Evolving workplace and workforce norms and trends have created a crucial demand for modern occupancy planning methodologies and technologies.
The technologies and methodologies occupiers and workplace teams utilized for occupancy planning before Covid are losing relevance for many reasons. In this blog post, we will explore:
- What’s “broken” about how occupancy planning was approached in the past and why new technologies and methodologies matter.
- What tools occupiers and workplace teams have at their disposal for occupancy planning, as well as the outcomes they can achieve by leaning into new ways of approaching occupancy planning.
- Who exactly benefits from modern occupancy planning technologies and methodologies.
What is “broken” about how occupiers and workplace teams used to engage in occupancy planning?
Many of the pre-Covid tools occupiers and workplace teams used for occupancy planning aren’t conducive to hybrid work or fluid workplace strategies. From post-Covid work strategies via flexible scheduling and reservation systems, legacy systems and tools don’t support the ever-evolving needs of occupiers and workplace teams.
Additionally, pre-Covid tools tend to be clunky and inherently siloed. Most teams use separate tools for design, workplace strategy, HR management, and occupancy planning, in order to be responsive to our current, hybrid times.
As a result, the main challenges organizations face are fragmented data sources, data integrity issues, and consistency problems between different data sources. This not only hinders the decision-making process but is also time and labor intensive–with internal teams wasting many hours a week to align on data inputs and outputs to get the crucial insights necessary to make workplace changes.
Occupancy planning is already complex enough; however, vertically integrated systems can help workplace teams “navigate the intricacies of managing and fully utilizing an ever-increasing amount of flexible workspace.” They can also streamline the collection and analysis of “the data needed to optimize space based on changing needs, effectively perform moves, and allocate space back to the organization.”
Why do modern occupancy planning methodologies and technologies matter in today’s evolving office landscape?
1) Workplace teams are dealing with a lot of uncertainty
As offices reopen, many occupiers are unsure on just how to accommodate the hybrid needs of their workforce. Because of this uncertainty, new methodologies and technologies that foster an iterative mindset to space–i.e., looking at office space as an evolving entity rather than a one-and-done initiative–can help workplace teams learn what will bring employees back to physical workspaces.
Relying on real-time utilization data for occupancy planning allows occupiers to “accurately predict growth and effectively plan ahead” as spatial needs fluctuate–i.e., enabling occupiers and workplace teams to make on-the-fly decisions to properly optimize office space.
2) Different, post-Covid stress points for employees
In our more post-Covid times, there is an increased focus on the employee experience.
From the employee’s physical and mental health, to their emotional and overall well-being, legacy technologies don’t have a means of capturing the entire employee experience. These tools were built in the context of people to desks who were in the office, Monday through Friday, regardless of how they felt about the office.
Hybrid work has changed this and new age tools must allow occupiers to get a better understanding of the whole employee. Post-Covid technologies and methodologies have to be nimble, responsive, and intelligent enough to capture the pulse of employee stressors and their perception of office space, in order to obtain the actionable insights that reveal true workplace usage patterns. This helps occupiers make better informed–and once again, iterative–design decisions.
What tools do occupiers and workplace teams have at their disposal to better understand and execute on occupancy planning?
IWMS is the most widely accepted tool as it provides a combination of different capabilities.
Occupancy planning tends to be one of the key features and organizations often customize and buy IWMS to fit their needs.
However, many occupiers are unhappy with their occupancy planning tools because they often have to use other separate tools for tasks which should ideally be accommodated in their IWMS. This leads to:
- Technology stacks that don’t necessarily talk to each other. In the case of data collection and analysis, fragmented technology stacks cause data discrepancies, outdated data, data integrity issues, and a lot of manual tasks to ensure all systems are in sync.
- Individual technologies that don’t do everything you need. Each tool has some overlapping capabilities but none have the entire feature set necessary to address hybrid work. Oftentimes tools provide slightly more than the others but that doesn’t mean they provide the full capabilities for serving all of the needs of the occupier.
The right technology stack should be vertically integrated and provide a single system–or single source of truth–when it comes to programming, designing, occupancy planning, office utilization, and the employee experience.
What sort of outcomes can be achieved by moving from the old ways of occupancy planning to new ones?
Occupiers that utilize vertically integrated technologies can achieve three major outcomes:
1) Reduction of time on costly manual tasks
As previously mentioned, trying to get fragmented technology stacks to talk to one another is time consuming and costly. It is estimated that 70% of corporate real estate projects are delayed by over three months, with budget overruns occurring as often as 25% from disparate datasets and manual processes.
By leveraging vertically integrated technologies, occupiers can streamline internal workflows and increase effective collaboration by having all facets of programming, design, occupancy planning, the employee experience, and utilization data all in one place.
2) Optimization of real estate portfolios by way of space iteration
The needs of the post-Covid workplace and dynamic worker behaviors are fluid–making the optimization of space an evolving endeavor.
Occupancy planning and spatial design is no longer a one-and-done initiative. What the post-Covid office should look like is gray and occupiers must combat ambiguity by iterating space until it’s fully optimized for their unique and specific workforce.
3) Promotion of employee happiness
At the end of the day, better occupancy planning technologies and methodologies should work towards the increase of employee satisfaction and happiness with office space.
The right technology will allow occupiers to take in real-time information and data that’s reflective of how people actually work, as well as their behaviors and preferences. As noted by two workplace experts from JLL, “In order to provide employees with engaging and productive office spaces, workplace and real estate teams need to know as much about employee behavior as possible.” Occupancy planning must be rooted in employee behavior in order to ensure employees are happy and satisfied with their office space.
Who benefits from modern occupancy planning practices?
Modern occupancy planning practices ensure you manage your space to the needs of your employees. And while the employee is the ultimate beneficiary, other roles–and their specific functions in the business–will also reap the benefits of modern occupancy planning practices:
- Human Resources: HR teams are increasing the amount of initiatives tied to employee well-being. A vertically integrated technology stack will help HR professionals get a better understanding of how employees actually feel about office space by way of real-time data that reflects the employee perception of office space.
- Executives and the C-suite: While upper leadership is eager for workers to come back into the office, merely having an office won’t drive in-person attendance like it did during pre-Covid times. Executives and the C-suite must truly understand occupancy planning and be engaged in the design process in order to get the best return on their office space.
- Occupancy planners and managers: Workplace teams are tasked to accommodate the dynamic needs of the post-Covid workforce and workplace in a timely manner. Never before have occupancy planners and managers had such a focus on them and business leaders want informed decisions to be made quickly. The right technology helps occupancy summarize relevant data points quickly.
- Facilities managers: Those who are tasked to maintain space and ensure it is kept to the highest health and safety standards can use utilization data to better understand how frequently spaces need to be cleaned. Facilities managers can also better respond to maintenance issues by viewing real-time feedback from employees.
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