Change Management

Harnessing data to deliver workspace strategy

November 22, 2023

By Sam Raymond, VP - North America, Desana

Hybrid and remote working are the new normal. It's a transformation that's been building for years, before the pandemic accelerated the necessary cultural and institutional changes in a few months, fundamentally altering the way we understand and use workspace.

Change can be uncomfortable, but what's clear is that this disruption is delivering better outcomes for people, business, and planet. For Senior HR, RE and Workplace leaders in particular, this shift has radically changed the possibilities for gaining competitive advantage in hiring and retaining talent.

How to start developing a workspace strategy for your business

There's no shortage of opinion on the best way forward. The RTO versus remote working debate has in many ways become a shouting match, and one that's ultimately unhelpful when it comes to forming the right strategy for your employees. Instead of opinions, what you need to gather is data.

Senior HR, RE and Workplace leads have always worked closely together to ensure that workspace matches  what employees need to be happy and productive. But, the rules have changed, so how we evaluate workspace should too. This new landscape means there is an opportunity to utilize metrics and technology to build fresh strategies that serve your people and ensure your business remains competitive.

Key to unlocking this opportunity is adjusting the way we describe our workforce, while harnessing new solutions to measure space utilization and employee happiness in a way that connects to business outcomes. Through this combination, you can make smart workplace decisions that deliver for your business, regardless of whether that decision is to pursue full flex or bring everyone back to the office.

Re-define employee personas

Traditionally, employee personas have not been tied to working style. Personas are often related to factors like location, business function and seniority, which are then anonymously tied to longitudinal employee experience data gathered from pulse surveys. Badge swipe data from owned offices can be added, and sometimes (but not always) flex space providers will share data on employee use. Ultimately, this data is siloed, disconnected from the employee persona, and difficult to integrate.

How can you know whether your team is frustrated because of their workload, or frustrated because the current workspace strategy simply doesn’t suit them? 

A crucial step toward understanding how workspace impacts employee experience is integrating this information to your HRIS. Refine employee personas to include the team level agreements on how they’re working, whether that’s remote, hybrid, or full time office, and, regardless of whether it's a single policy or based on individual need and demand, include this information when you’re tagging people in your HRIS. 

Measure and iterate

You don't need to make a long term decision on workspace policy. Central to building meaningful metrics is testing out different approaches. By letting your team experiment with their TLA’s and tying this to performance outputs and overall happiness, you build a real understanding of how workspace fits into employee experience. Is there a generational divide in who prefers full remote working? Do parents prefer to utilize flexible workspaces or stay at home? Only in measuring this behavior and gathering reliable intelligence, can we build smart strategies that support people.

Take advantage of technology

Take advantage of the growing technologies that offer a single platform for employees to book physical space and can anonymously connect this booking information to HRIS. Tracking workspace behaviors across an entire organization could easily become a huge administrative task. Utilize the technology that's out there to bring this together into a single booking platform, making it easier for both employees and management. 

Dropbox pursues a completely ‘Virtual First’ strategy. This means there are no requirements for their team to consistently use a particular working style. By using Desana they still have a single platform for employees to book into both flexible workspaces and their own HQ’s, and leaders know who is using what and when. Regardless of whether your employees are using leased offices every day, booking into flexible workspaces, or regularly use a mix of both, these platforms provide immediate, reliable data to connect to employee personas.

A bespoke workplace strategy

By making these simple changes to approach and measurement, HR, RE and Workplace leaders can effectively deliver workplace policies that reflect the needs of the business. The platforms used to gather data on behavior can also be used to implement long term changes to strategy like consolidating existing leases, adjusting office layouts to reflect use, and adding event spaces or meeting rooms where needed.

In the changing world of workspace, building data on the metrics that matter is the single most important action for today’s leaders. The smartest thing we can do is experiment, measure and build intelligence. There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to workspace. Leaders need to leverage suitable solutions to develop a strategy that cuts through the noise and drives business to the next level.

By Sam Raymond, VP - North America, Desana