We are writing the playbook now for what our future workplaces will look like — and we’re most definitely writing it in pencil. But the right workplace data can give us greater confidence that we’re making the right decisions.
The latest JLL report shows promising signs, based on return-to-office rates ranging from 75-100% in several of China’s major cities now that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic there has passed.
However, for most workplaces, heading back to the office means returning at reduced capacity, a trend that may last at least until we have a coronavirus vaccine. It means reconfiguring office spaces for physical distancing. And it will likely mean adopting a more flexible approach to real estate and workplace design.
Assigned seats may no longer make sense when only half your employees are in the office at any given time. Recurring room reservations (at least for physical meeting rooms) will likely be a thing of the past. And you’ll likely need to re-evaluate your approach to visitor management.
All these changes can make it feel impossible to plan ahead. But the good news is that with the right workplace data, you can make adjustments at any time. Here are nine powerful metrics that will help you maximize your real estate and improve your employee experience.
The coronavirus will likely have a lasting impact on workplace meeting habits.
When the majority of your workforce was in the office every day, most employees probably had several standing meetings on their calendar and recurring room reservations. Many of these meetings were probably set up to last 45-50 minutes, whether they actually needed to be that long or not.
Now that employees have become more accustomed to working from home, they’ve realized the amount of work that occurred in some of those 50-minute meetings could have been a five-minute email or a quick conversation.
As you return to the workplace, you might see more short, impromptu meetings and fewer long, recurring meetings.
Knowing how long a typical meeting lasts can help you determine how to adjust your room scheduling settings and also influence employee behaviors. If you know the average meeting is half an hour but you expect employees to wipe down conference room tables and chairs after each use, you’ll probably want to set a buffer of 5 to 10 minutes between the time a reservation ends and when the room can be reserved again.
Bad meeting habits can be hard to break, but without workplace data, you’ll never know if you’re making progress.
Research from HOK shows nearly 75% of all meetings are attended by two to four people, but most meeting rooms are designed to accommodate much larger groups. Understanding your average meeting size makes it easier to adjust your conference rooms according to the needs of your workforce.
Keep in mind that to ensure a physical distance of at least 6 feet between people, your average meeting size should not exceed 50% of the room’s maximum capacity.
If you have a meeting room designed to accommodate 20 people sitting just three feet apart, that same room now needs to have no more than 10 people occupying every other chair. You also need to make sure employees are aware of each room’s new maximum capacity. This could change in the coming months if health officials ease physical distancing recommendations or if a new wave of COVID-19 returns. If you have digital room displays, you can easily update the maximum capacity of any room at a moment’s notice.
As many workplaces adopt a more flexible approach that includes allowing employees to choose what days they work in the office, they’re realizing assigned seats no longer make sense. Instead, they’re allowing employees to reserve desks as needed.
But just as many meeting rooms sit empty for the majority of the day, desks can also be underutilized. It’s hard to know how many you actually need — unless you’re collecting desk booking data.
This valuable workplace data can help you determine how frequently desks are being used, which days of the week have the greatest demand for desks, and how often employees are actually at their desks throughout the day.
Based on what you learn, you might decide to make changes, such as increasing the number of desks or designating more desks as “flexible” rather than assigned.
Your employees might tell you they rarely cancel meetings, but your workplace data may tell a different story.
Why does it matter?
Meeting cancellations aren’t inherently bad, but frequent cancellations might be a bad habit you want to break in your workplace.
Like ghost meetings (meetings that are scheduled and go unattended, leaving the space unavailable), meetings and associated room reservations that are cancelled at the last minute prevent others from using valuable real estate. If you want to build better meeting habits, you need to start with a baseline.
Without workplace data to back you up, your workforce might not acknowledge a problem even exists.
Another good indicator of workplace habits are the number of meetings scheduled in advance.
It could be interesting to see if this changes as we return to the office following the coronavirus pandemic. We could see more last-minute meetings as people try to make the most of their more limited “face time” with colleagues. We might also see people eliminating long-standing recurring meetings because they’ve realized they can accomplish the same goals with shorter conversations between fewer people.
It’s hard to say what will happen in your workplace, but paying attention to these numbers will put you in a better position to plan ahead.
For instance, if you find that roughly 70% of your meetings are scheduled in advance while 30% are taking place at the last minute, you could designate three of the 10 conference rooms you have on one floor specifically for this purpose.
Office space occupancy used to be a simple equation. You’d look at your total occupied space and divide it by your total available space to get your occupancy rate. For instance, if your workplace is designed to seat 100 people and you only have 60 desks occupied, you have a 60% occupancy rate.
It’s still important to understand occupancy, especially as many workplaces make plans to reduce office density in the coming months. A good space management software solution makes it easy to see occupancy for every building, floor, and department.
However, what’s more important is office space utilization.
The shift toward more flexible work environments like activity based working has changed the way we think about occupancy and space utilization. The coronavirus pandemic has only accelerated the pace of that change.
What counts isn’t just how many occupied desks you have; it’s how employees are using the spaces available to them.
The size of the average workstation is about half the size it was a decade ago — about 40-50 square feet, according to JLL. However, JLL’s data also shows the average employee only spends about 40% of their time at their desk.
That’s why it’s more important to look at how employees are using conference rooms and other spaces available to them.
When you look at the number of room reservations in a given week to determine room utilization, you’re only seeing part of the picture. You’re looking at perceived room utilization when you should be measuring true room utilization. True conference room utilization takes into account any “ghost” reservations (single meetings no one attends) as well as Zombie Meetings® (recurring meetings no one attends.)
Ideally, you should aim for conference room utilization rates between 3.5 and 6.5 hours per day. If your rates are less, you’re probably not making the best use of your space. And if your rooms are occupied close to eight hours a day, there’s a good chance you don’t have enough space to meet everyone’s needs.
In a recent CoreNet survey of 11,000 executives, 60% said they planned to implement more stringent visitor policies, including requiring visitors to register and conducting health screenings. Some visitor management systems allow you to create checklists and employee self-screening surveys to help with that process. It can also give you valuable data insight around who is coming and going. For instance, you can look at historical data and see which days of the week have the highest number of visitors so you can plan for that additional traffic in your lobby.
And if you have a lot of regular visitors (such as clients), you can pre-register them ahead of time so all they’ll have to do when they arrive is scan a QR code.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed about the need to collect all this workplace data, don’t worry. Teem’s room booking software keeps track of all data related to conference room utilization, desk booking, and visitors. It also gives you actionable recommendations for how to use it.
For instance, if your true conference room utilization is low, we’ll recommend requiring employees to check in every time they attend a meeting. This serves the dual purpose of giving you accurate data while holding employees accountable for the room reservations they make.
You can use the data for planning purposes, and you’ll improve meeting habits in the meantime. It’s the type of continuous feedback loop that helps you build a more agile, employee-centric workplace.
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