible to accommodate the needs and preferences of different teams and environments. 

Not surprisingly, the move to hybrid has not been without its challenges for workplace professionals. One of the most critical of those challenges is how to measure this dynamic hybrid model of the workplace.

Sharing Challenge: Measuring Workplace Utilization

The fact is you can’t manage what you don’t measure.

The new hybrid dynamic environment will need to be measured more often and with more granularity in order to understand space utilization. 

A wall of windows in an office building from the outside.

We’re learning that the hybrid work style is not 9-5, but instead an agile, ever-changing environment based on hybrid models, employee’s preferences and flexible schedules.

We’re learning that the hybrid work style is not 9 to 5, but instead an agile, ever-changing environment based on hybrid models, employee’s preferences and flexible schedules. 

So old methods, like badge-in data and clicker studies will not provide the level of granularity needed. But new technologies that have been developed to measure occupancy continuously and automatically are on the rise. Occupancy sensors, for instance, are extremely precise, though they can be cost-prohibitive at scale. 

New Solution: Continuous Utilization Measurement

Recent advances in technology, like using Wi-Fi network data to produce occupancy numbers, can produce hour-by-hour data across an entire portfolio. This unprecedented level of visibility comprehensively measures occupancy in your buildings, floors and even zones within floors. Consequently, your workplace professionals can measure and share up to the minute occupancy data on their dynamic hybrid workspaces. 

For example, in this utilization graph produced by a Wi-Fi utilization data analytics platform, we see a building with four floors. Two floors show a healthy and robust level of utilization where the spaces are used and the people are consistently returning. But floors 3 and 4 are underutilized and need attention. 

Example Utilization Graph Shows Mean Daily Occupancy Over 3 Months

Planners will need to dig into what hybrid plan is being implemented on those floors and why is it not working? But without even knowing the actual occupancy, those questions can not even be posed. 

To illustrate the value of the data further, you can slice the data into days of week averages to see what work days are being utilized relative to each other.

Example Utilization Graph Shows Mean Daily Occupancy Over Days of the Week

In the example above, Mondays and Tuesdays are the most popular days and Fridays are under utilized. This hard data can now be utilized to make decisions about days of the week and workplace engagement in order to steer decisions into better people experiences and making operations more efficient. 

In fact, the data available with continuous utilization measurement has a wide range of benefits for a wide range of teams, enabling them to accurately back up their plans and proposals with real data. With this data, they can get hard validation on questions that have been previously been illusive, such as:

Real Estate Leaders and Office of the CFO
Should we lease more space?
What kind of space should we lease?
Can we consolidate/optimize our portfolio?
What are our occupancy numbers across our portfolio and what are their trends?
People and Workplace Satisfaction 
Are the hybrid schedules working? 
Are teams collaborating in the collaboration spaces?
What spaces and amenities are popular?
Space Planning & Management 
Which buildings and what floors are not being used?
Did a space planning pilot program meet its utilization goals?
What days of the week are popular?
What times of the day are over or underutilized?
Where can we move, shuffle or add groups of people?
How can I resolve space disputes?
Where can I find temporary or swing space to put people?
Facilities & Operations 
When should spaces be cleaned?
When should food services be staffed?
What spaces need the most attention due to use or wear-and-tear?
Energy Systems
What areas and what times need lighting, heating and cooling based on occupancy?

Answering these questions on an ongoing basis will result in a more efficient, agile and fast-moving environment. And although different teams receive different benefits from the data, there are five core benefits everybody will find essential. 

Five Workplace Benefits of Continuous Utilization Measurement

When a viable utilization measurement system is implemented, workplace professionals can unlock five key benefits.

  1. Higher Precision of Occupancy Analytics
    Overgeneralized occupancy estimates, such as point-in-time observations and badge-in data, don’t tell the full story of occupancy that a continuous utilization measurement system can.
  2. Measurement of Employee Preference
    Knowing what spaces people are actually using and seeing those patterns over days and hours can help determine what space programs are working and what are not advancing the goal of higher employee engagement. 
  3. Enabling Flexibility in Hybrid Policy Design
    As hybrid work styles and seat sharing become the norm, the ability to adjust in real time to space needs of each workplace needs to be informed by occupancy data. 
  4. Minimizing Resource Wastage
    Automatically identifying underutilization patterns in spaces can inform targeted adjustments to cleaning and energy costs. Perpetual underuse can enable consolidation and portfolio optimization. 
  5. Making More Informed Strategic Space Decisions
    Identify which areas of the Real Estate portfolio are growing and need to expand, and which areas are shrinking and need to be optimized when their lease cycles are up. Utilization rate can inform the types of spaces that should be prioritized in rebuilds, renovations and acquisitions. 

To meet the needs of the evolving workplace, continuous measurement and improvement will be needed. Hybrid sharing can be better managed with a space utilization analytics platform that allows you to keep your operations efficient and people experience high by continuously measuring the utilization of those spaces.

This new way to measure the dynamic workplace can lead to cost savings, higher utilization, greater efficiency and better sustainability.

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