By Jeff Revoy
Chief Operations Officer & Co-Founder
When we consider an office, we traditionally think of it as a physical space: a building or floor in one and the tables, chairs, filing cabinets, and other furniture that fills the space; an office is an entirely physical entity rather than an interactive space. But with the popularity of space-management businesses like WeWork rising, the idea of the traditional corporate office is shifting away from real estate and facilities toward agility and experience.
So too has the department responsible for workspace management changed. Whereas in the past a facilities manager focused on the tangible items, now IT and human resource departments are involved in how space is serving a company and it’s workforce. Facilities managers will continue to manage all of the physical aspects in an office, while IT team members will build systems that keep all your company’s office-related data in one place and the human resource team monitors the data to better understand employee satisfaction.
When we talk about an office being agile and experiential, what we’re really talking about is the needs of your workforce. No two employees are the same, nor is one person the same on Monday as they are on Tuesday. Each day and each person poses new challenges for which a business must be equipped. This might include the option to work remotely or in a satellite office; it may also include a choice between a standing or sitting desk, couch or quiet room.
Be a Little Needy
Catering to every employee’s individual needs is can seem exceedingly difficult and cost prohibitive—unless you have the data and technology to make it happen (learn more on what is CAFM). The reason WeWork is such a popular place for individuals to work is their effective use of data and technology to create a fun, compelling experience. Every aspect of a person’s experience in their facilities is managed through an app; the experience begins when the individual enters WeWork, signaling that their membership is active that day. It continues on to track what desks and conference spaces are popular among particular people or businesses, their frequency of use in both number of days and times of day, and how frequently they move between the different WeWork locations around the world.
It may feel invasive, knowing when and where an individual is sitting and how often, but this data allows companies using similar space-as-service (SaaS) models to improve experiences of their users. But first, users need to feel empowered to make their own decisions.
The User as Master
It’s a difficult and awkward process for an employee to express their workspace needs—most people do not want to be perceived as the difficult employee. But not having what you need to work effectively and, better yet, not knowing how to get what you need can sow dissatisfaction. This is why apps like the one used by WeWork is important for a person to curate their own work experience.
The success of the “WeWork” experience is driving many enterprises to prioritize delivering the same central but agile experience in their own corporate offices.
Whether you work in a co-working space or in your company’s own office, employees have a strong desire to move around, find a conference room, or just huddle with fellow employees. However, the ability to find an open desk or conference room does not easily exist. Companies like Teem, SpaceIQ, and Robin are providing software and employee apps that put this capabilities into employees hands. You can reserve a space for yourself in the moment or in advance, searching your screen for that day’s prime real estate, or identify a free huddle room. This not only helps you have the best experience but it let’s your coworkers know where to contact you for assistance on a project. It also provides a central place for feedback and functional requests, such as replacing a lightbulb.
Data is King (or Queen)
How your users navigate your technology and space is important, but you need to do something with this data. The back end of these systems is crucial for facilities, human resources, and IT departments. It not only tells you how individuals are doing, but the company and space as a whole.
Because real estate and office spaces are looked at as expense heavy, unavoidable resources, the data gathered from a SaaS managed workplace management platform allows you to get more from your investment—or determine what must change. The data users are providing gives you a picture of how frequently (or not) parts of the office are being used, and when. Whereas in the past, businesses may rent out (or let sit vacant) unused space, now they can transform it.
If the data shows that members of the marketing team prefer to work at communal tables or hold a lunchtime meeting every day, you can create more communal space to guarantee their satisfaction daily. Data might tell you about an overlooked design flaw, like putting a reading nook near the office’s entrance, leading to a distracting and, therefore, under-utilized area. It also gives you a sense of how many of your employees like to work in a particular location (within the office or within a city). This will drive your future real estate decisions if you analyze the data.
The human resources team may see a pattern in employees that need to be addressed or encouraged. Performance issues may arise based on where and how an employee is working; even the smallest details, like using a standing desk regularly, can help managers understand their teams better.
Evolution Never Ends
The modern workplace will never stagnate, nor do we suspect it’ll return to cubicles and corner offices. As much as individuals enjoy variety in their careers, moving between jobs faster than any other generation, they also enjoy variety in their work day. It is up to employers to make these options available for their teams—and learn from each user’s experience.
Keep reading: WeWork office design concepts are mainstream hits!