Want a winning workplace strategy? Dive into the occupancy data.

Planning for 2019 and beyond? JLL shares how workplace and occupancy planning tools can help position your company for growth in the future of work.

Image courtesy of JLL

Workplace game rules are changing almost faster than it takes to design a new space. But one thing is certain—gone are the days where the main goal was to create large roomy offices and utilitarian sea of cubicles, where employees would sit in assigned seats and be marked for attendance, day in, and day out.

Today’s workplace leaders must devise and account for new workplace scenarios, such as the movement toward activity-based workspaces, or the rise of the ‘anytime, anywhere’ work ethos, which is making cafes, homes and coworking spaces the new and more productive workplace options.

The good news is, workplace designers also have more tools than ever to plan ahead accordingly. As the Fourth Industrial Revolution transforms everything about how and where people want to work, it’s also sparking powerful new innovations in occupancy planning. With new proactive planning methodologies and technology to support those, organizations are going for the gold in workplace strategy: improved financial performance and improving the human experience.

Workplace game plan: avert costs, improve experiences

At JLL, we recently surveyed 108 leaders across 69 organizations to understand precisely how their approach to workplace planning is changing. The results, published in our 2018 Occupancy Benchmarking Report reveal that many workplace leaders are already implementing future-focused planning strategies to support a more productive, engaged and mobile workforce.

The secret of their success? Leading organizations are leveraging advanced data and analytics powered by rigorous metrics and benchmarking tools. And by proactively acting on the insights that emerge from that data, they’re saying goodbye to pointless spending on under-utilized space, while giving Millennials what they want: a workspace they can make their own.

Right now, the average worker is only at their desk 40 percent of the time, according to Gartner Group. Meanwhile, Intuit research indicates 80 percent of work is considered collaborative.

To support these new work trends and curb underutilized space, organizations across all industries are examining how their workplace needs to evolve. That includes formal mobility programs where some portion of the workforce do not have a dedicated work space, instead they have neighborhoods that consist of different work settings, that individuals share and get to choose from on a daily or even hourly basis to support the work they are doing at the time. More than 51 percent of organizations we surveyed have implemented a mobility program—up more than 10 percent from last year.

The research also indicates a clear shift toward the open office environment and away from private offices. For example, 43 percent of respondents indicated that enclosed offices now make up less than 5 percent of their space—up from 35 percent in 2017.

Five considerations for more informed planning

Amid these shifts, what should a mobility program look like in physical space? What kind of layout and tools will help nurture employee productivity and drive cost savings at the same time?

Those are the kinds of questions that data-driven occupancy planning aims to answer. Our research shines a light on best practices, strategies, tools and technologies for advanced occupancy planning, including the following:

1) Track the right data, precisely. What numbers offer the best clues into how employees are using space? The top five metrics tracked by organizations we surveyed include occupancy/vacancy, utilization level, density, cost per seat and mobility ratios. These metrics can help you determine how much space you use today and how you use it, leading to better informed discussions about your space needs in the future.

There are many other occupancy metrics well worth tracking, too. For example, some organizations track how space is allocated to each business unit—creating accountability and offering the potential to charge back to each group accordingly.

Regardless of what data you are tracking, accuracy is key. Most of the people we surveyed—an overwhelming 77 percent—say that improving space data accuracy is a primary goal for real estate teams this year.

2) Take advantage of new and emerging technologies. Advances in utilization tracking, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive technologies can all help provide real-time insights into space utilization. More than three-quarters of our survey respondents (79 percent) who track utilization use some form of technology to track space data, from sensors to smart phone apps. And to support utilization data accuracy, many use computer aided facilities management (CAFM) and Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) systems to assist in tracking and planning spaces.

3) Consider peer performance for benchmarking purposes. Evaluating workplace performance data, such as total real estate costs per person, can be more effective when you have an external point of reference. For example, of the 25,000 buildings in our Global Benchmarking Services database, the average cost of real estate per person is $6,680. How does your organization measure up? Benchmarking against these and other metrics, such as how much space is allocated to workstations versus common areas, can help you identify areas of opportunity you might not have previously considered.

4) Plan proactively with demand forecasting. For many years, real estate planning had to be reactive by default, with forward-looking efforts based on guesswork and intuition, rather than using the hard data that is available today to help predict the future. Now, organizations can anticipate what the future may look like, and act accordingly.

More than half of people we surveyed (57 percent) collect demand forecasting data. With the right analytics tools, this data helps inform capital investment and expansion decisions, so your team can align real estate needs with projected growth, while supporting long-term budgeting goals.

5) Turn data-driven knowledge into informed action—and repeat. Gathering precise data is a big part of the process, but it’s only as effective as the strategic actions it informs. With precise data and insights under your belt, it’s time to embark on a deep utilization improvement. You might examine your strategy to identify better use of existing space, avoiding the risk of over- or underutilized space, which both can have negative impacts on the human experience and the bottom line. Whatever your unique goals may be, it’s wise to set out a specific goal, figure out how to achieve it, and be prepared to analyze outcomes.

Ready, set…plan!

Planning for the future can be daunting amidst the many changes we’re faced with today. But rigorous data collection and analysis can empower your decision making like never before.

With cutting-edge workplace and occupancy planning tools, you can help eliminate wasteful spending on real estate that is underutilized and develop strategies to divert funds toward the employee experience, ultimately helping position your company for growth in the future of work.

Like so many victories, future workplace success depends on the game plan – make sure you are ready with yours.

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