Understanding the Impact of Workplace Data & Technologies: Is there an open seating crisis?


Series Intro

Ubiquitous connectivity, higher computational power of mobile devices, better headsets and more reliable soft clients have changed the way workers collaborate and accomplish their daily tasks. Their activities are increasingly independent from a physical desk, and often go far beyond the boundaries of a physical office.

As a consequence of these evolving workflows, Facility Managers (or Real Estate Managers – we will use the terms Facility and Real Estate interchangeably) are transforming the office space layout from static cubicles to large open spaces, sometimes embracing the so-called Activity Based Work (ABW), whereby the office offers a mix of locations designed to support specific activities, e.g.: Huddle Spaces, Huddle Rooms, Audio Privacy Rooms, etc.

With Real Estate being the second highest organizational cost after wages, in a modern fluid environment, it is crucial for Facility Managers to have the right tools and underlying data to optimize the trade-off between facility cost and productivity of the workforce.

In this series, Understanding the Impact of Workplace Data & Technologies, we will focus on End Users and most importantly on Real Estate stakeholders, describing the remarkable value specific data points and technologies are able to generate for them.

Is there an open seating crisis?

A person sitting on a table

Description automatically generated

Remote work became critical and ubiquitous this year and its adoption boost will likely result in more companies sticking to work from home policies after the offices will reopen. Instead, open seating desks are much more controversial. On the one hand, there are health-related concerns due to multiple people sharing the same space over time; on the other hand, there is a remarkable savings potential to be realized in terms of space reduction, which would free up funds to be potentially used to deal with the above concerns. E.g., thorough space cleaning in-between temporary occupancies.

According to a considerable amount of case studies performed in the recent years, companies that have experimented a combination of unassigned desks and remote work on a subset of their workforce and spaces – Cisco being one of them – have been able to reduce the related facility cost by, at least, 30%.

For sure, this year’s sudden boost of remote work will slow down or procrastinate the adoption of open seating; however, the amount of potential gain from its implementation will likely not to invert the increasing trend of people working everywhere in unassigned purpose-driven spaces.

The real obstacle is the cost of data collection

Two people using a computer

Description automatically generated

There is a very significant fact to consider: even before the 2020 lockdown, very few organizations have been able to deploy workplace policies and solutions at scale due to several challenges that prevent to collect the accurate and comprehensive occupancy data needed to make impactful space-related decisions and capture the notorious 30% savings.

Let’s say you implement open seating in your existing open space; in addition, you also allow people to work remotely, as needed. Now:

  • How much can you reduce the open space without affecting productivity?
  • How many additional people are you able to assign to the open space without generating resource conflicts? E.g.: employees can’t find a free desk.

It doesn’t matter what policy you implement; finding the ideal trade-off between facility cost and employee productivity requires knowing how the spaces are utilized, which means tracking detailed accurate occupancy across nearly 100% of the spaces to be optimized.

From this perspective, the real enemy is not the lockdown, whose nature is transitory, but common idiosyncrasies across industries and, most importantly, technology solutions that are not designed to scale economically. Learn how Cisco’s integrated approach may help your company transition towards a more efficient workplace.

So, where will you work in the short term?

You will work more from home and, over time, it will be increasingly likely you won’t have a desk with your name tag.

Stay tuned! In the next post of this series, we will drill down into the negative forces that prevent Real Estate stakeholders to achieve space optimization.

#analytics #modern_workspace #remote_work


  1. Tammy says:

    great insights!

Leave a comment

Are you ready for the Future of Work?
Explore how Cisco Webex can help you transform your workplace.

Learn more