The future is always a vague topic, there are so many things at play that it is hard to predict. Will we all go back to the office? Will we spend all our time at the office collaborating? Or will we stay remote altogether? The future of workplace facilities is uncertain. Getting a grip on the future is one of the things we desire the most. We follow the news online to discover the latest trends and make estimations about the future. Having a grip on the future use of your facilities is difficult. Because we usually don’t have a lot of information about that. With so many things happening within and around your organisation, sometimes the future seems very unpredictable. For example, the impact caused by the COVID-pandemic was hardly predicted by anyone.
In our previous Annual Workplace reports, we did predict an increase in remote working due to decreasing trends in workplace occupancy across the years, but not due to a global pandemic. In this way, COVID-19 revealed the many uncertainties of the future. There are still things we can do to prepare and predict the future use of our facilities.
Using data at the core
With the use of data, you get objective and quantitative information about what is happening within your organisation. There are many ways to gather and use data. One way is to perform workplace observations. Another approach is using sensor data to measure occupancy and predict the future of the activities inside your organisation. Through the use of data, a lot of information can be gathered from different aspects, which in return could give you rich insights. Combining insights, by doing correlations, can improve the knowledge you have about how things interact with each other. You could, for instance, correlate the size of the rooms with their occupancy rate and predict what room sizes would be useful for your organisation. When you add sampling and survey data from your employees, the possibilities become infinite for understanding critical issues such as employee experience, productivity and wellbeing.
Performing repeated observations gives you more information about the changes and stability of your organisation, making it easier to visualise trends and predict the future. There are trends on different timescales (e.g. day, weeks, months, years). Each scale has its own rhythm and indicates the habits within your organisation. For example, each organisation has daily habits when it comes to arriving and leaving work. Weekly habits when it comes to changes in crowdedness from Monday to Friday. Yearly habits show holidays and busy periods. The diversity of these habits provides valuable information about changes within your organisation. For example, a gradual increase in the average arrival times over the weeks could alert you about company cultural changes. Or a change in workspace use across the year might indicate different ways of working across teams.
Visualising your organisation
But seeing trends and changes within your organisation does not come directly from numbers. One, but very important step comes in between, visualising your data. Using insightful graphs, such as bar charts, scatter plots, flow diagrams and other types of graphs could help you to understand what is happening inside your organisation. Clear insights only come with clear visualisations which are dependent on the graph type, the use of the axes, the colour use, data combination, etcetera. With interactive dashboards, such as we provide in our Measuremen Portal, one could use filters to drill down graphs and dive into specific parts of information. For example, one could see the daily occupancy of an organisation, but through selecting filters, one could visualise the occupancy only for certain buildings, floors, or weeks.
Figure 1: An example of an insightful and compact graph
Understanding your organisation is one thing. But limiting the view just on your own organisation can be harmful. With benchmarking, you view the data of similar organisations and can understand what and how they are doing. Visualising (anonymous) data of other organisations and comparing that to your own organisation gives you a general idea of your performance. Trends in other organisations might mean that your organisation is also heading down that trend if you don’t pay close attention. Benchmarking your organisation with others delivers valuable information about what you could improve, and how others are doing.
Data needs you
It is not possible to measure everything, and thus not entirely rely on data. Data is always fixed in a context that could give it a different meaning. The human mind does an amazing job of understanding the context, putting information together, and especially information that is relatively difficult to measure. Political contexts, managerial changes, or market trends can change your organisation dramatically. Therefore, your data should be added to the equation in making informed decisions. Interpreting data of your organisation is a skill that gives you a stronger grip on the future of workplace facilities and on your organisation if you have the right dashboards and the right data.