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The Value of Room Occupancy

modern workspace Workspace data and technology

In the second article of the series, Chasing the Value of Desk Occupancy, we learned that the cost and complexity of current workplace management solutions prevent Real Estate stakeholders from deploying desk occupancy detection at scale. It forces them to manually create inaccurate occupancy, snapshots every time they need to make a space-related solution.

In this article, we will explore the value of tracking room occupancy; a metric needed to complement desk occupancy and optimize the entire workspace layout.

Determining the Right Room Mix

First, let’s focus on the Facility Manager persona and the type of relevant questions he/she is trying to answer, for instance:

  • To what extent is a certain room utilized?
    • How does the room A occupancy trend look like throughout the day/week/month/year?
    • How many people are typically in room A at the same time?
    • Is the average amount of people in room A lower, equal, or higher than its maximum capacity?
    • Does room A ever peak over capacity?
    • What teams or groups use Room A?
    • Is room A really needed?
  • Is there a better layout we could implement?
    • Can we split room A into 2 or more smaller rooms?
    • Can we merge room A and B into a larger room?
    • Do we need more rooms? If yes, what kinds?
    • Can we sacrifice existing desks in favor of more rooms?
    • Can we eliminate room A and repurpose the space for 3 additional desks?

All the above questions may be summarized as “what constitutes the optimal room mix?”; intuitively, the answer carries a strong potential for an efficiency increase, both in terms of space reduction and/or higher productivity.

With the transition to Activity Based Working [link], the traditional archetypes of Board Room and Conference Room are not sufficient to guarantee adequate workforce productivity levels. Hence, the industry is experiencing a growing adoption of several smaller purpose-built spaces such as Huddle Rooms, Board Rooms, Conference Rooms, Audio Privacy Rooms, etc., designed to compensate the lack of privacy caused by the open space layout.

In a modern dynamic office, determining the optimal room mix requires a deep knowledge of the worker’s needs, along with an accurate mapping of the office workflows. In other words, you need to know the mix of activities the workers are likely to carry out across the spaces, which is a function of the type of business, culture, habits, available technologies, roles and more.

The Low Hanging Fruit Grows in the Room

So, in order to determine the right room mix, Real Estate needs data points that go beyond the mere occupancy or people count: they need data on how the rooms are utilized. The good news is, often, relevant insights may be extracted from the room telemetry that IT already collects through the existing technology, making the room the best playground to start collaborating on a workspace optimization solution.

Why is the room the best chance for Real Estate to start optimizing the office spaces?

  • IT investments are focusing on shared rooms

With the diffusion of collaboration soft clients and open office layouts, IT investments in collaboration hardware have been shifting from the desk to the higher number of smaller shared spaces, allowing Facility needs to be fulfilled by piggybacking on IT’s already approved budget.

  • More budget means better tech

Usually, rooms are equipped with premium collaboration technology, often connected to a back-end capable of collecting telemetry and feeding it to applications. Common Real Estate use cases may be supported without the need for implementing new expensive architectures.

  • Better tech means more accuracy

A bigger budget allows us to purchase more powerful devices able to provide rich and highly accurate data. There is remarkable value in simply knowing whether a room is occupied or not; however, advanced capabilities such as counting people and knowing their identities, lead to a more precise optimization outcome.

  • Less IT cost

There is more or less one room every twenty desks, which means IT would roughly sustain 1/20 of the effort to manage a room solution at scale, compared to a desk one. Furthermore, IT is already managing all rooms with their related technologies, making the support of a Real Estate room solution a sustainable marginal cost.

  • Rooms have walls

Beyond stating the obvious lies a range of detection technologies that work particularly well within walls, for instance, the user authentication via Cisco Webex Proximity [link] or the occupancy detection via Ultrasonic Doppler Shift [link]. Some of these technologies are evolving to deliver value in the open office plan, however, their availability is currently limited to the rooms.

Although tracking desk vacancy at scale would allow Real Estate to optimize the highest amount of space, the complexity of the current solutions hinders the ability to seize the opportunity. The value of room occupancy, complemented by usage insights, consists of allowing Real Estate to immediately capture considerable efficiencies and create the conditions to eventually expand the overall workplace solution towards the rest of the spaces.

Stay tuned for the next article, where we will discuss the combined value of multiple kinds of occupancies and extend our framework to include all office spaces.

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