The Future of Real Estate

3 key flexible workspace strategy metrics to track

May 13, 2024

This article isn’t to convince you that data matters, you already know that. We’ll shed light on the data innovative organizations collect and leverage to design effective workplace strategies that deliver for both people and business. 

Utilization

A metric as old as time. This cornerstone data point is still relevant today as it continues to enable companies to optimize the square footage of their owned real estate footprint and understand if they have the right amount of space.

There are several key workspace utilization metrics to track on an ongoing basis:

Footage occupation

When you understand the percentage of your square footage occupied by visitors you’re able to start making decisions about space. Most organizations will calculate this by dividing the daily average visits by the office capacity. You need to have agreed internally what your office space density is for the capacity part of the equation. Density is the required number of square feet per person, each organization will be slightly different, but this tends to range from 120 to 250 usable feet per person.

It’s also important to consider the capacity of the office when there are mandated events which generate a significant influx of team members. If you wish to continue to use your office for key events such as social gatherings and holiday parties you need to take this capacity analysis into consideration. We’ve recently observed that there is an increased demand for these types of events, and this is shaping office use. Some organizations are increasing the flexibility within the layout to allow for larger gatherings, whilst others are leveraging event services, like Desana, to allow them to right size the office for daily use and flatten the event peaks.

Percentage filled per location 

Desana HQ heatmap - office percentage

Measuring the percentage of workstations filled per location each day provides insight into overall demand and capacity needs per site. Locations with consistently high percentages may need additional workspaces, while underutilized sites can be consolidated or repurposed to fill another team requirement. 

Peak usage times and days

Graph demonstrating the post popular days booked on Desana (Thursday/Tuesday/Wednesday)

When times and days aren’t mandated in office most organizations tend to see the same trends. Peak use usually occurs between Tuesday and Thursday, with peak hours settling around 10am-3pm. The use case for this data point remains relatively standard, and it is interesting to understand why people are coming to the office alongside the peak attendance data to inform space utilization decisions. 

Usage by team and job function

Observing utilization patterns by department provides data to inform space planning. Knowing which teams have people coming in more often versus those with more employees working remotely can lead to a reconfiguration of desk layouts. 

There may also be differences in onsite needs depending on roles, for example developers may require more space for quiet focus than sales staff who need areas that support discussion and collaboration. You may also find divergence in how different seniority levels use the office. Junior members, who want more support and face to face interaction may have a higher office presence. The key is finding the balance between common trends and individual requirements. 

Reason for booking

Understanding why employees are using the office is a key utilization metric but not one that all companies are measuring. Atlassian do this by leveraging WiFi pings to gather frequency data informing if users are local or participating in a team event. Using this data, and travel information, helped them understand that their NYC visitors were predominantly coming for team meetings. This drove the decision to convert individual desk space into an ‘Intentional Togetherness’ space for teams.

We’ve just launched an ‘Employee Surveys’ functionality to help our customers easily identify why teams are coming into both owned offices and using coworking spaces on our network. This is available for all customers and the reasons are fully customizable to help organizations dig down into the information that matters most to them and provide even more utilization insight.

Policy costs 

A key metric for measuring the success of a flexible workspace model is tracking policy costs over time. This includes total real estate costs, cost per square foot, cost per employee, and technology expenses.  

Real estate costs typically make up a company's second largest expense, behind payroll. Evaluating real estate costs should go beyond simply looking at the cost per square foot in a lease. It's important to factor in hidden real estate costs like taxes, insurance, maintenance, and utilities, as highlighted by a JLL report. Having a complete picture allows you to accurately compare costs of different sites and space configurations.

Tracking cost per square foot and cost per employee both before and after implementing a flexible workspace strategy helps assess whether these costs increased or decreased clearly demonstrating if the model contributes to real estate savings. The data can reveal opportunities to adjust workspace sizes or membership levels to further optimize costs. 

Cost per visit

Atlassian measures how much it costs each time an employee visits one of their offices. This is a key ROI metric in their CRE analysis. Their approach to this calculation is straightforward; the operating cost of the office, as mentioned above, is divided by the number of employee visits in the respective quarter. This calculation allows them to make decisions around their real estate portfolio and determine if they need to “improve, reduce or close a space”.

The challenge for organizations, especially with regards to management of global memberships, is having a unified view of costs and utilization. This is why leveraging on-demand networks, like Desana, that have integrated analytics helps companies build a unified portfolio view of cost and usage.

Distributed team connections

Measuring how well distributed teams are connecting and collaborating is a key metric for understanding the success of a flexible workspace strategy. With team members spread across different regions, it's important to understand if they are able to collaborate effectively, both asynchronously and in person. 

Some important metrics to analyze include:

  • Number of cross-regional collaborations - How often are team members in different offices connecting for meetings, projects, etc? Are they finding value in these collaborations?
  • Travel expenses - If travel costs decline after implementing flexible workspaces, it may either be representative of more remote collaboration, or more localized in-person collaboration.
  • Employee sentiment on connectivity - Regular pulse surveys on how connected distributed team members feel can provide excellent insight. Look for improvements in ratings over time.

Together these metrics can indicate whether flexible workspaces are facilitating collaboration across distributed teams. As different teams have different requirements it is important to also tie these metrics up with usage data with pulse surveys.

Continual assessment

Like with any policy, it’s important to review and iterate regularly, based on the value it adds to teams and the business. Generally a quarterly or bi-annual review is favored. Reviews enable managers to spot usage trends and patterns across locations, teams, and roles. For example, they may find certain sites are underutilized during specific periods. Engaging with staff about how they’d like to use space may generate a valid use case of the temporary repurposing, or moving to on-demand spaces to accommodate a fluctuating requirement.

We’ve seen customers benefit from this approach as they’ve been able to right-size their office when contracts are up for renewal and use the on-demand usage data to ascertain where new offices are needed. This has led to significant portfolio savings and an improved employee experience as offices are designed and situated based on true, rather than projected, usage patterns.

Metrics that matter

Measuring the success of a flexible workspace strategy requires tracking core metrics around workspace utilization, policy costs, and distributed team connections. Assessing these areas on a quarterly basis provides the necessary data to determine if the strategy is working and aligned with business goals.  

Revisiting utilization rates shows if workspaces are being effectively used or require adjustments. Monitoring total real estate, technology, and personnel costs spotlights any policy savings or overruns. Analyzing cross-regional collaborations and connectivity pinpoints strengths and gaps in linking distributed teams.  

Continual measurement enables informed decisions about optimizing locations, office design and leveraging on-demand services. When a workplace strategy is dynamic it’s also cost-efficient and accommodating of evolving needs. The right metrics provide the insights to make data-driven decisions, ensuring the strategy delivers on its full potential.

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