Workplace Thought Leadership

Automating the Workplace with AI, AR, and IoT

By Noam Livnat
Chief Product & Innovation Officer

A trio of technologies is revolutionizing the workplace: artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), and the Internet of Things (IoT). Their ability to deliver never-before-realized efficiencies is quickly making these software tools office mainstays.

Automated advancements are freeing employees from rote tasks so they can focus on more valuable and engaging work. It’s a competitive advantage that businesses are increasingly turning to as digitization becomes the new normal.

A Trifecta of Winning Technologies

AI, AR, and IoT can be used to automate and optimize processes that once required hours of costly human labor. These technologies yield efficiencies that can markedly improve the bottom line.

  • AI – Artificial intelligence has become so ubiquitous in the workplace, it’s often hiding in plain sight. We routinely depend, for example, on AI applications like voice-to-text, chat bots, and automatic meeting scheduling, but think nothing of it. Conversely, we need to remember that AI is an umbrella name for a spectrum of technologies; remember, however, that just because a computer is involved doesn’t mean a program has artificial intelligence. AI’s strong suit is automating data analysis to identify patterns. For example, there’s software that can evaluate whether a customer is annoyed or upset on a phone call, determine behavioral patterns based on sales, or flag cybersecurity issues such as hacks or identity theft.
  • AR – Because augmented reality is laid over an existing environment, it is effective at helping users envision a space. AR has already been adopted in warehouses, where it can show workers the next steps in a repair sequence or direct them to a part’s location. But AR is also beneficial in corporate settings when used with training modules and wayfinding. It even offers a way to visualize office design and space planning, like seeing how new wallpaper or flooring might look.
  • IoT – the Internet of Things bridges the digital and physical worlds. An IoT device may have a sensor, an actuator, or both, but it will always have connectivity that allows it to send and/or receive data and instructions from other devices. Sensors can monitor occupancy, lights, flow in a pipe, or carbon monoxide, among many other things. An actuator enables the device to change something in the physical environment: dim a light, open a valve, or lock a door. Combining IoT with AI can be very beneficial. For example, if AI detects a certain vibration pattern in a piece of machinery, it can tell the actuator to alter the motor’s speed to prevent a failure.

Is Technology Making Humans Redundant? 

While machine learning applications are evolving quickly, nothing happens overnight. Technology moves more slowly than the hype would have you believe. Or, as Roy Amara, a futurologist, put it “We overestimate the impact of technology in the short term and underestimate the effect in the long run.” Just think about automatic teller machines (ATMs).

Once upon a time you had to physically go into a bank and ask a teller to make a deposit or withdrawal on your behalf. The process relied on two humans to complete. Now, you can go into any gas station or grocery store and access your funds via an ATM. However, we forget that it took years after the first ATM was introduced in 1967 before these machines became a common part of our banking experience. And even more than 50 years later, tellers haven’t disappeared. Today they spend their time helping customers with more complicated tasks than withdrawing cash.

We can see a similar evolution with workplace automation. There’s always a fear that automation will replace jobs; a Pew study found that roughly half of people think automation hurts workers. It’s true that these technologies replace some work functions, especially in low-wage jobs with predictable physical and cognitive tasks, but they also create new roles and responsibilities.

Imagine the effectiveness of a marketer who doesn’t have to spend time generating a prospect list. Instead, they receive an automated list and spend their time analyzing the contacts. The role of the human hasn’t been diminished by automation—it’s been empowered by it. That’s why it’s important for businesses to help employees see the advantages of automation and prepare them through education and training for new roles in a digitized work environment.

AI, AR, and IoT are forms of automation that generally work hand-in-hand with humans. Rather than supplanting jobs, they mostly manage repetitive tasks, enable sophisticated data analysis, and streamline complex processes. Their most valuable contribution is empowering employees to focus on what they do best.

Keep reading: Office IoT – A Gateway to Smart Facility Management


The Ins and Outs of Desk Sensors

By Noam Livnat
Chief Product & Innovation Officer

Of the many sensors enabled by the office Internet of Things (IoT), few deliver the capabilities of desk sensors. Though they’re a simple example of on/off (I/O) triggers, desk sensors are practical and versatile additions to any expanding office network. Configured properly, desk sensors play an important part in everything from simple cause-and-effect automations to crucial triggers in mission-critical workflows.

For companies expanding their IoT framework or venturing into office automation for the first time, desk sensors are a practical investment. Here’s a quick overview of desk sensors, how they work, what they’re capable of, and how to leverage them to great effect.

How do desk sensors work?

Desk sensors use a type of technology called a passive infrared (PIR) sensor. This is the same type of sensor used in motion detection equipment. It’s triggered by motion and movement, and activates when there’s a status change.

Most office desk sensors sit discretely atop a desk, with a PIR range of just a few feet. An unoccupied desk is the baseline (O). When someone stands in front of the desk or sits down to work, the sensor triggers a change in status (I). That trigger relays a status change to any integrated systems. A simple example would be changing the desk’s status from “available” to “occupied” in a desk allocation program.

There are also some desk sensors that are pressure-enabled. They can detect when someone sits in a chair or rests their elbows on the desktop, and they trigger the same type of off-to-on response.

Practical applications for desk sensors

While workplace sensors are great for on/off triggers, they’re even more powerful as part of broader automations. Desks sensors, in particular, support complex workflows. Here’s a basic example of the role desk sensors play in workplace automation:

  • Jeff needs a desk. He checks in with Sally, the hot desk manager. Sandy sees a real-time picture of available desks and assigns one to Jeff. When he arrives, he triggers the sensor, which shows the desk as occupied in Sandy’s program. The trigger also notes the average time Jeff stays at the desk and what time he sits down.

In this example, the I/O trigger from the desk starts a domino effect. When the desk becomes occupied, it triggers an algorithm that generates important data about total desk use. Sandy can get the information she needs to manage hot desks at a glance, thanks to the initial desk occupancy trigger.

Now let’s look at desk sensors in a free-assign workplace, without a central check-in point. How does a desk sensor become part of a more dynamic workplace?

  • Fatima wants to meet with Leon and Phoebe for 20 minutes to go over some revisions to a project. She brings up a live office floor plan and sees two open breakout spaces with tables. She messages Leon and Phoebe to meet her at the nearest one. But, after 10 minutes, the group realizes they need to involve Sam and John. Fatima finds an open bench big enough for five, and the original three meet the newcomers in that area.

Here, desk sensors allow employees to make real-time decisions and adjustments. Flexing into and out of these workspaces takes only minutes, because it’s easy to look ahead and see what’s open. Desk sensors bring visibility and certainty to even the most dynamic spaces.

Even assigned spaces benefit from desk sensors. Traditional offices can make use of desk sensors for tasks like wayfinding or employee location. Here’s a look at one more example:

  • ABC corporation has 75 employees spread over six floors. Shelly should be in a meeting on the third floor, but she’s late. Matt, the meeting leader, checks the company directory to see if her desk is occupied. If it is, he can quickly call and remind her about the meeting; if not, he can assume she’s on her way.

Simple conveniences like this are possible through desk sensors. A quick look at active vs. inactive gives someone the information they need about a specific workspace. In the same way Matt can check on Shelly’s desk occupancy to plan for her arrival, the front desk can check to see she’s there to receive a visitor. It’s a simple convenience with major benefits.

Does your workplace need desk sensors?

The broad adaptability of desk sensors makes them applicable in many workplaces. Coworking spaces and offices ruled primarily by hot desks will see immediate benefit from desk sensors. Flexible work environments and agile workplaces also need the instantaneous reports from workplace sensors. Really, any workplace with real-time seat changes and agile desk management benefits from desk sensors out of the gate.

For companies easing into flexible work or an agile floor plan, desk sensors will quickly become essential. Take a proactive approach to understand how they work and realize their capabilities as you develop the infrastructure that’ll eventually support your flexible environment.

Keep reading: What are IoT Sensors?

Workplace Thought Leadership

Strategies to Safeguard Workplace Data

By Noam Livnat
Chief Product & Innovation Officer

Who would have thought, only a few years ago, that workplace managers would have to worry about battling cyberattacks and corporate sabotage. Data is now integral to every facet of your business, which means there’s more of it to protect, in more places, than ever before. It’s imperative to protect your systems and data against malicious hackers, information theft, and even accidental leaks. To mitigate this risk, business leaders must implement best practices for data security and evaluate third-party vendors for privacy compliance.

How Vulnerable is Your Workplace Data?

While the financial and healthcare sectors are often primary targets for hackers, the information that can be gained from corporate and customer data is astonishing. Businesses of any size and industry are tempting targets because they collect and analyze vast quantities of data that can be used for monetary gain.

Because data touches virtually every corner of your operations, addressing data security goes well beyond email. Even your IoT-enabled building equipment, such as smart thermostats, IP security cameras, and automation software, is at risk. Legacy systems, as well as the latest generation of apps, require layers of data protection. Otherwise, these digital tools can be turned into an attack vector that hackers exploit for system access.

Once inside, cybercriminals can mine your data for trade secrets, commit identity theft, or leak information to competitors. Sensitive information that is susceptible to attacks includes:

  • Workforce: Head count, payroll, and staffing forecasts are prime targets. Even access to an employee directory can be tempting to headhunters looking to poach your talent or for even less scrupulous actors trying to “spear phish” or use social engineering against your employees.
  • Financial: Operational costs, leases, growth projections, loans, transactions, customer lists, sales numbers, and vendor contracts are vulnerable data sets. Imagine what a competitor could do after peeking at how much your customers pay you or your pricing models.
  • Privacy: Records containing birthdates, compensation, Social Security numbers, home addresses, cell phone numbers, and dependent info are always at risk as they can be used to conduct identity theft or financial fraud. And don’t forget bank account numbers used for direct deposit.
  • Location: Because workplace violence takes many forms, data generated from badging, WiFi, conference room or desk reservations, seating charts, and other sensor data should be protected.

The good news is that your IT security managers have vast resources at their disposal to safeguard data. For example, data loss prevention (DLP) tools can flag a potential breach from an insider threat, cyberattack, or negligent exposure. A virtual private network (VPN) can protect your remote or traveling employees internet usage from prying eyes.

Such measures should stem from a comprehensive data security governance framework (DSGF) that assesses risk and ensures proposed controls will satisfy business objectives. DSGF is listed by Gartner®, a research and advisory firm, as one of the top security and risk management trends for 2019.

Take extra precaution to ensure your DSGF extends to all cloud-based software and third-party applications. With the proliferation of software as a service (SaaS), businesses are externally sharing a wider range of sensitive data. It’s critical to hold vendors accountable for data security.

Privacy Compliance and External Vendors

Before engaging vendors, you should ask new and existing third-party software providers one question: “How will you handle and protect our data?” You wouldn’t hire a building management company without asking about their service policies—extend this same due diligence to any digital vendors. Here are best practices to protect your workplace data and vet data processors for security governance:

  • Limit Access: Don’t give an external vendor carte blanche access to your data. Take a minimalistic approach and only provide access to what is necessary for them to deliver expected outcomes. For example, SpaceIQ needs a person’s name, email, title, and department, but we don’t need to know Social Security numbers or birthdates for them to use our platform. While this information is housed in the same HR system, we need access to just a small portion of an employee’s profile. Work with your vendors to pull only the data that is fundamentally integral to executing their processes.
  • Request SOC or GDPR: Industry audits, reports, and certificates are a great way to evaluate the safety and security of a vendor. Voluntary third-party verification programs such as SOC 2, Privacy Shield, or ISO 27001, help evaluate the trustworthiness of a company. While these are optional, GDPR and California’s Consumer’s Privacy Act are laws that may apply to you and your vendors. If a software provider carries any of the aforementioned certifications, ask to review their documentation and note any expiration dates.
  • Include a DPA: A data processing agreement (DPA) is a legal obligation that specifies what a vendor is allowed to do with your data. More importantly, it can also stipulate what they are not allowed to do. A DPA ensures that the data processor guarantees it will protect your records and what its contractual responsibilities are in the event of a breach.

Whenever you share data outside your organization, it’s necessary to balance convenience with security. The key to finding equilibrium is to ask: “How do I minimize the risk of allowing a vendor to access my data without sacrificing the rewards and benefits their services offer?” Controlling not only who has permission to use your data but how much they can access is the first step.


Workplace Space Planning Trends for 2020

By Noam Livnat
Chief Product & Innovation Officer

Renowned physicist and scholar Sir Stephen Hawking famously said, “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” Workplace space planning is all about adapting to change—specifically, how businesses can efficiently and creatively leverage real estate and technology.

The future of space planning is about prioritizing the needs of employees instead of forcing them to bend to the constraints of traditional office space designs. New space planning trends meet existing needs and accommodate anticipated changes. They create cost-effective, flexible, modern workplaces that support agile employees and embrace new technologies. It’s up to businesses to recognize and embrace these trends in 2020.

Path to digital space management 

Workplace optimization has made integrated workplace management systems (IWMS) a necessity. IWMS platforms house and analyze once-siloed data to deliver insights crucial in shaping the workplace. With this information, facilities managers can make the most of every square foot and create spaces that drive productivity without sacrificing engagement.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the rise of coworking and hot desking. Technology makes it easy for people to choose their own workspace without compromising their availability to coworkers or up-ending workplace harmony. Moreover, the IWMS uses aggregated data and trends to help plan, implement, and analyze new desking opportunities.

Cloud-supported, results-based approaches to space planning are fostering innovative office space planning trends, including flexible seating, reserved conferencing, open-air offices, quiet workstations, and inventive office space design.

Flexible seating

Flexible seating is a win-win for businesses. Employees get to pick a workspace that’s right for them, while managers have a system to maximize facility space utilization. Open seating works for everyone, from permanent full-time workers to outside contractors to part-time and remote employees. Businesses don’t overpay for unused space and employees are more productive by using different environments for different tasks.

From a space planning perspective, flexible seating is easy to deploy and revise, with key metrics easily tracked through IWMS software. Regular review of trends and adjustments to the flexible seating concept keep an agile business running smoothly.

Reserved conferencing

Say goodbye to massive meeting rooms that frequently sit unused. Businesses are trading in big conference tables and stuffy 10-person rooms for more flexible, open-air environments. Modular and convertible spaces present new options for meetings. Semi-open configurations have already proven themselves to foster organic collaboration, which has come to make traditional offices all but obsolete.

To maintain structure, many businesses are turning to space booking software. Such systems allow employees to reserve a room and ensure occupants won’t face disruption during meetings.

Open-air offices

Managers may initially resist losing their premium offices when faced with a benching or open-office design. But they’ll come around once they experience the benefits of being more accessible to staff. When managers aren’t behind closed doors, they can hear what’s going on around them. Staff is naturally more forthcoming and there’s less intimidation than being called into the boss’s office to talk with the door shut.

There’s a certain practicality to open-air offices in the modern age. Businesses forced to allocate space more efficiently have a hard time justifying executive suites or huge corner offices. Private offices are slowly disappearing, despite being a longstanding tradition.

Quiet workstations

Regardless of the greater office space design, workers benefit from occasional access to closed-off space. It affords them to focus on intensive tasks and the occasional personal calls. Quiet space offers a chance to decompress, regain composure, and work uninterrupted.

Creating quiet spaces within a larger workplace takes strategy. These areas should be away from the office epicenter. They should require some form of granted accessibility—a key code, a reservation, or even a simple “Occupied” sign. Make them distraction-free and customizable to a degree.

Inventive space design

Current space planning trends address workers’ preference for less traditional workplace design. The last thing new hires want to face is the prospect of 40-plus hours sitting in a cubicle looking at acoustic tiles, fluorescent lighting, and whitewashed walls. Talented workers want (and deserve) more, and they’re motivated by a workplace that engages them.

There’s nothing to lose and much to gain by making aesthetic changes to a drab office. As you consider trends in space planning, consider space design that makes employees feel content with their surroundings.

Build the foundation for a better workplace

These space planning predictions are more than passing fads or imaginative trends. An office that accommodates emerging concepts and marries them to new technologies is one poised to succeed. Consider these trends in 2020—they could define your office for the next decade of work to come.

Keep reading: Collaborative Workspace Trends and How We Work Together.


10 Coworking Facts that Solidify an Industry Shift

By Noam Livnat
Chief Product & Innovation Officer

Coworking’s rapid rise to prominence has caused quite a stir in the professional world. Companies of all sizes are embracing flexible work environments and workers from all backgrounds have dabbled in coworking.

But there are still naysayers. Some still believe coworking is just a fad or that it’ll fade away with any downturn in the commercial real estate market. These folks may be skeptical, but they’re overlooking clear and prominent coworking data that say just the opposite. Here are 10 facts that show the growth, stability, and demand of coworking.

Facts about coworking

The number of coworking spaces worldwide is projected to cross 20,000, reaching 25,968 by 2022, an increase of 42% from 2019.

  • 1. This is one of the most telling facts about coworking spaces. Their continued proliferation shows no slowdown in supply or demand, with new spaces added by the month. Each new coworking space creates opportunities to support a workforce becoming mobile just as quickly.

The number of coworking members will rise to 3.8 million by 2020 and 5.1 million by 2022.

  • 2. Naysayers of coworking cite massive supply as a problem. Can this market really succeed if there’s a coworking space every few blocks? It can if there’s demand. According to current projections, demand is high and set to grow higher, justifying the supply.

Before 2011, large coworking spaces rarely exceeded 20,000 square feet. It’s no longer uncommon to see spaces with more than 100,000 square feet.

  • 3. This fact suggests the success of the business model at-scale. Coworking companies are seeing consistent patronage and cash flow—enough to encourage them to test the bounds of their success at a larger scale, with more patrons.

40% of flexible workspace demand is forecast to come from large corporate companies. By 2020, ~50% of large companies will have some form of shared office space.

  • 4. The data shows that coworking isn’t just for startups and freelancers. Companies of all sizes recognize the benefits of coworking and have begun capitalizing on them. As employees in large companies begin transitioning to remote work, these figures will only increase.

72% of coworking operators say they expect to see further industry consolidation, with 58% believing consolidation is a great opportunity.

  • 5. Most facts about coworking show growth. This one shows consolidation. The caveat? Consolidation is a form of growth because it shows industry stabilization, where established companies can confidently absorb smaller competitors.

In 2018, flexible workspaces accounted for more than two-thirds of the U.S. office market occupancy gains.

  • 6. Commercial real estate is a major indicator on macroeconomic scales. The fact that coworking has moved the needle in such a significant metric shows the power of this market. Coworking is rapidly becoming a core driver of commercial real estate.

By 2030, the flexible workspace market is expected to represent 30% of U.S. office stock—an unprecedented shift in workplace demand.

  • 7. An unprecedented shift is a great way to describe the effect of coworking has had on traditional offices. Real estate is beginning to mold itself around flexible workspaces, not the traditional concept of an office. As a result, nearly a third of the market will change in the coming decade.

Workspace rental rates are projected to fall in most major cities, including New York, London, and Hong Kong.

  • 8. Coworking is a disruptor. Not only has it disrupted the commonly-held concept of what a workplace is, it’s also taking aim at the high cost of traditional office space. As coworking space becomes more available, it also becomes more affordable, making it more accessible.

Full-time workers who are not self-employed hold more than 50% of flexible workspace memberships in Europe.

  • 9. Europe is a proving ground for many ideas that eventually land stateside. Coworking has incubated overseas for years, and results like this statistic show how popular it has become. Companies and their employees have found a workspace solution that’s ideal for both parties.

71% of flexible workspace users report feeling more engaged at work, with positive impacts on their work.

  • 10. People love coworking! It’s a departure from the shirt-and-tie, clock-watching, timecard-punching monotony of the traditional workplace. It’s new and invigorating, and gives people a chance to work how they want to. The results speak for themselves.

Coworking is here to stay

These facts and figures speak volumes about coworking not as a fad, but as a viable answer to the demand for flexible work environments. The workplace has changed and so have the needs of employees. Coworking recognizes the shift and offers alluring opportunities for accommodation. The concept is growing for a reason—because it’s in-demand and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

Keep reading: Coworking trends.


A Crash Course in Stack Planning

By Noam Livnat
Chief Product & Innovation Officer

Visual interpretations of data are almost always easier to understand than pure numbers. Graphics provide context for variables better than reading them line-by-line. That’s often the reason facility managers use stack planning software to visually coordinate facilities and plan workplaces.

Stack planning is a useful tool in understanding the cumulative workspace based on its makeup. It’s often a quick and easy way for facility managers to understand and experiment with different workplace changes. Stack planning is key for scenario planning, whether you’re adding a few desks or completely rearranging a floor.

What is stack planning?

A stack plan is a visual representation of the workplace. It shows total square footage, with occupied and unoccupied areas. Occupied segments are further broken into individual business units that show how much space a given department takes up. Stack planning is usually represented as a bar graph, pie chart, or blocks.

Stacks themselves represent chunks of data. Usually, a stack shows one floor of a building and the different space allocations within it. Companies occupying several floors will layer stacks to see space distribution and utilization across levels. For larger companies, stacks may also represent locations. A stack generally corresponds to the scale of the data being investigated.

Stack planning can represent space allocation in many different ways. Most often, it’s by department or business segment. However, stack planning may also show a floor plan’s workstation makeup or the number of employees by grouping. The theme is always the same: the sum of the parts totals the whole.

What’s the purpose of stack planning?

Stack planning—also called stack scenario planning—helps facility managers understand the workplace at a glance for better decision-making and improvements. Rather than deciphering space allocations in a complex spreadsheet, facility managers get visual context of floor plans. For example, it’s easy to see that Sales occupies double the space of Accounting, or that collaborative workspaces take up a third of your available space.

In essence, stack planning is a macro tool. It’s the big picture of your facilities—how they’re allocated, organized, and utilized. By understanding the cumulative, facility managers can dig deeper into areas that require improvements, change, or a complete rework, and understand how those decisions affect the whole.

Problems solved by stack planning

With a stack plan in hand, facility managers can progress to scenario planning. Visual data, conceptualizes adjustments that, ultimately, benefit the entire workplace. Stack plans show how to:

  • Consolidate departments scattered across multiple floors
  • Determine optimal space utilization
  • Reduce total lease cost by consolidating stacks
  • Create strategic, synergistic department alignments (ex. Sales and Marketing)

Scenario planning is a lot like solving a logic puzzle. The bigger the company, the more variables. It boils down to understanding how to best configure the parts to make a more complete whole. Here’s an example:

  • 1st Floor: 80% occupancy—Sales (60%) and Human Resources (20%)
  • 2nd Floor: 60% occupancy—Sales (30%), Marketing (20%), Conference Rooms (10%)
  • 3rd Floor: 40% occupancy—Marketing (10%), Accounting (20%). Executive (10%)

Let’s say the goal is to reduce lease costs by consolidating departments:

  • 1st Floor: 100% occupancy—Sales (60%) + Sales (30%) & Conference Rooms (10%) from the 2nd floor
  • and Human Resources (20%)
  • 2nd Floor: 60% occupancy—Marketing (20%) + Marketing (10%) + Accounting (20%) + Executive (10%) from the 3rd floor
  • 3rd Floor: Vacant

In this example, the company is able to vacate an entire floor, with space to spare on the second floor. Synergy is achieved by grouping once-disparate departments—Sales and Marketing—on the same floors. That creates cohesion across the business, with room to grow.

Stack planning and digital facilities management

Used alongside other digital facility management tools, stack planning provides important insights into facility utilization. How much space is dedicated to different departments? What’s the cost of housing these departments? What types of workstations are present on each floor? These insights inform better decision-making for facility configurations and space utilization. The stack plan provides a visual understanding of space. From there, it’s the responsibility of a facility manager to optimize and streamline it.

Keep reading: Make every space count with space Management software.


What is Stack Planning?

By Noam Livnat
Chief Product & Innovation Officer

When workplace managers need to make a major change, they can’t afford to focus exclusively on that one modification. The workplace is interconnected. Changing one aspect has rippling effects across facilities and for the entire company. That’s why stack planning is important.

Stack planning is a valuable tool in predicting how changes to one area of the workplace affects others. Stack planning helps facility managers (FMs) determine if change is needed, and if so, where. It’s the most holistic way of looking at facilities and everything within them.

What is stack planning?

Stack planning is a macro way of looking at space utilization. The “stack” is a complete collection of floor plans, showing every level of a building and each floor’s distinct features. A stack shows which groups occupy what space, where open spaces are, and floor plan capacities.

Goal stack planning involves quickly rearranging large employee groups to better utilize existing space. An FM might use stack planning to rearrange entire departments across three floors of a building or model workspace conservation under a new desking arrangement.

Understanding total facilities

In terms of space utilization, stack planning is extremely valuable. Because it provides a holistic view of facilities, workplace managers can easily work out problems and see possible solutions on a macro scale. Seeing the full stack provides context for change. It also opens the door to more possibilities.

An example: Marketing wants to hire two new employees, but it already crammed 12 people in a space meant for 10. One solution is to break up the department and move employees to available workspaces. But stack planning may offer better alternatives:

  • Swap space: Human Resources consists of eight employees in space meant for 14. Swapping department locations may make sense.
  • Move floors: The first floor has two vacant eight-person areas. Marketing can move without disrupting any other department.
  • Create adjacenies: IT is currently next to Marketing. Six Product Development employees sit in space meant for 16. Product Development and IT consistently collaborate, so it’s smart to seat them next to each other.

Each option maximizes workspace while accommodating the unique needs of every department. A top-down view of the workplace stack provides context for decision-making when it comes to space utilization.

Forecasting and modeling

As a company grows, stack plans become more important in forecasting and modeling. It’s less about finding desks for one or two new employees and more about forecasting new hires six months or a year down the road. Stack planning makes it possible to scale quickly to accommodate growth spurts.

Looking at the stack as a whole—instead of individual floor plans or areas—is valuable for forecasting. Here’s a simple goal stack planning example:

A growing company of 10 people occupies two floors of a building, which equates to 60% overall capacity. Then, they land a big project that demands staff expansion. Leaders need to hire four more full-time people and dedicate square footage for a project staging area. Is there enough space?

A look at the stack plan shows there’s enough space to accommodate everyone. There’s no need to move or expand into existing building space. More importantly, the stack plan allows leadership to model with space utilization in mind. The new stack reflects revised workplace layouts that now inform new decisions about how to utilize and manage space.

Cost planning is also within the realm of forecasting and modeling. The stack provides instant information about total facility utilization. If the stack shows you’re only using 60% of space in a $3,000/month lease, you’re wasting as much as $1,200 monthly. On the flip side, if you expect 20% growth in the next three months, running a utilization deficit now may be smarter. Regardless of the approach, the stack plan is instrumental for for good decision-making.

Stack planning integration

The best part about stack planning is that it’s not difficult. Most workplace managers keep up-to-date floor plans for each part of their facility. Putting these together and looking at them holistically is the next step toward stack planning. Combined within an Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) or Computer-Aided Facilities Management (CAFM) platform, it’s even easier to swap between floors and make stack adjustments.

The real benefit comes when these changes are actually deployed. Stack planning as a space utilization tool ensures optimization with fewer unforeseen rippling effects. It’s the smarter way to manage a growing workplace.

Keep reading: How do you calculate space utilization?

Workplace Thought Leadership

Digital Twins

By Noam Livnat
Chief Product & Innovation Officer

Is your company using a digital twin to manage your workplace? While electronic representations of real-world objects have been around for decades, businesses are now exploring novel ways to harness this technology and combine it with business processes, driving efficiencies and data-driven decision making . Because a digital twin is composed of data layers, the latest innovation is to add a “personnel layer.”

A digital twin opens this virtual representation to a new class of workplace management professionals: human resources, space planners, and employee experience managers. A dynamic digital twin of your workplace will yield actionable data that affects everything from space planning and move coordination to lease negotiations and employee management.

The DNA of a Digital Twin

Simply put, digital twins provide electronic means to represent physical items. They can be simple and static as a two-dimensional CAD file of your floor plan. They can also be more complex, such as a cloud-based application that dynamically represents your global real estate portfolio, from the location of each building down to the position of every security camera or defibrillator.

But without additional data to provide context and without supporting business processes, a digital twin is just a visual tool. With detailed layers of shared data, however, a digital twin enhances an organization’s ability to operate efficiently and make smart  decisions.

Consider a common object like a coffee maker. The machine comes with a printed manual that typically includes a cutaway diagram and basic instructions. But this information is static and analog—it can’t be easily updated, searched, or shared with multiple users. It also can’t be merged with related data sets, like your monthly coffee expenditure.

Now imagine a digital twin of the coffee maker. This virtual model captures the smallest details of its construction, allowing you to easily troubleshoot errors. The digital twin also contains a wealth of usage and maintenance data, all of which helps you to maximize lifecycle costs.

This is just a taste of what a digital twin can do. What if you could document that the coffee maker is located in your main kitchen, was last serviced two months ago, brews an average of four gallons a day, and is one of three other machines at this office? The data contained in this digital snapshot radically alters how you can maintain this single asset. These powerful insights can now be applied to an entire building or portfolio to proactively manage workplace expenses.

Digital Twins and Workplace Management

Building owners and property developers are already familiar with CAD (computer-aided design) and BIM (building information modeling). While these tools offer insights into physical property, they are ultimately disconnected from the most important part of your business—employees and their associated real estate costs.

The value of real estate has historically been tied to square footage, but what if it was linked to headcount? What if the question we asked was: “How much does it cost to place one employee in my building? What about 100 employees? Or 250?”

BIM and CAD simply aren’t equipped to answer those questions. They aren’t configured to tell you the number of assigned desks versus hots desks. They do not show that Mia, Jacob, and Alyssa sit in a row of private offices. And you can’t use them to assess the impact of increasing or decreasing your workforce. There’s simply not enough information available to decide whether or not to renew a lease.

But a workplace digital twin with operational management capabilities is an extraordinary opportunity to improve operations, enhance service quality, and transition to fact-based decision making. A digital twin transforms how decisions are made in four key areas:

  1. Space & Asset Management – A digital twin enables you to monitor office occupancy to make sure it remains within your targets: too low and you’re inefficient, too high and you have (literally) no wiggle room. For example, you can create a rule that stipulates floors shouldn’t exceed 90% occupancy. When the headcount reaches the 85% threshold, the digital twin can generate an alert.
  2. Move Management – Paper copies of seating charts are an outdated and clunky method to coordinate office moves and quickly turn into a scribbled mess when multiple departments are involved. But with a digital twin of your workplace, planners can collaborate and provide real-time input instead of exchanging hard-copy drawings and combining the data. You can retrieve an exact count on any floor at a glance. You can then explore different allocation options with a few keystrokes.
  3. Lease Management – Without integrated data, it’s nearly impossible to determine whether your portfolio can support your future business needs. Is it more economical to add employees to a Denver office or expand an existing San Diego location? A standard lease doesn’t tell you that—you can only compare the price per square footage. A digital twin enables you to proactively manage real estate expenses. For example, you could set an alert nine months before a property’s lease ends. This advanced notification creates a window of time to consolidate square footage, change your office density, or terminate the lease.
  4. Employee Management – Managing new hires and existing employees is usually the domain of HR, but what about resignations or terminations? If you only have a tool like BIM or a BMS (business management system), there’s no process in place to indicate when and where a person has been removed.

A digital twin that interfaces with HR software merges siloed data into one platform. Imagine an automatic push when a person’s employment ends that goes to the space manager, facilities department, and security team. Without this kind of automation, it’s a challenge to distribute this critical information to all the necessary contacts.

A digital twin with layers of workplace insights provides a shared picture for key leadership. It automatically merges data from separate systems to help improve processes and support decision making in a context-rich environment. In addition to collaboration, this virtual double can be leveraged to run reports and scenarios. With a digital twin, you can pair staffing forecasts with real estate costs and uncover innovative ways to maximize your operational expenses.

Keep Reading: Digital Twin Software: Maximize Solutions and Benefits


Coworking Modern Workplace

By Noam Livnat
Chief Product & Innovation Officer

Coworking spaces are exploding as some of the world’s biggest companies adapt to the gig economy and demand for flexible work arrangements. Why? There’s no single concrete reason, other than a perfect harmony of variables that make coworking a natural solution to space needs. Better still, it’s a solution benefitting both companies and workers.

But the question remains, what makes coworking a better solution than open or flexible office environments? Read more on what is coworking – a look into the future.

1. Low-cost workspaces amidst rising CRE costs

Commercial real estate costs are rising. This has rippling effects on businesses renting office space, even beyond driving up the cost of their monthly lease payment. It makes finding affordable workspaces harder, increases pricing power for leasing companies, and adds a hefty burden to a company’s balance sheet, according to 2016 FASB accounting standards.

Renting coworking space absolves a business of these costs. Every company deploying the space-as-a-service model assumes the greater burden of leasing real estate. They then pass the cost onto companies in the form of pay-as-you-go fees. In shedding office space and renting through a coworking company, a business can indirectly alleviate its second-largest expense: the workplace.

Even if coworking membership costs are equal to the cost of a lease, it still gives the company the ability to scale space as-needed. There’s a modicum of control over how much space they need and what they’re paying to occupy it—control not always possible with a standard lease.

2. Support for a non-traditional workforce

Today’s workforce operates outside the bonds of what was a traditional schedule. Nine-to-five jobs are scarcer, while business suits are giving way to t-shirts and jeans. It’s only natural that a less-traditional work environment would follow.

Employees want the freedom to work on their own time, in an environment of their choosing. And while an agile office may provide this, it still doesn’t support the intrepid schedule of most Millennials and Gen-Z workers. They have kids, jobs, and other obligations, Their primary demand is a manageable work-life balance. Coworking gives them the flexibility they want, and they reward that flexibility through efficiency, transparency, and productivity.

With a coworking subscription, giggers and remote employees are free to travel and plan their days around themselves. Work is still a priority, but it’s less of a constraint.

3. Getting rid of workplace stigmas

Stigmas of the traditional office model still linger. Managers peer over the shoulders of subordinates as a project deadline looms. Employees feel guilty for congregating around the water cooler. Chatty coworkers suck away much-needed work time.

These stigmas disappear when the central workplace does. What’s left is the framework of an office, free to operate without friction. Employees get out from under the thumb of managers, while still adhering to deadlines. Coworkers take breaks to relieve stress without the guilt. The autonomy workers need to stay productive blossoms. A coworking space offers these things in a laid-back, independent workplace setting.

4. Space for every worker

Even in offices with diverse workspaces, it’s nearly impossible to accommodate every work style. Dedicating space to individuals vs. groups, introverts vs. extroverts, and employees with non-traditional work schedules stretches available square footage thin. The beauty of coworking spaces is their diversity.

The popularity of coworking spaces is creating stiff market competition. To distinguish themselves from other coworking startups, many companies are adopting niche themes. They market to specific types of workers or scenario-based working, which gives people the opportunity to work where, when, and how they want—even if those variables change. Instead of changing the space to fit the worker, the worker can simply change their space.

5. The space-as-a-service model is growing

The space-as-a-service sector is valued in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Coupled with the rise in growth hacking strategies and soaring CRE costs, coworking is only getting bigger. And while many companies still ask, “How does a coworking space work?” more are buying in to the many benefits coworking offers.

The shift to digital and cloud computing also makes it easier for companies to eliminate a central, physical workspace. When meetings, collaboration, presentations, accounting, and communication can all be done remotely, the chief purpose of a workplace is moot—along with the various types of workspaces within it. Advancements in the cloud and the migration of enterprise services allows any workspace to become a home base.

6. A “best of both worlds” solution 

Coworking is largely about cost-savings for employers and flexibility for employees. These two advantages make it a natural solution to the need for flexible space, trumping even the most versatilely designed office.

It’s hard for any business to compete with the space-as-a-service model and coworking spaces. And why would they want to? Repurposing the second-largest expense on the balance sheet while leveraging an improved employee experience is often worth the transition to the coworking model.

Keep reading: The Benefits of Coworking.


Seven Features of Powerful Wayfinding Software

By Noam Livnat
Chief Product & Innovation Officer

Thinking of implementing digital wayfinding within your facilities? It’s a great way to help visitors and staff confidently navigate your campus. Before hanging digital signage or setting up kiosks, there’s an important choice to make: What wayfinding software is best?

When vetting wayfinding solutions, don’t simply browse price points. Start with basic features and capabilities, then narrow your search from there. You’ll be surprised at the wayfinding customization options available.

Benefits-driven software features

Wayfinding makes it easy to find a person or location. The software running on your digital signage and kiosks should be just as intuitive and adaptable as the information it provides. Here are six essential wayfinding software capabilities:

  1. Interactivity: Choose digital signage wayfinding software (read more on what is wayfinding software) with a front-end, experiential component. Displaying digital signage is convenient, but providing user interaction options ensures your wayfinding solution is truly helpful. Features like point-to-point navigation, pop-up directory information, and interactive maps let a user dictate their wayfinding experience and get the information they need.
  2. Mobile support: More than kiosks and screens throughout your facilities, make sure you’re picking interactive wayfinding software with mobile support. Whether it’s an app employees can download, QR codes they can scan, or kiosk-to-mobile SMS directions, mobile is a vital component of modern wayfinding. Offering visitors and employees mobile support gives them directions they can take on-the-go.
  3. Web support: Web support, like mobile, extends the reach of your wayfinding beyond physical installations. Make sure your software offers online hosting for maps and directories, as well as destination mapping. Someone coming to your facilities tomorrow can pre-plan their arrival today thanks to the web supported component of your wayfinding system. Web access is also great for providing a facility map on the company intranet site.
  4. Pushed updates: On the facilities side, the real convenience of a digital wayfinding system is how easy it is to manage and update. Look for software with pushed updates, so you can make changes easily. If employees change offices, the names of areas change, or your facilities grow, good software lets you make changes centrally and push them to all connected wayfinding devices and applications. This centralizes data, avoiding issues of outdated signage or incorrect maps.
  5. Dynamic positioning: Whether they use a mobile app, web app, or physical kiosk, people need to know where they are in relation to where they’re going. Dynamic positioning is the key. Good wayfinding software will capture the user’s location and display it on the map or when giving directions. It’s a better level of support than users trying to guess where they are.
  6. Point-to-point directions: Having an interactive facility map or open directory is great, but there’s still the struggle of getting from Point A to Point B. Point-to-point directions simplify this. Put in where you are and where you’re going to get concise directions on how to get there. Paired with dynamic positioning, it’s an even simpler process—just say where you need to go! Good wayfinding software can route a person based on a room, employee, or department.
  7. Back-end functionality: On the facilities side, choose easily branded and customizable software, so your wayfinding needs are personalized to your workplaces. Choose software with widespread integrations and, if possible, an open API for further customization. Automation capabilities are another big plus.

To be effective, wayfinding software needs to solve the problem of navigation with clear and present, easy-to-see signage. It should also offer web and mobile support, taking as many steps as possible out of providing directions. The effectiveness and convenience of wayfinding is directly rooted to the software you choose.

Support user-side and facility operations

In addition to the seven features listed above, ensure your wayfinding software offers users and managers easy-to-access and intuitive support.

For users, ease of use is essential. Kiosks and interactive signage should be intuitive and simple. Clearly label all features and options, and make sure graphics, icons, and fonts are easy to read. Wayfinding resources that are welcoming and accessible encourage employees and guests to use them.

For facilities managers, control and convenience are everything. Wayfinding should be as simple to manage and coordinate as it is to use. Whether pushing updates or integrating features, wayfinding software needs to fundamentally complement building management and operations.

Powerful wayfinding software puts experience first. It makes navigating and managing facilities easier and improves people’s interaction with the building. If done right, good wayfinding can better everything from visitor experience to employee convenience.

Keep reading: wayfinding best practices.


Photo by Jordan Ladikos on Unsplash