As the COVID-19 situation presents us with new developments and challenges day-by-day, office buildings around the world are steadily becoming emptier over the past weeks. While the entire Locateam is now working fully remotely, we have received great feedback from our customers on how they rely on Locatee to make critical and potentially life-saving decisions. These messages have been heartening reminders of our mission and purpose here at Locatee, and I would like to share with you two such examples: 

 

  • Pandemic task forces are using space utilisation data to plan and ensure the shift towards home office
  • Facility management teams are informing canteens of how many people to expect for lunch and advising their employees when to go eat so as to avoid crowding

 

Despite the difficult current situation, I believe that the role of office buildings, and by extension, Corporate Real Estate Management functions, are more important than ever during this time and once we emerge from the global crisis and enter a new normalcy. I see two main reasons for this:

 

We gain a deeper understanding of flexible work

For many knowledge workers, the office building was the only place to get work done before all of this. Currently, we are witnessing the world’s largest remote working experiment. Companies are investing heavily in enabling their employees to work from home and keeping operations as smooth as possible. Once we are through this, every desk worker will be more experienced and adept when it comes to flexible or remote working. This will have tremendous impacts on the world of work. 

 

Office buildings take on a new significance post-crisis

Despite pushing the frontiers and boundaries of what we can achieve working from home, we will no doubt also understand its limitations. We will learn what we can and cannot achieve with our lack of physical presence. Yes, we can hold virtual coffee meetings, but this will not displace face-to-face discussions. In the absence of a physical office, we will realise and recognise its value and importance in engendering a collaborative and productive workforce. 

 

Our good friends and the co-authors of our white paper (Navigating the Complex Smart Building Landscape) Memoori have written a great piece delving deeper into the topic. If you want to learn more on this, I recommend checking out their article here.

 

How do you see it? What will the impact of the current situation be on the office or the corporate real estate landscape in the mid- to long-run? I look forward to hearing your thoughts; in the meantime, please stay safe and healthy.

—Thomas

Why measure workplace occupancy?

Companies today feel the increasing squeeze to track how much they spend, and the objective of reducing and streamlining operating costs have become a Sisyphus-like struggle of neverending optimization. Apart from pecuniary pressures, another reason for finding the best technologies for measuring workplace occupancy stems from leaders and managers seeking to understand their workforce in the greater mission to create a better future of work.

It should come as no surprise, then, that some of the largest investments made by organizations today are in the realm of office space. However, creating an optimal, effective, and ultimately smarter workplace requires more than thoughtfully designed form and function. It requires information and data. Enter workplace analytics solutions.

Albeit still somewhat of a niche topic, critical discussions surrounding workplace analytics solutions are gaining a fast foothold in the to-dos of Corporate Real Estate Managers and Workplace Experience Directors. Although measuring working patterns to determine space requirements and needs for offices is becoming an imperative, the flexibility and mobility of today’s workforce present a formidable challenge to obtaining reliable data.

This guide will help you navigate your complex smart building landscape >

The decision fatigue of seeking a solution

Traditionally, companies have relied on manual counting and surveys to measure the utilization of a workplace. A tactic not only prone to human error, but also incredibly time-intensive and unfit for scaling across large corporate real estate portfolios. Furthermore, manual studies do not satisfy demands for continuous data. Instead, they only reflect information gathered from a single point in time.

More recently, reliance on technology, namely motion sensors, LAN and Wi-Fi, and room booking systems are changing the way workplace occupancy data is collected—used. But the availability of so many options coupled with a lack of general information leads to much confusion around the topic of choosing a method to go with. Are motion sensors and Wi-Fi used to measure the same thing? Is using Wi-Fi better than using LAN? What data is actually being measured? Which method is best? Answering these questions requires a better understanding of how each measurement technology works.

Technologies for measuring workplace occupancy and how they work

The section below provides brief explanations on each of the technologies used to measure workplace occupancy. An important thing to keep in mind is that while technologies like LAN and Wi-Fi measure data using devices, sensors and room booking systems collect data by counting occupants. Keeping this distinction in mind will help decide the most suitable solution later on.

LAN (Local Area Network)

Measurement data from LAN is collected whenever a device is connected to a network using a physical cable or docking station. Because LAN requires a literal connection, the technology offers quite precise measurements, as it is easy to determine the whereabouts of a cable or a docking station. A downside of using LAN as a workplace occupancy measurement method, consequently, is that it requires a physical connection to the IT infrastructure. This is not always an option in modern offices with spaces designed for activity-based working.

Wi-Fi

In the case of Wi-Fi, the signal strength of wireless access points are used to determine a device’s location in a process known as trilateration. A minimum of three access points are required to perform a trilateration to determine the location of a wireless device.

Three overlapping circles which represent WiFi coverageThe level of precision offered by Wi-Fi solutions depends greatly on access pointplacement and density. A Wi-Fi setup with high access density will provide more granular insight than a Wi-Fi setup with low access density, as more signals are used to deduce a more accurate coordinate.

 

Sensors

Sensor technology is probably the most straightforward and easiest technology to understand. Mounted on various locations throughout a building, sensors are used to measure noise levels, temperature, air quality, and employee presence. While they provide precise and granular level of data, the main drawback of sensors is their costly setup, maintenance, and difficulty to roll out across a large real estate portfolio.

Room Booking System

Room booking systems cannot be considered a method for measuring workplace occupancy and utilization on their own. But they can provide invaluable insight into how meeting rooms are used when they are integrated with other measurement methods. By accessing calendar data, room booking systems reveal the number of people in a meeting room at a given time, how long a room was used for, and even how many people declined a meeting but were originally expected to attend.

Learn more about each different measurement method here >

Determining the need and use case

When weighing different workplace utilization measurement options, the most important thing to keep in mind is what will be measured and to whom the analytics may be of value.

For example:

  • A CFO who oversees the company’s finances and corporate real estate strategy may primarily be interested in comparing the overall performance of different buildings in his or her real estate portfolio.
  • A Real Estate Manager may want to find out more detailed information on the usage and foot traffic in a certain lounge, meeting room, or floor.
  • A Director of Workplace Experience may be looking for detailed information on the individual utilization of desks, phone booths, or seats in a meeting room.

In all the above scenarios, the knowledge workers are looking for a “workplace analytics solution”, but the scopes of their needs are entirely different.

Looking at the use case for each individual, it’s clear that the CFO is looking for a workplace analytics solution which provides data on a building level. Although having additional information on floor- and desk-level workplace utilization is nice to have, it is not a business-critical need. On the other hand, neither the Real Estate Manager nor the Director of Workplace Experience will be satisfied with a bird’s-eye overview. They require more granular data. The Granularity Overview below visualises the level of precision and insight each measurement technology is able to provide.

Locatee Granularity table for overview and recommendationsSource: Granularity Overview and Recommendations from Locatee

Download the document

What is the best practice for you?

Taking the information into account, we begin to form a better picture of who needs which technologies for measuring workplace occupancy.

  • The CFO who wants to compare overall building utilization across his or her portfolio can most easily do so using the enterprise LAN or Wi-Fi
  • The Real Estate Manager who wants to measure utilization in large areas across floors can also do so using enterprise LAN or Wi-Fi, although he or she would need to integrate a sensor solution in meeting rooms in order to measure their utilization.
  • The Director of Workplace Experience who is looking for desk-, phone booth-, and seat-level occupancy data must rely on the help of sensors, as LAN and Wi-Fi measurement methods are not able to provide such precise measurements on a small scale. Additionally, he or she might want to consider integrating data from a room booking system to analyse the usage of meeting rooms.

When it comes to choosing technologies for measuring workplace occupancy, each solution offers its own advantages (and drawbacks). The real key to choosing the best solution is to understand the business need and then selecting the most appropriate technology.

Do you want to figure out which technology suits you best?

As I was combining a passion of mine (wildlife photography) with the advantages of the southern hemisphere in November, I decided on rather short notice to visit a wildlife photography conference in Cape Town and later spend a week in Johannesburg with friends.

Accommodation

My choice of accommodation for the conference weekend in Cape Town was a central Airbnb-apartment and since my flight to Johannesburg was only on Monday evening, I spent my day working with a summer breeze escaping the cold Swiss winter. Useful as preparation and on site was the “The Complete Digital Nomad Cape Town Guide” https://wifitribe.co/blog/digital-nomad-cape-town/, the city is really an easy place to work from anywhere with a lot of people following their daily business in cafés and co-working spaces.

In Johannesburg, my current most favourite city, I had my own room, staying with a befriended couple. Even though I had a desk to work, my preferred place was working outside on the terrace. Many people in calls were asking about the background noise – the flocks of beautiful birds buzzing and singing in the garden and around the pool, making my workplace environment to a small paradise.

Work in South Africa and its challenges

Besides the warm weather, one of the main advantages of working in South Africa is staying basically within the same time zone (+1h outside of daylight-saving time). This meant I could simply follow my normal agenda, having all the meetings and calls without shifting anything and get in touch with everyone back in the office whenever needed.

It wouldn’t be Africa however if everything went smooth, so there was this small issue I didn’t really anticipate. South Africa is currently struggling with providing enough electricity to the country. Due to this shortage, there is a complex schedule where in turns, all the neighbourhoods are taken off the grid for certain times depending on the severity of the shortage. This is called “Load Shedding” and probably rings a bell with most visitors to South Africa in recent years as it has become almost a part of the daily life and can be handled if prepared.

So when the electricity went out at 8am on Thursday morning, I was confirmed by my hosts it would usually be back around 10am and instead of Wi-Fi, I just used the still acceptable mobile connection with my South African SIM-Card (which is easy and affordable to get). When it wasn’t back at 10:30 I became a little nervous and after calls with other in the neighbourhood, it was clear electricity wasn’t coming back on soon. For an important meeting I went to a café where at least my connection was good enough for a conference call but I then realised my laptop battery was going down soon. So over lunchtime I organised myself a spot in the modern, fancy and newly opened WeWork space in Rosebank, a prospering business hub (they still had electricity, I checked in advance). So, for the rest of Thursday, I could enjoy the WeWork world as long as it still exists, charge my laptop, use the Wi-Fi and facilities there. And in case my neighbourhood was still off-grid the next day, I booked a provisional space there.

Prior to this week, I was a little bit worried about having a constant and good enough internet connection for video calls but I didn’t expect electricity would be the biggest struggle. Relieved on my return in the evening I was glad to learn that power just came back and there had been an issue with a transformer substation which could be resolved.

Some highlights

To start the next morning more exciting, my friend suggested to take a flight over Johannesburg if we get up early. Since flying is a second passion of mine, I couldn’t resist and joined observing the awakening of this huge and diverse metropolis. What a way to begin a day this was and luckily, no further powered disruptions followed.

Of course, there were a lot of other things to discover aside working: Restaurants with tastes from all continents, walks in blooming spring green parks or gardens and meeting many old and new friends. Particularly to mention was the “Soweto Derby”, the football match between the two most popular and main rivalled clubs of Soweto, Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs. The noise and atmosphere among the 80’000 spectators in the “Soccer City” stadium, venue of the 2010 World Cup final was mesmerising.

After all that hustle and bustle, I went for two days of Safari to enjoy some calm and relaxing moments before returning to Switzerland. The whole week of working in South Africa was fascinating experience and certainly I will return and I’m already excited about my next week working from wherever I want.

From a working aspect, it was more laid back but in the same time more efficient, I could focus completely my tasks and was not interrupted while enjoying every minute of just being there. I was able to work of pending issues that piled up. On the other hand, I started to miss seeing and not just hearing all my colleagues and friends. Being able to join for lunch, getting together for a short coffee break and discussing the latest news or just chat was what I was looking forward to most returning to the office in Zurich.

 

Read more WWYW blogs from our employees:

group photo of the cbre proptech challenge winners presenting their awards

JANUARY

CBRE Proptech Challenge

We started the year off with a bang! We were honoured as the CBRE Proptech Challenge DACH Region Winner and at the same time supported IFMA Switzerland’s “Digital Work” event as a silver sponsor.

 

FEBRUARY

Welcome to the jungle

February was kicked off with new plants in the office from Oxygen at Work. The jungle in our office motivated us to work even more productively and we released the second part of our Smart Building Business Case.

 

employee working in an office with many green plants

 

MARCH

Winter Wonderland

In March we went on our Team Event in Lenzerheide – where we not only skied and snowboarded but also did lots of team building. The rest of march we drank around 1’500 coffees while working on performance improvements and new Locatee Analytics releases.

 

APRIL

Global Rollout Swiss Re

In April we reached a big milestone – our customer Swiss Re rolled out Locatee on 6 different continents. With the help of the data they started designing the Offices of the Future.

Gherkin buliding in London UK surrounded by other buildings

Navigating the complex smart building landscape

MAY

Use Case Navigator

In 2019 the topic of smart buildings seem to gain even more importance. The smart building world is turning fast! Our Whitepaper helped guide through the smart building landscape with navigating through the use cases.

 

JUNE

How to increase the workplace experience?

Virna Monero published her master thesis on workplace utilisation practices and in her guest blog she describes how to increase the workplace experience for employees.

 

group photo of employees on the grass having fun in summer clothes

JULY

A summer full of innovation

Our motto of the Locatee summer: let’s surf the wave together! We worked as a whole team to reach our goals and have fun together. In addition, we visited Swiss Post to see how a very innovative workplace can look like.

AUGUST

CIO Applications and time zones

Our development team started to work hard on implementing the time zone feature. Besides that, Locatee was listed as one of the CIO Applications Europe’s Top 10 Solution Providers.

 

Portrait picture of Thomas Kessler in the CIO Applications magazine with a quote

team photo of people standing on standup paddle boards in the nature

SEPTEMBER

We stand up for what we believe in

We’ve been to Stockholm at the 600Minutes Property and Facility Management event, our SmartSpace App reached the next level, and as a clear highlight there was the Locatee summer event, where we spent a full day stand-up paddling at Walensee.

 

OCTOBER

Our customers come first

In October we reached another big milestone – our 30th Locateer joined and now we are more brains than ever to continously improve Locatee. We also held our very first customer exchange breakfast where we shared many use cases and experience with the products and gathered many more ideas to improve our solution.

 

people following a presentation in a room

NOVEMBER

We launch our new website

We reached one of your most important goals and mastered a big challenge with launching our new Locatee.com website!

 

DECEMBER

Merry Christmas

At the same time another big change happened: Locatee is now hosted and maintained completely by ourselves instead of on-premise!

Read about Sabine’s blog and her experiences with Locatee’s flexible work week benefit for employees: Work Wherever You Want

When I joined Locatee last year and learned about the company’s „Work Wherever You Want“-Week I got extremely excited! Where would I go? Options seemed endless, exotic ideas were flowing…I was pondering over San Francisco, Hawaii, Lisbon, Rome, Bali and ended up going to good old London. In November…

But it turned out to be the best choice. As I’ve been to London before I had done all the sightseeing and could go about getting a taste of „real“ life in London.

 

Accommodation

So, I actually picked two AirBnB’s for my stay in different neighborhoods and also switched between the four locations of the Co-Working space that I selected. That way I got to explore different parts of the town.

London apartment interior

Co-Working Space

My first conclusion – London public transport during morning rush hour is not my jam. But I found my routine, got some walking in in the morning in beautiful sunshine (very unusual this time of the year I was told), got the tube early and settled in a coffee shop for my first morning call – Zurich is one hour ahead so our morning huddles happened at 8am and the „Uncommon” Co-Working only opened then. Afterwards I moved there and made sure to get a stroll through the respective neighborhood at lunch break.

coworking space London

 

Why I had a lovely time

This time around in London didn’t feel like I was a tourist visiting the city. But I was part of it, living in a typical flat, commuting to work and getting a taste of the English way of life – spending Sunday with friends going for a walk and for Sunday roast, having a beer after work at the pub and going out to the country side joining in local Bonfire celebrations. Also, London is a paradise for vegan food available on every corner, which made me really happy.

 

The only downside really was that although I joined meetings and calls remotely, I missed being around my colleagues. So, I feel very grateful for having the freedom to combine my private interests (I actually went to the UK to participate in a 3-day sewing workshop) with work life, but I’m also very glad to be back home in the Locatee office.

 

Read more WWYW blogs from our employees:

Our second Business Case talks about HVAC optimisation: How occupancy steered HVAC generate savings. Read about the impact on employees and how it improves the sustainability of buildings.

Learn more about:

  • Calculating the business case of HVAC optimisation
  • The importance of occupancy analytics in office building sustainability
  • How an optimised HVAC system ensures the employee well-being and increases the attractiveness of a company
  • Calculation example on how HVAC optimisation leads to a cost reduction of USD 149’000 per year (for a company with 100’000m2 or approx. 9000 employees)
  • Calculation example on avoiding USD 99’600’000 of costs pear year by decreased employee absence for a company with 20’000 employees

 


Do you have any further questions?

 

Virna Monero, winner of the EFMC 2019 student competition, introduces us into her master thesis in a guest blog.

Changes in the world of work are the order of the day. From how we work and with whom we work, to on what we work and where we work, the transformation is ubiquitous. For Corporate Real Estate and Facility Management professionals, it is still a challenge to manage the new complexity of workplaces. Workplaces have become a complex system of processes, technologies, spatial solutions and specially the workforce: knowledge workers whose work is marked by increased autonomy and flexibility. This translates into the office being an enabler of new working practices and increased demand for managing not only the efficiency in terms of space cost, but also how effective these spaces are in supporting the workforce. Improving this work patterns at the same time means increasing the workplace experience for employees.

Professionals charged with this task have tools to measure the performance of the workplace, yet space utilization metrics sometimes show only part of the picture. Organizations are lacking insights into what drives knowledge workers to use the workplace in the way they do and important characteristics of the workforce that define these use practices are undiscovered.  A deeper look into the utilization of the workspace can reveal valuable insights into the biggest asset of the organization: the workforce.

As a user of a flexible office myself and having confirmed through research and observations that other organizations also face this challenge, I decided to engage with the topic and generate implications for practitioners looking to create and manage more effective workplaces. I developed a research-based case study, in which I looked into the question:

Data sources

By integrating different sources of data, I explored multiple aspects of workplace utilization such as workplace behavior, workplace mobility, workplace attractiveness and workplace perception. Initially, I produced a thorough description of the context in which these aspects unfold and then explored what factors might explain these practices. I integrated workspace utilization data from Locatee Analytics with rich spatial descriptions of the workplace developed through observations and an employee survey and discovered a wealth of information hiding in the data.

Workplace utilisation practices

Triangulating between these data sources revealed patterns in flexible working practices in the workplace, associated with socio-spatial relationships and personal comfort. I found that the flexible behavior occurs at different levels and that the flexibility at one level is not an indication of the overall flexible behavior when using the office.  Furthermore, I discovered different mobility profiles, with most of the employees showing moderate to highly mobile behavior depending on their work tasks, share of desk work, zone mobility frequency, place attachment and hierarchy. The architectural quality of the office appeared to influence the level of utilization of the different work zones, with ambience, materials, natural elements, openness, supported work tasks positively influencing utilization. With this case study, hidden workplace insights emerged, not only about the workspace but also about the workplace, providing actionable evidence to further develop the workplace management strategy.

By measuring the workplace, the process of generating evidence has started, yet by further engaging with the multiple data sources, overlooked influencing factors in the workplace will arise. In their quest for reducing space cost without affecting the quality of the workspace, many professionals wonder what action plan to follow for consolidating locations. When optimizing space use, the data has shown that square meter does not equal square meter.

There are important indicators about the utilization practices and behaviors in the workplace that influence the performance of the spatial solutions and moreover, the specific needs of the organization play a determining role. Managing several workplaces and sometimes even global portfolios, it can be challenging to monitor all workspace utilization KPIs, together with monitoring influencing indicators, given that space is in constant evolution. Yet, here is where the utilization data adds value by providing reliable measures that help identify areas in need of action.

What’s next?

If your organization is looking to turn data into actionable insights and find the “secrets” behind the data, here I give you some hints of where to start for increasing the workplace experience for employees:

1. Engage with the space behind the data:

Having workspace utilization measurements provides already a base for understanding your buildings deeper. Look for patterns into the data and identify the buildings and spaces within your portfolio that need action. Engaging with these spaces will reveal what spatial features are influencing your utilization and will indicate where to act. From the workspace utilization data, I identified observation points with measurements deviating from the average and utilization patterns across multiple floors. I then developed rich spatial descriptions of the work space that showed the high utilization peaks were associated with spatial features like proximity to windows, higher private sphere and higher density of natural elements. In contrast, the lower utilization peaks were associated with proximity to corridors and access points.

2. Triangulate and confirm

After finding areas of interest, combine measurements with other data sources monitoring and describing influencing indicators (floor plan layout, building data, team data, etc.). By integrating between these data, you can identify factors explaining the utilization and take informed decisions about the strategic direction to follow in making your workspace more effective. After identifying this “prime space” in the office as mentioned above, the survey data confirmed that employees put great value on architectural privacy, being near indoor natural elements and having a connection to the outside through windows with external views. These elements in relation to the workstation location, together with socio-spatial habitualizations, such as team dynamics, were highlighted by the employees as the most important criteria when choosing a spot in the office.

3. Act

You are now officially ready to develop new solutions based on evidence, ensuring better implementation results to move your workplace management strategy forward and to generate higher value for your organization.

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Navigating the complex smart building landscape: Memoori and Locatee have jointly compiled a White Paper to help CRE professionals and facilities management address their priorities and navigate towards a strategy for “smartening” their building portfolio.

The White Paper will help you to

  • learn more about the 7 attributes of Smart Buildings
  • discover the trends shaping the future of Smart Buildings
  • identify your most important CRE Use Cases in 2019
  • take the 3 steps to get closer to a Smart Building

 

Navigating the complex smart building landscape: Download the Whitepaper!


 

Watch Our Free Webinar Recording

Memoori (also read the Memoori report from 2018) was hosting a joint webinar on use cases in the smart building landscape with Thomas Kessler, CEO of Locatee.

Navigating through the wealth of use cases in the smart building landscape is not easy. Although technlogy is evolving rapidly and offers a vast number of smart buildings solutions, there is no one path on how to transform one’s organisation into a more human-focued building.

 

Calculate your savings with our free ROI calculator!

The Business Case of Space Efficiency contains

  • How to calculate the business case of space efficiency
  • How continuous measurements allow to base decisions on objective and reliable data
    Options on how to realise the savings potential
  • Calculation example on how reducing space leads to a cost reduction of USD 4’544’000 per year
  • Calculation example on to avoid USD 2’071’680 of costs pear year by optimising already existing space

 

Download the Guide


Do you have any further questions?

Already excited for the next ski season too?

We’ve been to winter wonderland. Watch what we’ve experienced at this year’s winter event!

Do you want to read in more detail what we’ve done? Don’t miss our blog post!

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