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How data is shaping Corporate Real Estate Strategies

Technology shifts

Technology and the increasing need for data is changing the real estate industry, both from an investment and management point of view. With the wealth of financial information required by institutional investors, Real Estate Managers are increasingly challenged with:

  • Demonstrating return on investment
  • Finding smarter ways to reduce costs
  • Maximise building occupancy and prove value

Whilst some businesses are embracing technology capabilities, many are still lagging behind.

Real Estate Managers are relying on hard data to inform strategic decision making, future property investments and go beyond traditional approaches of twice yearly manual counting or gut feel. Real estate is the second largest cost to all organisations of any size – the need for managing it using evidence is indisputable.

The real question is how the industry will balance the needs of it’s users, the people using the space with the need for maximum optimisation. Site managers have to weave a balance between underutilised offices, where the industry norm is >50%, and over utilisation where people can’t find space to work.

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We all agree that half empty spaces are a waste of both money as well as having a significant carbon impact. Did you know that buildings currently account for 40% of all carbon emissions in North America?.

Local site managers should have plans for occasional overflow space when a company or team all have events, keep a sharp eye on real time utilisation metrics as above 85% has the potential to negatively impact the productivity and happiness of the people using the space. The goal most organisations we deal with are setting is to keep average utilisation within healthy 70-80%.

A connected workforce

It’s no secret that the changes we are seeing have a ripple effect in changing people’s behaviour. Technology is enabling people to work from anywhere in the world without the need to be in a fixed location, the ability to have online collaborative platforms means we are more connected than ever before.

This shift is having an domino effect on owners, occupiers and managers as they realign space occupancy strategies, flexible contract terms and environmental conditions to maintain and accommodate a changing workforce.

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In the 2018 Emerging Trends in Real Estate study by PWC, it found many businesses were already using data to improve decision making as well as hiring environmental scientists to support customer demand and investment analysis.

Customer outcomes are fast becoming a primary driver of value as Real Estate grows into a service rather than a passive asset.

The growing need for analytical skills

Whilst technology is clearly changing the state of play in Real Estate, having analytical capabilities is a growing trend for Facilities and Corporate Real Estate within their daily jobs. More and more Facilities and Corporate Real Estate teams are required to provide factual base evidence – have the ability to analyse data, spot patterns or trends and turn this insight into strategies that will drive work space improvements.

Facilities and Corporate Real Estate teams need solutions that will help them do this efficiently without having to spend hours sifting through layers of spreadsheets and systems. Some companies have adopted the use of sensors coupled with analytics to track how desk and floor space is used in real time. This has allowed them to make evidence based design and management decisions, saving millions in lease expenses.

Take Procurement teams as an example where only a few years ago the traditional approach to purchasing was the norm. Technology and data has transformed the way they operate, moving away from cumbersome in house systems to cloud based solutions that provide greater efficiencies, visibility of spend and cost savings across the business. The flexibility and accessibility of cloud solutions means Procurement teams are able to seek, source and recruit quality suppliers easily and  with data driven insights now the norm to justify investment business cases.

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For Facilities and Corporate Real Estate teams wanting to embrace this new era, there are less than a handful of suppliers who offer an end to end managed solution; and who are doing it well.

We’ve helped many large companies including Arup, Pramerica, TripAdvisor and Firmenich transition change and maximise their workplace occupancy  by quickly helping them:

  • See how meeting rooms are being used
  • Accurately measure person to desk ratio
  • Find space for new staff
  • Benchmark with real data
  • Plan desks or overflow buffers
  • Pinpoint peak hours and encourage work from home

By making analysis and reporting the easiest part of the job, we proactively interpret and provide recommendations for improvements to give customers the complete picture of space occupancy. Find out more about our workplace utilisation data software or speak to an adviser.

5 easy changes to increase desk occupancy

Most facilities and workplace managers conduct regular workplace utilisation surveys of desk usage either using manual counting or desk sensors. Reports generated from these show granular information about the average as well as peak utilisation of desk utilisation.

There are some easy wins to increase desk utilisation in your office.

1. Turn all desks used 0-20% of the time into hotdesking

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Figure 1: occupancy distribution chart

Looking at your desk occupancy distribution chart (figure 1), we quickly identify the specific numbers of desks that are used 0-20% of the time over a given period. These desks can easily be repurposed as flexible working desks, without risking overutilisation.

Additionally, we identify that 10 desks are used 20-40% of the time. Allocating at least 5 of those desks to flexible desking will still give you enough desks.

2. Increase teams’ person to desk ratio

By tagging specific teams on your floor plans, you are able to view their utilisation rates and benchmark their performance.

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Figure 2: average and peak desk occupancy

 

In figure 2 it’s clear that this team has over 50 desks which are severely underutilised. The metric ‘peak occupied’ highlights that no more than 56 desks were utilised at the same time in the specified period.

3. Have better conversations with business unit leaders

With more accurate data in hand you can have better conversations with business unit leaders on how many desks they actually need. The conversations will shift from ‘how many desks do you need’ to ‘how can you use your space more productively’.

4. Use soft seating as overflow buffer

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Figure 3: floor occupancy heatmap

When looking at floor level heatmap data (figure 3), it’s easy to see which desks that are located near highly utilised areas.  If for instance the green areas are soft seating, and the red areas hotdesks, you can safely optimise for very high desk occupancy rates (>80%). If all desks are full, employees can flow over to the soft seating. Caveat: this assumes good design where employees are as happy to work in alternative seatings as with desks.

 

 

 

 

 

5. Identify peak days and encourage work from home

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Figure 4: calendar view

Using the calendar function (figure 4), you can identify patterns at specific points in time. For instance, you can recommend employees to work from home on particularly busy days.

 

 

 

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Figure 5: trendlines for all Mondays

Figure 5 shows the pattern of utilisation for all Mondays over a 2 month period. We clearly see that the space is severely underutilised every Monday.

 

Smart Building Sensor Network Deployment Checklist

At OpenSensors, we have acquired much knowledge in planning, conducting, and managing real-world sensor network deployments.  Our checklist is based on our experience with field deployments. We have found the checklist to help manage the following risks:

  • Site specific risks: gateway/sensor placement for signal quality, ensuring connections with gateway has been established, ensuring gateways connect to cloud
  • Prepare risk – staging to verify design
  • Maintenance risk  – detecting sensors that have failed (e.g. stopped transmitting)
  • Connectivity of network, connectivity from gateway to cloud, deploying – setting up staging, maintenance – keeping the data flowing
  • Scoping process – identify and ensure impact on key KPIs


Site specific checklist

  • Gather CAD drawing or floor plan
  • Plan gateway placement
  • Identify any mounting and placement issues
  • Test building corners for signal quality
  • Confirm gateway locations and pre-installation requirements with onsite contacts 

Staging checklist

  • Order sensors and gateways
  • Develop schedule
  • Plan deployment rollout: floor by floor
  • Plan for safe storage
  • Plan and implement staging to pre-configuring gateways and sensors
  • Assemble Project Kit with all hardware (inc adhesives, screws, mounts, etc) 

Connectivity

  • Connect gateways and test connectivity using some sensors
  • Test remote access to the gateway
  • Mount gateways into position and document
  • Test end-to-end network connectivity with a few sensors

Implement

  • Deploy sensors according to the rollout plan
  • Test end-to-end

Handover

  • Prepare handover documentation with asset register
  • Review visualisations

Why Office Buildings Should Run Like Spaceships

Yodit Stanton quoted in Oct-8-2017 WSJ Article “Why Office Buildings Should Run Like Spaceships”

There have been several articles in the press about sensors used to create a workplace characterized by pervasive monitoring, turning it into a panopticon, a prison where every resident’s activities are subject to surveillance. That is certainly a risk, but it’s driven not by the technology per se but by how management, whether executive management or facilities management, intends to make use of the information.

None of the sensors we deploy for occupancy monitoring do more than count – whether it’s how many people are in a meeting room or if a desk is occupied. What I liked about Christopher Mims’ approach is that he focused on how sensors can help to make workplaces healthier and more productive for employees.

The entire article is worth reading but here are two quotes that will give you a flavor. First his opening sentence;

“If you have ever yearned to work aboard the Starship Enterprise, take comfort: The newest office buildings have more in common with spaceships than you realize.”

I think this is a much better metaphor for the likely impact of sensors on the workplace when deployed by intelligent and caring executives.

“Scientists have been trying for decades to figure out how to help humans survive long-haul missions in orbit and to Mars. They take into account light levels, temperature, humidity and dozens of other factors including working styles. The biggest difference between that research and what’s happening here on Earth is that office optimization isn’t about survival, but productivity—getting the most out of every worker.”

I would say our approach to office optimisation is to enable micro-climates or neighbourhoods that allow each employee – and the teams they are members of – to be more productive using evidence based design and a clear understanding of the activities they need to engage in to get their job done. Areas for people who spend a lot of writing may look different than those who spend a lot of time on the phone, and work environments that enable intense ongoing collaboration will be different even more so.

Over the course of any given day or week an employee may spend different amounts of time in each area. Sensors help you understand what’s being utilised, and coupled with ongoing direct communication with employees, will allow facilities management and executives to continue to adapt and refine the environments to improve employee health and productivity.

Read full article at https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-office-buildings-should-run-like-spaceships-1507467601