As workplace realities continue to evolve, one thing is clear: Whatever your pre-COVID workplace strategy was, it’s now obsolete. So, where do you go from here?
Statistics from 2020 show that the utilization of private offices dropped from 28% in February to just over 1.4% in July. Traditional conference rooms, which were poorly utilized even before the pandemic, experienced yet another utilization decrease from 12% in February to 0.6% in the summer months. We expect most companies to rethink how they can better use these traditional and underutilized spaces.
By contrast, desks in open areas are showing slow and steady increases in usage as more employees return to the office.
Back to Office Schedules and Office Utilization
While employees are gradually making their way back into the office, many companies have implemented a hybrid approach and have a rotating schedule of employees coming in and out of the office. With the constant fluctuation in employee attendance, companies are finding more dynamic ways to structure the layout and utilization of their office spaces.
So what’s the best way to address this? Many enterprise companies are investing in agile work settings, which offer companies the flexibility they need when headcounts are changing on a daily basis while making sure square footage is always well-used.
What Does "Agile Seating" or "Hot Desking" Really Mean?
Agile seating, also known as "hot desking," is an on-demand approach to seating that allows employees to book a workspace only when they need one. Agile seating is a common aspect of a dynamic workplace, which is designed to be more flexible and accommodating for a variable number of employees coming in on any given day.
Desk reservation systems enable employees to easily reserve a desk online in advance while technologies, like workplace analytics platforms powered by occupancy sensors, make real-time availability visible. Workplace analytics platforms also enable enterprises to optimize cleaning and sanitization once employees are finished using a space.
Pre-pandemic, workplace utilization hovered around 30%. Post-pandemic, with many employees likely only going into the office 2-3 days per week, we can expect utilization to drop even further — unless there's a workplace transformation, like what we've described above.
4 Ways a Workplace Analytics Platform Powered by Occupancy Sensors Makes Agile Seating Possible
The new normal is not a warehouse of assigned desks, but a haven where employees choose to experience socialization and collaboration with their colleagues. And our data hints at what many are calling the rebirth of the office where CRE leaders get the opportunity to rethink the purpose of the office and design more agile environments that optimize both the employee experience and real estate spend.
1. The Data from Workplace Analytics Platforms Help Identify a New Employee-to-Desk Ratio
As companies reopen their offices, flexible seating discussions have been heating up, and companies clearly see the economic benefit of more agile workplaces. After all, why should employers pay for dedicated desks for every single employee when employees are spending half the week working from home?
Adopting Activity Based Working is the next frontier to maximize office space utilization
Occupancy sensors gather activity based information, giving you insight into how your workspaces are actually being utilized. These sensors send the information to our Workplace Analytics Platform that will provide you with the real-time occupancy data you need to validate whether your new hybrid model is benefiting your workforce. From there, you can make adjustments to approach maximum office space utilization based on the activities of each team.
2. With the Data from Workplace Analytics Platforms, you can Monitor and Optimize Desk Reservation Systems
As you roll out an unassigned seating plan, it’s critical to offer an efficient and accurate desk reservation system. Employees need a way to know which workspaces are available during their time in the office so they can claim a desk that fits their ideal environment — whether that’s a collaborative space, or a quiet place to finalize projects.
Historically, in a pre-pandemic world it’s been common for employees who have had the ability to reserve workspaces to book and then not use them. For example: Based on data that VergeSense collected across 1 million square feet of office space, employees didn’t show up to 30% of all conference room bookings in 2018.
Simply offering a reservation system isn’t enough
You will need to provide a reservation tool but also monitor active occupancy, plus passive occupancy. VergeSense shows actual usage at all times in our Workplace Analytics Platform. Workplace transformational leaders can collect the data and optimize space based on how employees are actually leveraging different areas for specific activities.
3. Workplace Analytics Solutions Help Optimize Cleaning and Satisfy Employee Concerns
If you're unable to proactively ensure that a workstation is sanitized as soon as it is vacated, employees may reject an unassigned seating plan entirely.
VergeSense hardware relays information to the workplace analytics dashboard and displays a real-time floor map of your office space, connecting people-counting views and desk reservation together in a Smart Cleaning Planner. Once a workstation is vacated, the cleaning team gets notified to thoroughly sanitize that work zone before the next reservation arrives.
Your post-pandemic workforce will feel at ease knowing that their facilities teams are on top of cleaning and sanitization based on real-time data.
4. Workplace Analytics Platforms Enable Companies to Offer a Better Employee Experience
An unassigned seating plan is undoubtedly a cost-effective move for the enterprise. However, the success of that plan depends entirely on the technology you’ll choose to implement and your internal communications plan.
Employee-facing applications such as desk booking software and room displays can remove some of the natural friction your workforce may feel when reentering the office for the first time. When we conducted a survey of employees across various office environments, those in agile workplaces were most likely to say that their current setup was their ideal.
Next Steps on Return to Office Plans and Measuring Success With Workplace Analytics
While employees are still mostly remote and begin to slowly make their way back into the office, now is the time for you to consider a dynamic workplace solution. Agile seating provides you with the chance to incorporate fluidity and flexibility to future-proof your workplace design in the long term.
For more information on how the VergeSense Workplace Analytics Platform, powered by next generation occupancy sensors, can help fuel resilient CRE strategies and office reentry initiatives, download The Ultimate Guide to Defining Agile Seating.
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