The world of work is shifting its focus to becoming more human-centered, and the change is bringing a new set of challenges to address, such as how to best measure workplace experience.
Many organizations had previously set their sights on goals like reducing costs and increasing output. These had little regard for their employees and their workplace experience. Now, these enterprises are in the process of recalibrating their metrics for business success. Alongside workplace experience, employee wellbeing, space diversity and sustainability goals are becoming increasingly important to consider as we shape the way we work.
As essential as these concerns are, they can often feel more abstract and difficult to track than previous workplace goals. The KPIs for Modern Workplace Leaders series will dive into measuring these new concepts in preparation for the return to the office.
In today’s post, we’re showing you different KPIs that your company can use to measure workplace experience in your buildings.
Time spent working remotely
Calculation: % of work hours hybrid employees spend outside the physical office
Two years ago, if you looked in nearly any office, you probably would have seen something similar across the board: a lot of employees sharing the space. With more companies adopting a flexible approach to work, this could be a thing of the past!
Employees have more choice in where they work, how they work, and when they work, than ever before. When workers aren’t forced to come to the office, their actions will be a strong indicator of how good an organization’s workplace experience really is.
After adopting a hybrid work model, it’s expected that people will spend some of that time in a remote setting. But it’s important to observe the working conditions and regulations once they begin to restabilize. Is the majority of your workforce hardly coming into the office? This could mean the workplace doesn’t meet employee needs and expectations.
Meeting Room & Collaboration Space Utilization
Calculation: Weekly average of the hours of utilization of activity based workspaces
Company culture is always evolving—your workplace should be too. As companies grow, employees come and go, and teams continue learning, there will be a need to continually assess how people use spaces in the building.
Perhaps your organization added large meeting rooms to fulfill employee needs five years ago. But post-pandemic, there may be a bigger need for collaboration space as people return to the office after being isolated from their colleagues. With many offices planning to remain hybrid, there could also be a need for more small spaces. For example, phone booths or meeting rooms, will allow workers join meetings with remote colleagues.
Every company will have individual requirements, and they will even differ between locations and branches. Tracking the usage of the different work spaces offered in your office will help you measure workplace experience.
By doing this, you’ll get a clear sense of whether your office is truly serving your employees. It can also inform leaders about which types of workspaces best cater to their needs. A low number of users, or a large gap between booking and actual utilization rates, suggests that the work space type is not useful to your team.
Real World Example – How did Locatee measure workplace experience through meeting room utilization?
Locatee is a hybrid company, and it’s never certain how many people will come into the office on a given day. We wanted to test if we had enough meeting rooms for the needs of our Zurich location.
To assess this, we first defined what “enough meeting rooms” meant. We based it on three criteria:
- Employees find a free meeting room on short notice
- Employees don’t book meeting rooms just to be on the safe side
- There is at least one free meeting room, 80% of the time
We were then able to use the data collected by Locatee Workplace Analytics to understand how workers utilized meeting rooms and answer some key questions:
- How often are all 5 rooms used at the same time?
- Do we have typically empty meeting rooms and how many?
- How many meeting rooms do we have per employee?
- Can the team grow without having more meeting rooms?
- How many meeting rooms do we need for our forecasted growth?
We collected data for a month. At the end, we found it’s rare that all the meeting rooms are used at once. In 28 days, 5 days reached full meeting room occupancy at least once in the day. By understanding this, and how many rooms were available per employee, we were able to conclude that for the moment, we had enough meeting rooms to meet the needs of our Zurich office.
On the other hand, we also learned that based on our expected growth, we would soon cross over the line to not having enough meeting rooms. To stay ahead of the situation, we’ve started assessing options to avoid disrupting the workplace experience as we grow. This includes exploring smaller meeting rooms, implementing stricter meeting room policies, adding meeting rooms, or searching for more office space.
Workplace Technologies Usage
Calculation: # of employees using available workplace technologies
Your company has worked hard to put in individual desk lamps. You have a facilities’ feedback system at every corner. And you have tested every desk-booking tool to find the best one. However, the real question is: do your employees actually use them?
There are always new gadgets and apps that are the next big thing! But employee needs can’t take a backseat to trends.
With many technologies, companies can track the usage over time. If it’s low after implementation, or it drops off after an initial wave of usage, it’s worth digging deeper. These patterns could suggest that an organization is putting its efforts towards changes that don’t make a significant difference to the workplace experience as a whole.
Trends in Employee Requests
Calculation: # of employee requests over time
Expectations will have changed after so much time spent working from home; understanding the new needs of individuals will come from listening to them directly. As people return to the office, it will be critical for employers to be open to suggestions and requests from employees at all levels.
Whether these ideas come from face-to-face conversations, feedback forms, or pulse surveys, companies will receive valuable information on how to make the workplace experience better for their staff.
Additionally, the general trends in the amount of requests received can be indicative of how well office management teams are responding to the needs of the workers in the office. If requests steadily increase overtime, it could mean the office isn’t set up to best serves its users.
Workplace Experience Assessment Rating (E.g. Leesman Index)
Calculation: Leesman Lmi score over time
Companies that are serious about creating the best workplace experience for their offices can benefit from an all-encompassing score, such as the Leesman Rating. By evaluating the work activities of employees alongside workplace impact, the assessment gives a comprehensive score to understand how well the office is fulfilling worker needs.
It’s helpful to understand individual aspects of the workplace experience, but the Leesman Lmi is a score on a scale from 1-100 that provides companies with an overview of everything in a single number. This makes it easier to understand the cumulative impact of the small actions organizations take to improve the office.
Besides having a clear number to measure workplace experience, there’s an added bonus. The Leesman office survey provides information on the physical and service features of the office. These insights will help companies narrow-down areas for betterment.
The workplace experience of employees can differ immensely from one office to the next. And the impending return to work is sure to bring uncertainty in terms of employee needs and expectations. As always, data will play a critical role in supporting decision-making for the future of work. Keeping track of the right KPIs will help companies understand what actions they should take to support their staff and provide the best workplace experience.
To learn more about how Locatee’s workplace analytics can help you better assess your organization’s workplace experience, get in touch with us.
In an era of constant disruption, modern companies understand that being open to change is fundamental for success. Last month, the Locateam had attended WORKTECH21 London to find out what this has meant for different organizations around the world. Below, you’ll find some of our biggest takeaways from the 2-day event!
Traditional companies are hopping on real estate trends
In recent years, offices have become more flexible and collaborative. This change has happened mainly in startups, tech companies, and smaller businesses. Big financial institutions and law practices have generally stuck to the traditional office layouts, with closed offices and assigned seating. This may, however, be changing. The way companies operate has changed since the pandemic. We’re seeing fintech and legal offices follow suit by adding hybrid work environments for their employees.
Your company’s identity should be obvious
Having a brand identity is crucial. And, It’s not just the logo that counts. Your office spaces must be in harmony with the image you’re trying to convey. For example, the reception area should serve as an area for welcoming people. Hence, it must feel warm and inviting. High desks with staff hidden are doing the opposite. This is the first step of a guest’s journey into the office space. It cannot be overlooked.
Employees are seeking inspiration
The number of people leaving their jobs is on the rise. And, it isn’t necessarily because they found a better job. Instead, we’re finding that employees are simply unhappy with their jobs and that there is a large workforce seeking inspiration. Talent acquisition is a problem in recent times, so companies are reacting. Increasing employee satisfaction has become a top priority in CRE. Some companies have added collaborative and flexible spaces to solve this issue. All businesses are vying for the best talent, so they need to offer the best services.
Professional vs. personal lives
The professional work environment has become increasingly casual over the years. With employees working from home, this trend was accelerated by the pandemic. Muting Zoom calls for barking dogs and blurring the kitchen background became the norm. The line between professional and personal lives has become increasingly blurred. In turn, employees are expecting employers to provide the same level of transparency. ‘Behind the scenes is the new scene’.
The workplace has changed. With staff members logging in from their at-home offices, companies are becoming more flexible. The divide between personal and professional lives has faded, and businesses must cater to the needs of their employees to hold onto talent. The movement towards agile work environments was initially only seen in modern companies, but now, even legal offices are hopping on board. Overall, companies must portray the brand identity they strive for at every point of business.
To learn more about the different ways modern companies are adjusting to keep up with the times, listen to The Workplace Leader podcast.
Flexibility in workplace strategy can be hugely beneficial as businesses return to the office. In this episode, Rob Blair and Sabine Ehm talk through the different ways Rob and his team go about managing the offices of Spinklr.
Meet the guest
Rob Blair didn’t start out in workplace strategy and management. After completing his A-levels, Rob headed off to University. Only to quickly find out it wasn’t for him. Looking inward, he recognized his skills in creating human connections and fell into the hospitality trade. He ended up working in luxury-level hotel management for 9 years, taking him across the globe. Eventually, he found himself reevaluating his path. He began looking for an industry where his skills would be valuable.
Rob took a job in office management, where he eventually progressed to real estate. This lead him to where he is now: Senior Workplace Manager of EMEA at Sprinklr. Sprinklr is an international enterprise SaaS platform, with a goal of improving companies customer relations. The company is in high-growth mode and currently works with some of the top 10 brands in the world. With about 2.5k employees, Rob and his team have to be strategic in their plans for the office.
Listen to the following clips to learn more about Rob and his methods.
“At the end of the day, Spinklr is a huge tech company. And, although we don’t have the same budgets as Google or Facebook, they are our competition in the fight for talent.” – Rob Blair
The job market is hot right now, and companies are taking notice. Since the pandemic, employees and skilled workers have found themselves with more flexibility to chose how they want to work. Many companies are preparing for returning to the physical office space. Doing so, they will have to come to terms with what their employees actually want to do. Or may find themselves in hot water.
For Sprinklr, Rob has identified that they are competing with some of the biggest companies in the world. Luckily, the workplace and finance teams are able to come together to solve this problem. They position themselves as having an exceptional workplace experience. And being respectful of how the individual employee wants to work allows them to be competitive in the market.
“I think every organization needs to come up with their own definition of what hybrid working is. Because the term is thrown around quite a lot right now, and we interpret the hybrid working to differ from team to team, and office to office.” – Rob Blair
At Sprinklr, they’ve had the unique advantage in that they were already very flexible in their workplace strategy pre-pandemic. In fact, the multiple lockdowns haven’t changed the configuration or ways of working for the majority of the company. “We have got plans to make some changes to the office but actually, we’ve not changed that much. We’re obviously working on a reduced capacity, [but] the actual layout hasn’t changed that much.”
However, as the company plans for returning to the office, Rob and his team have created a series of interviews and surveys for each leadership team to better understand what will work best. He speaks to an example of one team in the US requiring a minimum of 4-days in-office, in comparison to a similar team in the UK that prefers remote working. On paper, you’d expect the teams to perform in a similar fashion, but that’s not reality.
“We have found difficulty when, for example, finance has assigned an extra 10 people to X region, but the leader of that region will say they know they’re going to be 15 by the end of the year. So then we need to figure out, how many people do we really need to find space for? And so, that’s where the flexible providers come in hand.” – Rob Blair
When a team within the company is looking to expand, approval must go through many levels before Rob gets his hands on it. Starting in Sales, then moving its way down to HR and Finance, Rob then gets to work with the local leadership teams to figure out what needs to happen from a workplace perspective. Oftentimes, there will be approval for a certain number of new hires, but in reality, it’s temporary. The team plans to expand even more, and that puts Rob in a difficult position.
To solve such a problem, Rob works a lot with flexible office space providers. By signing short contracts, the team is able to easily expand, and as Rob said, as long as they’re “increasing in size, they’re happy to help accommodate”.
As many companies plan for returning to their physical office spaces, they must be aware of what is actually needed by their workforce. Luckily for Rob and the Sprinklr team, they set themselves up for success in this area well before the pandemic hit. Looking into the future, the workplace strategy focuses on being careful to find out exactly what each individual team will need to improve their experiences moving forward. And, better yet, the new style of flexible working space providers has benefitted the flexible work style of the company immensely.
Earlier this month, Locatee participated in WORKTECH21 Copenhagen to find out what companies are doing to create the best workplace experience, how the role of the employee is changing and why we’re seeing a shift in the CRE market. As the first live event since early 2020, the team was happy to learn from other CRE professionals in person. Below, we discuss some of the biggest takeaways from the event!
Buildings becoming cities
Buildings grew in size over the past few decades as we developed smarter technology and new ways of building. The architects of Zaha Hadid took this in stride, designing what they call Mega and Giga Floorplans. A single floor of Giga projects can house up to 10,000 residents, with overall capacities comparable to small cities.
The question is, when is it too much? Building a complex large enough to accommodate tens of thousands of people seems to be a niche need, which we usually see among Tech companies with large work forces. Other types of companies, on the other hand, are trying to make their environments more intimate. Either way, leaders should consider what will create the best workplace experience for their employees.
Attitudes towards employees have changed
There has been a significant shift in the way companies perceive their employees in recent years. Employees used to be seen simply as a paid resource, and optimization was calculated purely by minimizing cost. Companies now recognize that the workplace experience is crucial to a successful business.
Over the course of the pandemic, this attitude has been adopted at an accelerated rate. Organizations are shifting towards a hospitality approach, and are also trying to “create a voluntary demand to be in the office”. Businesses must be sensitive to the needs of their workers; in short, this may include allowing them to continue to work from home.
Focusing on the individual
These days, companies are emphasizing the workplace experience to foster a happy, healthy culture. This is done by promoting individuality. Ultimately, every individual, team, and leader works differently, and should be supported accordingly. In the past, we’ve been focused too much on one kind of person and one style of working. An effective corporate real estate strategy should target the majority of people, not just the privileged and wealthy.
You have to experiment with different layouts, work styles, and management methods in order to create something new and better. Numerous organizations are conducting surveys and creating personas in an attempt to gather sufficient data on employee experiences in the workplace. Then there is a specific solution for each persona that arises. It will be interesting to see if this method succeeds in helping create the best workplace experience.
Real estate market shift
The real estate market is going to shift away from Class B and C buildings. The demand for new, state of the part Class A buildings is on the rise, and landlords must review their portfolios. However, demolition and reconstruction can cause a great deal of environmental damage and, consequently, may cause issues regarding space sustainability. By creating new, more efficient and environmentally friendly standards like Passive House, future work and living spaces can be more sustainable and ecological.
Create the best workplace experience to meet the needs of your employees
Many companies are changing how they view offices in the future. Their main priority is to offer a positive workplace experience, based on the individual needs of their employees. The Giga structures by Zaha Hadid are a great solution for large tech companies; however, they might not be appropriate for other types of organizations, looking to create more intimate spaces. Even so, there is no doubt that new Class A buildings are in high demand, which could lead to an increase in construction that is unfriendly to the environment.
To keep learning about creating the best workplace experience and the evolving world of CRE, listen to The Workplace Leader podcast.
A company’s corporate real estate strategy is ever-changing. In this episode, Gloria Mamwa walks Sabine Ehm through the trials of managing a large portfolio across many countries in a post-COVID environment.
Meet the guest
Gloria Mamwa is the Regional Head of Property at Standard Chartered Bank (SCB). Gloria has been in the real estate industry for over 20 years, with a background in architecture, interior design and project management. She now resides in Dubai, overseeing the African and Middle Eastern regions for SCB.
SCB’s real estate portfolio spans 60 countries and is generally known as an emerging markets bank. It is headquartered in London with nearly 13 million square feet of real estate globally. Gloria and her team work to balance strategic workplace design with cultural differences across many countries. Being able to drive consistent real estate strategies in different markets while sticking to budget is at the core of her work. Listen to the following few clips to understand what Gloria prioritizes when it comes to making decisions for a corporate real estate strategy.
“One of the things that we don’t ignore, is that we’re in 60 countries, and there are local nuances that we do have to adapt to, regardless of whether we’re looking at an office strategy or a retail strategy in terms of what we drive.” – Gloria Mamwa
In this clip, Gloria suggests there is a common workplace configuration within the workplace strategy that they’re building at SCB. However, they cannot ignore the fact that different countries, cultures and cities all have different ways of working. There cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution, so what’s the best way to adapt?
On top of this obstacle, there is now the pandemic to reflect on. Employees are used to working from home, and therefore CRE strategies must include this as a competitor to the office. Gloria is focusing on creating an environment that can allow this new flexibility. Moreover, SCB has started a trial to allow their employees to work in whichever way suits them best. This can be from home, in the office, or a hybrid of the two. The data following this experiment will help form solutions in future.
“When it comes to the design of the office, in terms of what it is that it will look like, it is going to be dependent on how much you want to compete with the home setting ” – Gloria Mamwa
This is a hot topic within CRE. If companies want their employees to return to the office, they have to offer something that competes with the comfort of one’s home. Gloria suggests that it’s important to understand what people will want to do in the office. As most CRE managers are predicting, Gloria believes the office of the future will be a collaborative space. Companies must figure out how to properly support these types of activities. Team and individual needs must be met from both a design and operational perspective.
She clarifies that the conversation is starting to change: “Whether you’re in financial services, whether you’re in manufacturing, it’s the same conversation. I think covid has been quite a leveler in terms of trying to understand how do we support the human being in the workspace? That becomes the priority.”
“There is an optimal time range for a commute because it allows you to have a clear cut between working life and private life, and debrief and calm down.” – Sabine Ehm
Having a proper work-life balance can be difficult to obtain when working from home. Before the pandemic, most perceived the commute as a tedious task, as opposed to a formal structure in place to section your time. Gloria purposely moved far from the office. This gave her a 25-30 minute commute to debrief at the end of each workday. Now, Gloria consciously chooses to switch up her location while working from home.
“Sometimes I’ll take my laptop and move to a place outside rather than on my desk; just so I can refresh and change the position. I think the things we had in the office like walking into a meeting room, going to the canteen, allowed us to rebrief through the day, allows us to change certain settings for ourselves that allowed us to think differently,” she explains.
“We don’t want to leap-frog into the future without making sure that we understand: what are your needs in terms of a space?” – Gloria Mamwa
Standard Chartered Bank is a huge, international company. Gloria and her team oversee a massive area, including all African and middle eastern countries. The nuances of each SCB location are understandably different. With each project, Gloria ensures to engage with every level of management affected. What are they doing every day? How can we serve them better? How can we adapt our strategy to fit here? “What is a particular operations team managing on a day-to-day basis? If I don’t talk to them to understand [their] day-to-day, I won’t solve their needs.” SCB also performs Leesman Index surveys to further gather knowledge.
We are still seeing the effects of the pandemic on CRE. For Gloria and her team, it’s imperative to take into account the nuances of each region they are developing in. However, they must also understand how employees wish to work in the future, be it from home or in-office. Gathering data on all these factors will help immensely in developing a corporate real estate strategy.
Listen to this and other episodes of The Workplace Leader here.
The office of the future will be a dynamic place, and workplace design will have to reflect that. Companies will need to pay closer attention to the needs of their workforce, and be open to changes. In this episode, your host Sabine Ehm chats with Jose Luis Sanchez Concha Ibarra about various factors that form design decisions in corporate real estate.
Meet the guest
Jose Luis Sanchez Concha Ibarra is the Director of Design Strategy at Gensler. The self-proclaimed problem solver and troublemaker is based in Costa Rica, and is responsible for all of Latin America.
Jose initially studied architecture in Peru, and then moved to Spain to pursue a masters in real estate. He soon realized that design wasn’t his passion, and began dipping his toes in various fields within real estate. When he came across workplace strategy, it was “love at first sight”. He soon started working for Nokia’s India and EMEA regions, where he had the opportunity to learn about how different cultures work and their workplace biases.
After being recruited by Gensler and moving back to Peru, Jose has continued to take strides in the corporate real estate industry. The following clips give insight into how Jose makes informed decisions and his predictions for the future.
“My first and most important [stakeholder to collaborate with] is the client. I typically engage in the earlier conversations just to understand where the pain points are.” – Jose Luis Sanchez Concha Ibarra
In any project, including workplace design, a client discovery session is the most important step when getting started. Jose stresses how crucial it is to have a complete understanding of what is driving the client to make changes to their office spaces. Be it renovations, efficiency, picking up trends, or changing locations, there can be many reasons behind movement in CRE.
His second go-to consultation is with his internal design team. Using their deep knowledge of CRE strategy, they are able to “perform magic”. Jose says resistance in middle management is their #1 challenge, so providing strong explanations for design decisions is necessary. Engaging with this team allows him to produce just that.
“My favorite part of what I do is when people click with an idea. When they recognize that there is a trade-off: I’m going to lose some privilege in terms of space, but I’m going to gain better technology, more meeting spaces, a better space for my team, better interaction, some flexibility to work remotely… ” – Jose Luis Sanchez Concha Ibarra
Changing the way people work is hard, and as said before, push back from middle management is often the biggest hurdle. Jose explains that we all have an internalized idea of what being successful in a company looks like: moving to a bigger desk, closer to the boss, eventually getting an office, etc. Changing this mindset can be extremely difficult.
“It only takes [one] visionary leader to make changes, but there are a lot of layers in an organization, and you need to navigate them.” Every employee must be open to change to be able to reap the benefits of implementing a new strategy and modern workplace design. Jose and his team refuse to call it “change management”, but instead call it “positive change experience”. “We design experiences for them to feel better about work.” Jose suggests that from his experience, 95% of the workforce would not want to revert to old configurations and practices afterwards.
“If you really want your workplace to be alive, you need to make sure that people want to come. Beyond the fact that there will be scheduled meetings and team agreements of which days they will meet and all of that, you want to go the extra mile, and think of the design of your space and the services you provide and the technology that is there as a reason to be a magnet for people and make people come. ” – Jose Luis Sanchez Concha Ibarra
The pandemic has created a situation most CRE managers have only dreamed of. Having a distributed workforce is a configuration most companies would not have previously attempted. And, now that employees know what it’s like to work at home, they may want to stay there. This means that if companies want a populated office, they will need to create a reason for employees to be there.
“This means that all the experiences in the office need to be very curated”, and it goes beyond workplace design. Operations and management will need to facilitate in-office interactions and spaces for collaboration. The space will need to be flexible and enduring.
“We need to rethink the purpose of the office. If we are looking at the workplace as containers for people, or think of offices in terms of the capacity, clearly we need to change that. I think the purpose is going to be: get us together to do great things.” – Jose Luis Sanchez Concha Ibarra
“The situation now, where we are forced to work remotely, has actually been some kind of ‘introverts revenge’, because people who suffered in the workplace being social all the time got a break from that. ” – Sabine Ehm
In this clip, Sabine refers to a conversation she heard about the individual experiences of working in an office. Introverted employees were previously forced to speak up to be seen, and were constantly interrupted in their workflow. Now, since the pandemic, we can see that the idea of what ‘good work’ doesn’t always look the same.
Yet, Jose believes that human interaction cannot be fully replaced by the virtual world. In-person socializing is a must when building a strong team. The difference is that now the employee will be able to choose the amount of socializing that takes place, and how often they go into the office to spend time with coworkers.
The idea of what an office is has changed significantly over the past few years. When making changes, understanding the client and their requirements will help to create a successful, positive experience. Moreover, employees are now used to working remotely, and may continue to do so. This means that if companies want their workforce to show up in-office, they will have to create a reason for them to do so. Each individual is different, so operations and management will need to facilitate these experiences.
Listen to this and other episodes of The Workplace Leader here.
Earlier this year, we set out to understand the changes in corporate real estate management around the world. Verdantix, an independent research firm, surveyed over 100 leaders in various industries. These surveys resulted in two individual studies of the states of CRE in the US and in Europe. CRE and recent circumstances around COVID-19 may have been nearly identical. Nonetheless, we discovered stark differences between the short and long term plans of the two groups.
Keep reading for a quick summary of how corporate real estate management in the US and Europe differ. You can download the complete studies below:
European CRE managers have been quicker to adapt non-assigned workspaces
Even before COVID-19, there was already a steady trend of companies in both regions stepping away from traditional assigned workplaces. As companies prepare to bring their employees back to the office, many are questioning whether each person really needs their own desk. Nonetheless, European firms have a strong lead in the race to implement non-assigned desk configurations. This includes hot-desking, activity-based workspaces, and collaboration areas. In fact, 90% of European firms are preparing to have non-assigned workplaces within the next 2 years. Conversely, only 38% of US companies are intending to make the progressive change.
US CREMs continue to prioritize traditional business initiatives
Similarly to workspace assignment, US corporate real estate managers are sticking to a traditional approach when it comes to business initiatives. Business productivity, cost management and space optimization goals are high priorities for over two-thirds of CRE managers. These goals will continue to hold the highest priority in the next five years. On the other hand, European managers are only using traditional business goals to help them navigate the pandemic. In the next 5 years, they plan to shift their efforts significantly. By 2025, the emphasis for European firms will be on employee satisfaction, wellbeing and retention, in addition to the more formal productivity.
The US far surpasses European efforts to collect workplace and real estate portfolio data
It may appear that European CRE management is ahead of the US on multiple counts. But US companies drastically outnumber European counterparts in one critical area: data collection. 80% of firms in Europe are utilizing metrics on space utilization as part of their strategy, which may seem like a high proportion. Unfortunately, it pales in comparison to the US, where 98% of large companies are tracking space utilization. This trend continues across all other metrics. Europeans score significantly lower on company revenue, collaboration, employee satisfaction and energy efficiency metrics, amongst others.
Both American and European corporate real estate management lacks budgetary sign-off
Despite having significant differences in CRE strategies for the near future, US and European corporate real estate managers are in the same boat when it comes to money. CREMs across the board have experienced an increase in responsibility over the past year. Yet, their authority to sign-off budgetary decisions has remained limited; 96% of CREMs categorized budgetary limitations as a very significant or significant challenge to achieving business initiatives.
Corporate real estate management is changing everywhere. This study shows that priorities differ across regions in accordance with cultural differences and where they started on workplace progression. Though Europe may take the lead on modernizing workspace configurations and business goals, the US has a more comprehensive approach to measuring workspace performance. Both regions are starting off their Future of Work journey from different corners. Nonetheless, both acknowledge that an important stepping stone is to have budgetary trust.
To find out how accurate utilization data can improve your CRE portfolio, set up a meeting with our team here.
Over the past decade, there has been a big shift in how people perceive the workplace. In this episode, Sabine Ehm and Roel Stroeken discuss this evolution in mindset and how it’s changing the employee experience.
Meet the guest
Roel Stroeken is the Head of Real Estate for the EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) region of Philips. Philips is broken into many sectors, with 650 locations globally. Roel and his team are in charge of facility management, project management, strategy and innovation, mergers and acquisitions, and disposal of unneeded lands for roughly 50% of the company’s portfolio.
Managing a workforce of 40,000 people takes a deep understanding of human behavior. Luckily, with a degree in Hotel Management, Roel knows a thing or two about hospitality. The following clips provide more insight into Roel’s perspective on what keeps employees happy, and what the office of the future will look like.
“In modern days, you see a trend that real estate is shifting towards reporting to the HR [departments].” – Roel Stroeken
Traditionally, CRE managers reported to finance departments headed by CFO’s. Consequently, only money and space optimization mattered. In the past several years, large companies have started to take a broader look at the KPIs used in measuring successful real estate ventures. If a happy employee means higher output, this metric should be included in strategy planning.
Philips performs globally-recognized wellness studies before, during, and after new workplace developments. In this episode, Roel speaks about the metrics they track that go beyond the dollar amount.
“The true value of the company are its people, and we need to take care of them. But, due to some strategic decisions, we have organized ourselves as companies slightly different. ” – Roel Stroeken
Roel’s main focus is always bettering the employee experience for the entire Philips team. Figuring out the best way to provide support and incentives is at the top of his list – this requires technical changes. Surprisingly to some, providing more space doesn’t always translate into higher employee satisfaction. In fact, over the next few years, Roel’s focus will be on footprint reduction. In other words, consolidation of key locations.
“If we manage [the] occupancy [of our] buildings better, then it improves our desk-people ratio. People find it much more energizing to come into work because it’s not too crowded. ” – Roel Stroeken
Throughout the pandemic, employees have learned how to work from home. As a result, they also understand the value that comes with it. This means that if Philips wants them back in the office, there will have to be strong incentives.
Workers go into the office to connect, challenge each other, and co-create. So, Roel suggests offices of the future will function more like conference centers: coworking spaces, luxurious food options, and various tools. “Hospitality and experience are keywords for the office of the future.”
“I do believe that this is going to be a crucial aspect for success of workplaces: to actually include employees much more, and make them aware of their behaviors, because I think a lot of things [happen subconsciously]” – Sabine Ehm
Managing employee experience will help improve optimization, too. If workers understand their behaviors better, they can plan ahead accordingly. Sabine and Roel look at a scenario of booking meeting rooms when overall occupancy is lower. This can create a better experience for not only those attending, but for those in the office when the meeting would have naturally been booked. Giving workers insight into CRE choices can help create a ripple effect of workplace satisfaction. This can lead them to start making optimized choices independently.
“[Post-COVID] we really have an excellent opportunity, because there’s momentum to take people by the hand and lead them to a slight change, how to use the office environment. I think that can lead them to a much better office experience”. – Roel Stroeken
To have a lasting, successful company, you need happy employees. Roel’s top goal is to create environments that optimize expenditure without under-providing for Philips workers. Leaning on HR KPIs and gathering data beyond dollar amounts will help improve this balance. As well, bringing in people from the front-line will push this movement. Workers will understand CRE choices and can make conscious choices to improve their experiences, too.
Listen to this and other episodes of The Workplace Leader here.
When it comes to crisis management, it’s hard to know what step to take first. In this episode, your host Sabine Ehm learns of several pressure-filled situations Patrenia Werts Onuoha has worked through. Together, the dig into the knowledge she has gained along the way.
Meet the guest
Patrenia Werts Onuoha has over 30 years of work experience across diverse industries. She began her career as an industrial engineer. Patrenia was the first black female engineer at Harley-Davidson, building motorcycles in Pennsylvania. After completing her BSIE and MBA, she moved with her family to Nigeria. There, she pivoted into finance. After working as an executive at a bank, she became a partner of a consulting firm. Finally, she moved into the world of corporate real estate with Shell Nigeria in 2006.
Patrenia says this broad background has given her many unique skills, including crisis management and scenario planning. Despite that, she benefits the most from understanding how to properly listen to her audience. To gain more insight, listen to the following few clips.
“I was 3-weeks into the job, and a bomb exploded at one of our recreational facilities.” – Patrenia Werts Onuoha
Talk about a crisis. A challenge of working in a developing country, especially as a giant oil and gas company, is that not everyone welcomes you with open-arms. The oil Shell was extracting was outside major cities, in less-developed areas. In this particular case, an aggravated community revolted by exploding a bomb in one of Shell’s facilities, containing over 300 houses and 500 people.
Luckily, no one was hurt. Nonetheless, Shell took action. They evacuated all expats and their families within two days. Days before Christmas, Patrenia’s team had to figure out how to round up employees spread across the country. They relocated them to the capital of Legos and put them in hotels, and then sent them home in Shell-chartered jets.
As a result, Patrenia truly grasped who her audience was. Listen for more details on how the crisis management of this situation looked.
“Pain introduces us to ourselves. Pain introduces you to people’s real selves. Because, when there’s pressure, it’s difficult for people to keep up a facade.” – Patrenia Werts Onuoha
During the process of moving people out of Nigeria in two days, Patrenia got to know a lot of her coworkers. From logistics to HR, she worked with a whole slew of people along the supply chain. Consequently, this helped build a strong foundation within the company for her to flourish. Crisis management is difficult and making changes in CRE requires trust; trust that can be readily built up in intense situations.
“In life, experience isn’t the best teacher. It’s reflected experience. Examined experience. And that’s where you learn” – Patrenia Werts Onuoha
We often say that we learn through experience. In this clip, Patrenia explains that if we don’t reflect and examine these experiences, nobody can learn from it. She tells a story of when Shell decided to open a new office space for 2000 employees.
The building took time to find. In addition, it had to be renovated and refurbished. By the time the building was ready for employees, it was only being used at 50% occupancy because of the 2008 market crash. From here, Patrenia needed to figure out how to best utilize the space. In the end, she decided to sublet unused offices to other companies.
Faced with internal pushback, data reformatting and coming up with tenant criteria, Patrenia learned that it’s important to learn to reframe the task at hand. They flipped the space from a cost center to a profit center.
“I see CREMs in panic right now because they don’t know what’s coming, and they don’t know what to do now. My take on that would be ok, start where you are, what you know. Look at that. Try to get as much data as possible on the situation that you had before, and that you have now. And then you can try making assumptions and seeing where you need to adjust, and what outcome that could have.” – Sabine Ehm
CRE professionals were put to work when Covid-19 began. They had to get creative fast, often while working with C-level colleagues. After a year of working from home, how do CREMs prepare for the influx of employees back in offices? How do they prepare for when those employees decide they prefer working remotely?
Pulling from years of experience in extreme situations, Sabine and Patrenia suggest taking it step by step. Take the time to fully comprehend what the environment was like before. Compare it to what it’s like now. Examine these experiences, as Patrenia would say. Consistency compounds.
In short, the future is unknown. It’s impossible to prepare for everything. However, when it comes to crisis management, arming yourself with tools to mitigate unpredictable situations will help profoundly. In this episode, Sabine and Patrenia discussed various critical events they’ve faced, and what helped them get through it. Reflecting and learning from these experiences is key to making informed decisions, quickly. Although, pausing and taking things step by step can also be hugely beneficial. Patrenia’s #1 recommended approach is reading the room and understanding your audience.
Listen to this and other episodes of The Workplace Leader here.
Corporate real estate strategy changes depending on company needs. In this episode, your host Sabine Ehm and guest Rolf Sulen discuss how to manage large-scale CRE portfolios, and change the mindset of workspaces to create a valuable office space.
Meet the guest
Rolf Sulen is the corporate real estate advisor at Equinor. He is head of the workplace team, where he optimizes utilization and creates efficient workspaces for all international offices. Equinor began as an oil and gas company, and is now transitioning into renewables. One can only begin to imagine the CRE challenges that come with establishing new wind farms and worksites.
Equinor’s real estate portfolio spans 30 countries with 27,000 employees. Rolf and his team work to position the workplace environment as an asset to aid in company movement. The team is broken up into micro-teams, from project-based to artwork specialists. They have their hands full with how to configure spaces.
Coming from a line of architects, Rolf says “real estate is in [his] blood”. After diverting from the family path to study business, he quickly returned, developing skills in CRE management. The following clips give insight into Rolf’s strategy for success.
“Our company is not any different from any other large company when it comes to utilization of space. We have a turn up, at the office, in a range of 50-60% every day. But every time we go into a new business case, looking at new space, our space norm says that we should have so-and-so many square meters per full time employee.” – Rolf Sulen
Equinor is a large company with structures in place on how to best manage employees. Each time Rolf and his team look into creating a new location, they start by multiplying their ‘space norm’ of 20 square meters per person by the number of full time employees. From here, they have a better sense of how much area they require.
We all know – it’s never that easy. With 50-60% occupancy rates, the team must consider different types of workplace configurations and occupancy metrics to fully optimize the space. Should they split the location? Implement activity-based areas? Consider desk-sharing? Each location’s answer will be different. In London, for instance, they host events with large groups of people. That location must be equipped to handle such events, but cannot be empty on a day-to-day basis.
“If we’re going to have an office, it needs to be a strategic asset. It needs to add value. Which means that, I will say that I will go to the office because what I do will have a better outcome. What I do will have higher quality. ” – Rolf Sulen
For many in the western world, internet infrastructure is reliable enough that we can comfortably work remotely. That creates an industry of competitors to the traditional company workspaces. If companies want a high occupancy rate, they must ensure they are providing more valuable office space than the competitor, which is often home. Companies must view their office as “not just a building, but as a strategic asset.”
Until now, most companies have seen their offices as just a place to “store” their employees. Corporate real estate has focused on having the space required, but then leaving it to employees to figure out how to best manage it. In this clip, Rolf suggests understanding the nuances of each work area and to add value accordingly.
“That was one of the struggles that I had with the implementation of activity based working in the beginning as well. They were saying “I don’t want it, and now you want me to pay for it? What?” – Sabine Ehm
When building out an activity-based work environment, it’s often more expensive than the traditional setup. This is because “you typically provide more fancy things, [and] nicer collaboration areas” that are more expensive than standard desks. In this clip, Sabine and Rolf discuss the pushback that comes with trying new workplace solutions. In the end, you’ll never know the overall cost savings until you try.
As Rolf puts it,“We’re always talking about flexibility. We’re always talking about space optimization. You know, all these buzzwords that we love in CRE. But when it comes to actually implementing it, and seeing how our colleagues fit in, that’s when the trouble starts.”
The workplace is more than a holding pot for employees. Workers deserve a valuable office to support their needs. Rolf and his team manage thousands of workers, recognizing their individual spaces must be seen as strategic assets to company success. There are several ways to calculate the building out of a new location, and acknowledging each variable will prove beneficial in the long-run. Pushback is normal, but don’t let it stop you from creating something new.
Listen to this and other episodes of The Workplace Leader here.