If You Upgrade it, They Will Come- Myth or Fact?
It's a common misconception that upgrading office hardware alone will magically boost occupancy rates and employee performance. While investing in good hardware is undoubtedly valuable, its impact on performance and experience hinges on how well it aligns with the way people work.
In our recent study of hybrid readiness, within companies aiming to optimize occupancy, a recurring pattern emerged – many had implemented new technologies, but few had coupled that action with engaging employee knowledge and change management processes.
There's an evident gap here.
Consider this, if your company has invested in cutting edge technology or a new platform, will you see the full benefit if the product doesn’t align with your employees' actual needs? Can you be sure you’ve applied the new products in locations that give people the functionality they need and want, without soliciting their input?
Impactful Investment or Dust Collector
Simply because the technology can do the job or is popular doesn't guarantee user-friendliness or employees' willingness to adapt to it.
As an example, we worked with a major client who had an expensive system gathering dust in a corner of a meeting room while staff used their own laptops for meetings. Without prompting, they indicated that they hadn’t received proper training on how to use it and it was “all too complicated.”
Many organizations budget and select technology solutions through their IT department. When the decision-making process does not include employee insights, the selected products might be state of the art- but often miss the mark when it comes to employee buy-in and workplace experience.
Human-Centered Technology Selection
A human-centered approach to workplace design, especially technology integration, can be a top contributor to employee occupancy and space usage. We’ve found the tools which enable productivity are intuitive to use, familiar, and create a frictionless experience across locations.
If employees have been trained on a product but are still not using it as intended, a human-centered approach to change management finds the root barrier to acceptance and supports employees with the necessary tools to integrate new skills.
Workplace Enhancing Apps and Platforms
Implementing seamless booking or workplace experience applications can enable individuals to locate their spaces and amenities with ease, significantly alleviating stress upon arrival.
Silos often exist in workplace and productivity technology purchasing decisions.
As workplace experience tools are often budgeted through different teams (ie: Facilities and People) we are seeing that employees are bombarded with a plethora of apps that serve a single focus. When departments are in communication, employees benefit from holistic applications that understand the intersection of functional and social needs.
In addition to engaging with your employees, by involving your People team in this selection process, you can incorporate more workplace experience pillars within one product, which enhances employee experience and facilities management.
Why the Approach Matters
Forcing technological solutions on employees won’t build company loyalty or make employees feel good at work- in fact just the opposite. We’ve found that hard to use or poorly designed technology is a leading cause of workplace stress.
The bottom line: It’s all about the people! Including employees in the decision-making process leads to better technology investments. Engagement is typically carried out through interviews and workshops, to decern the functional needs, the locations, and the products that are truly needed. This process weeds out the products that sound good on paper, but don't align with how people actually do their jobs.
Insisting that people to power through, adapting to something that makes their lives worse without considering how their jobs are actually done, is a waste of energy.
You may feel hesitant to include employees in the decision-making process, as we covered in our article, Myths of Engagement. By defining the scope of the conversation, you can gain a tremendous amount of insight into employee’s technology needs and move the needle on performance, without opening a can of worms.
Creating a Positive Technology Experience
Technology integration is more than product selection & installation. When done correctly- technology has the power to draw people back into the office. For example, we’ll hear employees say, “I love my monitor at work, so I prefer to do this task at the office” or “Meetings are better in the office.”
Here are some important components of successful workplace technology projects:
1) Employee Engagement: Understand the needs of different roles, how they use technology, and where and how they hold meetings.
2) Change Management: Take employees on a journey to adoption to ensure the systems are approachable for employees without the need for constant IT support.
3) Hybrid Meeting & Collaboration Effectiveness: Integrate meeting technology with the design of the furniture to enhance hybrid meetings. Consider the culture of meeting style within your organization, for example placing whiteboards, monitors, and cameras in the spots that support effective communication and collaboration.
Workplace consultants play a pivotal role in helping organizations uncover their technology needs and integrations, ensuring confident procurements and smooth employee adaptation. Ultimately, a human-centered approach to technology integration can transform your workplace into a hub of productivity and satisfaction.
In an age where data is more available than ever, measuring does not guarantee understanding.
The path from measuring workplace usage to implementing a successful flexible or hybrid workplace is not a straight line. Whereas companies may have relied on badge swipe or occupancy sensor data to influence traditional office designs, human-centered and dynamic working spaces benefit from qualitative data. Data from technology that senses occupancy can provide evidence to support the needs of your workplace most effectively when the sensing devices are placed strategically, and the data is used in combination with qualitative business intelligence captured through employee engagement.
Many organizations have made investments in technology that senses occupancy and utilization to measure how spaces are being accessed in the workplace. These small devices are placed in locations within the office, from conference rooms and open work settings to individual desks. Sensing devices collect information which is then synthesized into proprietary dashboards allowing companies to see utilization patterns and occupancy rates of the monitored spaces. Data collated from sensor technology can be used to clarify actual use patterns from intended and anecdotal use patterns.
If you are unsure of how to get the most out of your sensor data, you are not alone. Linear methods of analyzing data create an incomplete view when forecasting future needs of flexible workplaces. Many of our clients are unsure of how to interpret and apply their data to hybrid workplaces. When paired with behavioral context from employee engagement activities, we get holistic information that can more accurately inform both the workplace and real estate strategy.
Contextualizing sensor data with qualitative business intelligence gained through interviews, engagement, and collaboration mapping provides a robust view of space usage. Engaging with occupiers allows you to understand what might be missing from their workplace or work settings that need to be replaced. Hidden impacts like technology mismatches, perceived lack of permission, or expected behaviors can surface during these interactions. Engagement reveals factors enabling employees to work better and provides an opportunity for employees to share insights on improvements to business processes and key adjacencies.
For example, with “frequency of use” sensors, you might see your 10-person meeting rooms are popular, which alone might mislead you into thinking you need more rooms of this size and configuration. With “quantifying sensors” you might find that these rooms are most frequently used by groups of three.
Layering on employee engagement, you might learn that those groups of three choose the larger conference room because they carry a lot of bags with them to the office. With this knowledge, we know more about beneficial conference room sizes, and we’ve identified a need for personal storage that has avoided a costly mistake.
Learning from employees regardless of their current utilization provides a more accurate view of future occupancy.
Workplace sensor technology is only able to track the usage of your office by employees who are choosing or mandated to be there. For the employees who are not currently using the office, the data will not show who would come in if the space had a design that better suit their needs. Gaining insights from these employees can also draw out ideas for policies that might support their office participation. When combined with employee engagement, sensor data can shed light on behaviors and needs of different departments, inclusive of people who are not using the space regularly.
Here are three strategic ways to use sensors and subsequent data on your projects.
PILOT PROJECTS | Workplace sensing technology can be a present observer, creating a view into how people are interacting with your pilot(s). This is especially beneficial when experimenting with new work settings, as it gives an indication of employee preference and can identify where undesirable usage behaviors emerge. Providing evidence of usage within your pilot can inform tweaks and corrections to be made prior to a roll out of solutions across the company.
OCCUPANCY WITHIN ROOMS | Some types of sensor technology can quantify how many people are accessing a space, allowing you to collect the size of user groups and discover new use cases. With this level of specificity, a solo pacer in your training room will register differently than group collaboration, which might otherwise have created a misleading data point.
CHANGES IN OCCUPANCY | Monitoring usage styles and occupancy trends during periods of time can forecast spatial needs and inform workplace experience. Periods of time can include days of the week, business cycles, employee engagement campaigns, trainings, and meetings. This is particularly useful if part of your challenge is to optimize occupancy and potentially rationalize real estate. As an example, changes in occupancy revealing peak days during the week can be identified and resolved using Team Agreements (agreed working arrangements).
Below are some steps for designing your sensing project:
Begin with a question, ie: Based on research, what types of collaboration spaces will be the most desirable?
Select the type of device that will provide the information you seek, ie: Access, Quantifying, Heat Mapping, etc..
Identify sensor placements based on your question, ie: Conference Rooms, Desks, Pilot Areas
Ensure the provided dashboard collates the information in a meaningful way. If not, work with the manufacturer to customize the dashboard or design your own template for synthesizing the raw data.
Engage with employees to understand and contextualize the findings and initial hypotheses.
Putting it Together
Workplace sensing technology is becoming a growing part of facilities management. By providing evidence of the spaces that are being accessed we can bypass information that might reflect intended usage patterns. Workplace sensing technology is most effective when combined with qualitative employee insights.
Overlaying and translating data sources can be performed by workplace consultants. These specialists can support you in placing your sensing devices strategically and creating a context for the information through exercises to engage your workforce.
Workplace consultants guide clients in utilizing their existing data, making recommendations on new ways to collect, model, and view information. With their deep understanding of your data, they turn insights into a workplace strategy that ensures the future relevance of the office.
Intentional usage of measurement tools such as occupancy sensing technology combined with engagement activities ensure the generated data is relevant to the questions and needs of your organization.
Strongly agree, slightly agree, or subtly agree?
Engaging with employees has gotten a bad rap. The usual mix of pulse surveys, chair fairs, and off-the-cuff comments from the squeakiest wheel can make us wonder if there is any value in engaging employees in workplace projects.
Insights from employee knowledge are foundational to developing a workplace strategy and ultimately a final design that is attuned to the employees' and company's goals. Still, we hear a lot of hesitation about "opening pandora’s box" by soliciting employee opinions. An overload of chaotic information doesn't need to be your reality.
With an effective structure, knowledge shared by employees can be synthesized into a valuable resource of insight and information specific to your company. The outcome of successful engagement can enhance acceptance of change initiatives and forecast the most impactful workplace investments.
If you’re saying it’s too early to involve your people- you have likely waited too long.
Here are the top myths about engaging employees in workplace projects:
Myth 1 | It creates unattainable expectations.
“If I engage them, they’ll expect something I can’t give them.”
“People will be frustrated if their suggestion isn’t selected.”
Engagement Reality - The themes discussed should align with the scope and desired outcomes of the project. This is not a free for all or a time to make selections.
Myth 2 | Surface level input is sufficient.
“I’ll wait and engage employees in picking finishes and selecting task chairs.”
“If we can’t really cater to their needs, what’s the point of asking for additional input.”
Engagement Reality - Employees are likely to be more emotional about surface level input when their core needs have not been met or asked for.
Myth 3 | Too many individual needs will surface.
“There are too many opinions, I can’t accommodate every voice we’d have a million different projects.”
“I don’t want to open a can of worms!”
Engagement Reality - Input from employee engagement is sorted into trends and themes uncovering deeper needs and information that will benefit the organization and employees. Employees benefit from being able to share meaningful information productively in a structured environment.
Myth 4 | The project will be slowed down or blocked.
“Engaging employees will slow down the process- needing to find time to meet and get approval from everyone.”
“I know what their feedback will be, and it’s crazy, it doesn’t feel worth my time.”
Engagement Reality - Engagement processes can be run quickly at scale in an organization. The goal is not approval but to be informed. The process should make decisions easier, more effective, and reduce buy-in delays.
Myth 5 | The project should be well defined before employees are engaged.
“I’m just getting the project underway- I’m not ready to engage anyone.”
"The project is two years' out."
Engagement Reality - Information from employees through structured early engagement is critical to defining a project. Engaging too late creates some of the challenges stated in the myths above.
Let’s be clear, engagement is not a free for all.
Connecting with your employees in preparation for workplace projects should be focused and structured to align with the desired outcomes. As an example, high performance workplace projects contain a selection of questions around likes, dislikes, and "less and more" of what they have already. Questions of this nature provide a framework to collect tangible information while leaving opportunities for facilitators to take in the "between the lines" commentary that is often just as informative.
Engagement processes can include workshops, interviews, and analytic platforms. The information gained will provide opportunities to discover more about employees' roles, activities, and interactions, as well as the types of work settings that will be most supportive. In this way, the guide rails of information sharing prevent overwhelm and unattainable employee expectations.
Workplace specialists can support your company in a methodical process that quickly gains information from across the organization. Engagement processes can be targeted around key information, providing guidance to identify and implement the right projects to support your business in long term success.
Communicating and learning from your employees has the power to help your company be a place that people want to be- a place you want to be.