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Beyond the Return: Future-Proofing Workspaces

March 26th, 2024 | 10 min. read

Beyond the Return: Future-Proofing Workspaces
VergeSense

VergeSense

VergeSense is the industry leader in providing enterprises with a true understanding of their occupancy and how their offices are actually being used.

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With more organizations increasing the requirements for their employees to spend time working in the office, workplace leaders must take a proactive, data-driven approach to optimize for both cost and experience.  Maintaining excess office space that is not used consistently is financially untenable, but providing the right amount of space and an optimal design is a requirement if you want to create a commute-worthy experience for your employees. 

This leaves enterprises grappling with important decisions about striking the right balance between cost savings and providing employees with a good in-office experience.

After working with over 200 companies who have already adopted occupancy intelligence to optimize their portfolio and spaces, we’ve distilled their process into a blueprint that you can apply to your own workplace. There are three key elements to consider:

  1. Portfolio Right-Sizing: Ensuring you have the right amount of space to support your workplace strategy.
  2. Meeting-Room Availability: Ensuring enough collaboration spaces are supplied and available for in-office days.
  3. Neighborhood Planning: Establishing a system for making data-based space allocation decisions. 

For each one, we’ll provide guidance on the steps you can take to get started right away, including:

  • The data you need to capture 
  • The insights you should be looking for
  • The decisions you need to make

And with that, let’s get started. 

1. Portfolio Right-Sizing

This is often the most daunting aspect of any real estate leader’s job after bringing their teams back to the office because: 

  • Attendance can be unpredictable after rolling out new workplace strategies
  • It can be difficult to understand which real estate metrics you should be using to measure the efficiency of your portfolios

Here’s where VergeSense comes in. 

The Data: People Count by Building & Floor Over Time

The data you must collect includes: 

  • People count (how many people enter and exit your offices over a period of time)

VergeSense Entryway Sensors allow you to capture this data, and are deployable across the ingress and egress points of each floor within your offices. These sensors anonymously capture data about people entering and exiting your space with 95% accuracy. This raw data is processed on-device by AI and translated into trends, insights, and recommendations to help make your decision-making more straightforward. 

Note: You may have badge data available to you today, which can serve as a helpful starting point, but it’s worth noting that while badge data is directionally correct, “badge tailgating” and the absence of “badging-out” diminish badge data accuracy. 

The Insights: Understanding How In-Office Behaviors Align with Your Workplace Strategy 

Once you have people count data, you’ll be able to understand hybrid working behaviors and patterns throughout the days, weeks, and months across two dimensions: the building level and the floor level. 

With this data, you’ll be able to evaluate granular building and floor usage vs. your target utilization rates and answer the following questions: 

  • What are overall people counts in the building, across each floor? 
  • What are your averages and what are your peaks? 
  • How do averages and peaks break down hour by hour and day by day? 
  • Which are the most popular days of the week and hours of the day? 

These insights will allow you to accurately identify how many people are using each office and floor, when they’re using them, and how often.  

The Decisions: Adjusting the Size of Your Portfolio Based on Occupancy Peaks, Averages, and Space Availability

With these insights, you can ultimately identify excess capacity across each building and floor within your portfolio. Your decisions will be unique to your workplace strategy, but here are a few examples of how VergeSense customers have used these insights to make decisions:

  • A healthcare equipment provider used occupancy intelligence to save $6M/year in lease avoidance after discovering that the utilization of their offices was only 20%. 
  • A global food manufacturer uncovered that the average capacity usage of their Chicago HQ was only 5% - so they subleased unused space and saved $715,000.

2. Meeting Room Availability

We often hear that employees are frustrated with the lack of available collaboration space. After commuting, the last thing they want to do is deal with the frustration of ghosted-meetings and meeting-room-squatters. It’s enough to make them never want to come back.  

 We speak with workplace leaders who lack insight into the scale, frequency, and locations of these meeting room space shortages. It’s this lack of information that leaves them unable to make optimization decisions. 

Here’s where VergeSense can help.

The Data: Identifying Historical and Real-Time Collaboration Space Usage 

The data points that you’ll need to collect are:

  • People count
  • Active space usage (human beings occupying meeting room space)
  • Passive space usage (common objects in meeting room spaces, signaling human presence)

VergeSense Area Sensors are the only occupancy sensors on the market that are able to capture and analyze this kind of data for two reasons: 

  1. They come with both wired and wireless options, which allows them to be quickly and easily deployed in every enclosed meeting room and open space dedicated to collaboration (phone booths, meeting rooms, etc.).
  2. VergeSense uses anonymous computer vision technology to decipher the difference between the shape of a human being and a bag, a laptop, or a jacket - common objects that indicate a human-being is nearby and using the space. Passive occupancy accounts for up to 50% of space usage, so if you’re not able to account for it, you’re missing out on a significant portion of your space usage data, and as a result, accuracy. 

The Insights: Understanding How Your Meeting Supply Aligns with Demand, and Common Meeting Room Behaviors

VergeSense AI processes these data points and helps you identify actual space shortages vs. perceived space shortages. 

Space Shortages & Shortage Trends

The VergeSense Space Usage Timeline gives you the intelligence you need to identify ‘breaking points’ that occur when you’re running out of meeting spaces:

  • Identify when each meeting space experienced a shortage so you can quantify the validity of space requests.
  • Easily filter meeting space shortages by date, space type, or both so you can analyze which aspects of your design mix are working and which are breaking.
  • Gain an understanding of the effectiveness of your meeting space mix by comparing shortage events side by side.
  • Stay ahead of space availability issues by analyzing used vs. unused spaces to make proactive recommendations to design and occupancy teams.

Time Usage & Capacity Usage 

VergeSense provides all customers with Usage Maps, which allow you to visually identify:

  • Which meeting spaces consistently come up against their capacity limits?
  • Which meeting spaces are used most frequently?
  • Which meeting spaces are consistently under-capacity?
  • Which meeting spaces are used least frequently?  

Integration with Space Booking Platforms 

Additionally, VergeSense integrates with many of the leading space booking platforms, such as Google Calendar, Teem, Robin, Office 365, Condeco, and FM Systems so you’re able to:

  • Pair reservation data with actual room usage data, giving you important insights about the effectiveness of your reservation policies.
  • Analyze ghosted meeting trends, allowing you to quantify meeting room waste.
  • Analyze space squatting, so you can understand how your team wants to use collaboration space to adjust your policies accordingly.

The Decisions: Increase Space Availability With Real-Time Data and Integrated Workflows

There are multiple ways that these insights can be used to increase space availability to align with your workplace strategy, but there are three common decisions our customers make: 

Enabling automatic room release & automatic room booking By integrating your space booking platform with VergeSense, you can immediately increase the availability of your bookable spaces. 

  • When a meeting space has been reserved, but at the time of the meeting the sensor detects no people or objects in the space, the meeting space is released back to the calendar so someone else can book it. You can customize when the meeting space is released. 
  • If a space isn’t booked but the sensor detects a person/people occupying the space, VergeSense will communicate with your space booking platform and automatically book the space. Booking can also be triggered by objects occupying the space. 

Example: A global management consulting firm used VergeSense to uncover that 40% of booked meetings were ghosted, and by using this functionality to return those spaces to the calendar, they avoided building new conference rooms to solve the same problem - a cost avoidance of $50k/month.

Empowering employees with real-time space availability for frictionless booking Finally, you can put the power of real-time space availability data into the hands of your employees in two ways: 

  1. Integrate VergeSense availability data via API with a wayfinding application, your team can identify available spaces and book them through the app.
  2. Pass the same data to your Kiosk platform to visually display space availability around your office. If you don’t currently have a Kiosk platform, VergeSense offers this functionality out of the box.  

Example: A global pharmaceutical customer used VergeSense to push real-time space availability data into their custom wayfinding app. With a large campus, this data greatly improved employee experience with finding and reserving bookable spaces.

3. Neighborhood Planning

As we’ve written about in the Occupancy Intelligence Index, the way employees use spaces today is different. Companies have different in-office policies, employees work differently within the spaces they’ve been provided, and leadership is handling requests for more space..  

Without actual space usage data: 

  • There will be neighborhoods that are too large, where supply exceeds demand, which leads to inefficient use of valuable space.
  • There will be neighborhoods that are too small, where demand exceeds supply, which leads dissatisfied employees and frequent requests for additional space.

Here’s where VergeSense comes in.  

The Data: Active and Passive Space Usage By Neighborhood

The data points that you’ll need to collect are:

  • People count
  • Active space usage 
  • Passive space usage 

As we mentioned in the previous section, VergeSense Area Sensors are designed to capture all three of these points due to their wired and wireless capabilities, as well as their ability to detect and capture passive space use.  

The Insights: Trends Related to Team-Based Space Use

Time Usage & Capacity Usage by Neighborhood 

By evaluating the time and capacity usage by neighborhood, workplace leaders can identify which neighborhoods are over or underutilized. This includes understanding peak times, the average number of users, and how space is utilized on a day-to-day basis. This will help you understand popular areas, how efficient spaces are, and opportunities for repurposing space.

Space Usage Timeline by Neighborhood

The Space Usage Timeline will help you uncover space shortages by neighborhood. It’ll even help you understand time, frequency, and location of shortage by team. This supplements insights around space efficiency and availability by neighborhood.

Space Comparisons by Neighborhoods

Adding or removing space from one team often comes at the expense of another team’s space. By looking at the floor holistically, you can understand how different neighborhoods perform to make informed decisions about where resources should be allocated. This comparison can reveal which areas require more space based on actual usage and which can afford to downsize.

The Decisions: Optimize and Right-Size Neighborhoods

With historical, team-based data and insights now at your fingertips, you’re ready to start making decisions that lead to optimized neighborhoods.  

Use historical space usage data to have fact-based space request discussions.

With neighborhood level insights, you can utilize the historical space usage data to engage in factual discussions regarding space requests from different teams and as appropriate, reallocate space more effectively within the office. This approach moves the conversation away from anecdotal or emotional arguments to data-driven reasoning.

Example: The VP of Real Estate at an investment banking firm needed data to facilitate conversations around additional conference room space requests within a particular neighborhood. Many space request discussions were emotional, anecdotal, and not centered around data.  Using VergeSense data, they benchmarked conference room usage within a neighborhood to understand the threshold for employee complaints (70% conference room usage) and developed a data-backed system for evaluating space requests.

Create a proactive framework for neighborhood planning and sharing ratios based on historical team space usage and workforce plans.

Similarly, neighborhood-level data and insights will allow you to develop a framework for neighborhood planning that is based on actual historical usage and projected workforce plans. This could involve setting sharing ratios for common spaces based on past data and adjusting them as your team sizes and working patterns evolve. This system should allow for flexible changes to neighborhood plans based on ongoing data collection and analysis. This ensures that the workplace can adapt to changing team sizes, work patterns, and space requirements without significant delays or disruptions.

Next Steps: Getting Started

As you’ve seen, occupancy intelligence empowers you with the ability to collect granular occupancy data and insights so you can make impactful decisions to right size your real estate portfolio, increase space availability, and improve neighborhood planning. If you’re ready to get started, consider a consultation to discuss your specific workplace priorities and strategy, and learn from the experiences of other companies that have successfully implemented these insights to optimize their office space and realize significant returns on investment.

Whether you're looking to enhance employee satisfaction, reduce costs, or both, a tailored approach based on solid data can help you achieve your workplace objectives efficiently and effectively. Want to learn more?