Breaking down workplace and asset management silos

According to our latest quarterly survey, employees generally visit the office during the mid-week. This fact of today’s workplace has financial and management implications across   teams using a range of different systems and processes.

What does the mid-week spike mean for your asset management, maintenance, and repair teams? Or your security and reception support for managing visitors? As more and more employees return to the office, how are they sharing space? What impact does that have on cleaning the facilities or on controlling building energy costs or managing inventory?

For maintenance teams today, workload ratios are working against them. The ideal ratio of preventive to corrective maintenance is roughly 4:1. But our Q2 data shows a ratio of 4:7.  It means that for every four work orders planned, maintenance is responding to more than seven break-fix or other ad hoc ticket requests.

The problem isn’t data. There’s no shortage of it. It’s being able to make good decisions from it quickly and easily – and automate rote, highly repeatable processes from the information. It’s being able to manage it all across connected workflows.  i.

Between 2020 and 2022, global enterprise data grew at a rate of 42% – a total of 2.02 petabytes, according to Statista. But it’s not the amount that’s surprising; it’s what people aren’t doing with the data.  Just over a third (32%) of all that data  is put to work.  Nearly 70% of enterprise data goes unused, according to IDC research.

Data tends to sit and live across more systems and in more siloes than you may need, often takes too long to process, and can miss the mark in helping justify decisions in today’s rapidly changing world of work.

“Companies of all sizes have been forced to dedicate resources to five, 10, or even 15 different workplace and facility management tools,” explained Brandon Holden, CEO of Eptura, earlier this year. “With reduced budgets and fewer resources, organizations need to shift toward unified platforms that replace individual solutions.”

It’s time to rethink work models and modes

What’s needed is a complete rethink of working models. Gone are the days when business properties were assessed by measuring cost per square foot, cost per use, and customer satisfaction scores in isolation. With today’s range of flexibility, hybrid work patterns, employers need to know how to measure the necessary balance between experience and efficiency, and flexibility and certainty.

“We need to get away from this idea of the binary day in the office versus the day at home,” says Leonie M. Hicks, Workplace Strategy Consultant, Unispace on our Workplace Innovator podcast. “If we could incorporate some more flexibility around the hours worked, I think this would be a way to earn the commute.”

Our 16,000+ customers are experimenting with different work modes and models, and are increasingly adopting integrated technology that connects data and measures how employees use the physical space. More and more facility managers and employees are taking advantage of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation to help reconfigure offices and other types of workspaces while improving the maintenance of physical assets and building operations.

Worktech is the bridge.

Data helps unlock technology and process siloes to find more balance

Data helps companies right-size their floorplans and real estate portfolio using space planning software to match demand while simultaneously managing the costs of building operations. But one size doesn’t fit all.

Our recent global poll as reported in the Q2 Workplace Index reflects how fragmented businesses are today:

  • 42%: Too much space
  • 30%: Need more information to understand
  • 28%: Not enough space

When data from facility management systems is integrated and harmonized with data from workplace systems, businesses can find the right balance between the function of a workplace and the operation of the building.

See all of our recent data. Get the Workplace Index report now.


Make data the asset that helps you better manage your assets

The days of the real estate footprint being a static asset are in the past. Real estate, facility managers, and building operations professionals today are treating data as an asset. Business leaders need to streamline costs, so it’s not surprising that real estate is a major area for finding savings. But how do business leaders optimize their buildings and workspaces so they’re attractive to employees but less of a burden on the bottom line?

“This idea of improving the efficiency and accuracy of asset management processes and most importantly, decision making, will help everything become clearer so that you can actually make proper decisions,” says Paul Doherty, President and CEO, Digit Group on our Asset Champion podcast.

For facility managers today, being able to shift the balance of maintenance activities from unscheduled to scheduled, organizations can optimize work around building occupancy activity. The right data in the right unified system can help with better manage the full lifecycle of assets – and the get the most life from assets as possible.

Focus on what you need to know and your stakeholders

To assess their spaces in terms of the value they add and the financial efficiency they deliver, employers need multi-layered data points. When faced with opposing demands, what is often missing from the boardroom discussion is effective data to give a clear picture of the success of workplace utilization.

A deeper understanding of employee behavior across all workspaces makes planning for maintenance more straightforward and makes it easier to accommodate flexible working hours and workloads for everyone. For example, if meeting room data shows most meetings tend to end before 4 pm on mid-week in-office days because of flexible work scheduling, maintenance crews can begin planned work earlier. Precise data that shows these kinds of patterns can help. Unify workplace and asset processes and functions with advanced worktech

Mapping data from facilities management onto data from the workplace is powerful. By doing so, businesses will be better able to find the right balance between how the workplace functions and how the buildings need to operate.

With sensors, for example, organizations can get a better understanding of employee behavior. This helps facility managers measure load times in different parts of the workplace. By gaining a deeper understanding of employee behavior, not only does planning become more straightforward, but it becomes easier to accommodate more flexible working hours for everyone.

With digital twins, organizations can model scenarios and situations based on real world conditions using real time data to better manage budgets and better plan for costs that are likely to happen.

Companies can now find a whole range of blind spots — allowing managers to explore, locate, interact with, and report on it all. Within the context of smart buildings and digitally connected commercial real estate portfolios, digital twins help optimize space planning and maintenance decisions faster and better.

Facility and asset leaders need to work closely with front of house leaders to combine data analysis and decision making

By aligning facility management with the same floorplans and utilization data that the workplace and HR teams are accessing, organizations can proactively pause access to floors and redirect desk and room bookings to other spaces to accelerate maintenance projects.

This will help companies efficiently manage their assets and real estate portfolio to match demand, while simultaneously ensuring they create a cost-effective experience to attract people into the office.

What data reveals about workplace freedom and workforce connection

As day-to-day work models have dramatically shifted, what kind of workplace experience are most employees having in 2023? We are examining this very closely.

For the first time, we’re offering insight into macro trends using our proprietary global data. With 16.3M users spanning 16,000+ customers, we’re able to pinpoint how the physical workspace operates end to end via data analysis. We can see information from asset maintenance and site inspections, to visitor management, and office floorplans for space planning across building and real estate portfolios.

Based on our research, we’ve identified a set of benchmark patterns. These patterns are organized around four consistently recurring workplace tensions observed within our customer base. But our insights are also qualitatively based on thousands of customer and industry conversations with facility managers and operations leaders, including those from our two podcasts – Workplace Innovator and Asset Champion.

One of the most pressing tensions for facilities managers to understand from our research is freedom vs. connection. What do we mean? It’s the tension between an individual employee’s desire to work how they want and the need for human connection with other employees.

Get the entire 2023 Workplace Index: Q1 report now.

Why does this matter to a facility manager or workplace strategist? Because it’s a challenge to plan, maintain, and optimize your buildings without accurate utilization metrics. Utilization means behavior. Behavior means people. And workplace behavior today has undergone huge social shifts – which now require more nuanced evaluation and collaboration between many different teams – HR, IT, maintenance teams, others – who are all dependent on reliable and accurate building and facility data.

Plus, 1-to-many space planning models, including the many flavors of hybrid work – have a different set of costs and benefits. And these relatively new, post-pandemic models are having a major effect on building and office moves, vendor management and contracts, ESG standards, regulatory compliance, and inventory management.

When these new models are managed well, they can save time and energy, and boost employee morale and productivity. If they are done poorly, they can shrink a department’s budget and leave an incomplete picture of the workplace.

Employee freedom of choice and the physical workspace

Today’s workplace experience is dynamic – and changing rapidly. The idea of employee freedom is not a brand-new concept, but it has experienced a rapid rate of adoption over the last few years as working from home became a necessity.

Today, business leaders and employees are testing the boundaries of workplace freedom. Leaders need and want engaged and productive employees. Autonomy with accountability deepens employee trust, finds Gallup researchers. Gallup tracks and publishes findings on the top workplaces as measured by employee engagement. The top companies have 18 engaged employees for every one actively disengaged employee.

Depending on what region of the world you work in, the experience of who is in the office and for how many days a week is wholly unique today. Per our research, all regions spanning Asia Pacific (APAC), Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) and Americas saw year over year increases in desk bookings from all of 2022 through the first quarter of 2023:

Year over year desk booking statistics

All regions, however, are not responding the same. Global desk booking data show office returns starting in APAC, then moving around the world. Customers in APAC countries are pushing to collaborate and drive innovation with in-office team cultures. European regions are fast followers with in-office attendance rising across multiple industries. And in the Americas, larger cities are leading the charge of in-office occupancy.

In similar vein, our year over year data shows a consistent rise in desk bookings by days of week – especially during the midweek days of Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Also, there’s been strong year over year expansion in meeting room bookings where we analyzed over 10 million individual meeting rooms in our platform:

  • APAC: 50%
  • EMEA: 84%
  • Americas: 46%

See all of the data charted in the full report.

The human need for social connection

Having a close teammate or friend at work is very important to team success, accountability, loyalty, and ultimately, profitability and employee retention. Gallup research has consistently shown since 2018 and through the pandemic that having a best friend at work increases all of these important productivity metrics.

Once meetings happen in person, our data shows increasingly greater populations of the workforce get back into the rhythm and ritual of going into the office. The effect? It attracts others into the office.

The Americas may appear to be trailing behind other regions with in-office attendance. But when the workforce is in, they are much more likely to be collaborating and booking meeting rooms rather than individual desks alone. This reinforces the mantra in the US that being on-site is the new off-site experience. It means team members are coming together to meet in the office to hold in-depth collaborative sessions.

From a vertical industry perspective, the software and technology industry experienced the biggest growth in collaborative room bookings, up 495% since January 2022 through Q1 2023 – with a large increase of over 100,000 bookings more between from February to March 2023.

The human need for social connection at work is vital to an organization’s culture. And the office provides a way to help us boost productivity – especially when systems in the office work well. Eptura survey research featured in our 2023 Predictions Report reinforces the value of being in an office a few days a week in the US:

  • 45% see the improved ability to meet with colleagues, clients, vendors
  • 36% believe coming into the office helps improves company culture
  • 35% say they look to the office for a productive, well-equipped environment
  • 32% feel coming to the office helps with work/life balance

Other data sources reinforce the value and desire for human connection at work. Microsoft’s “2022 Work Trend Index” report found strong interest for social connection:

  • 84% of employees would be motivated by the promise of socializing with co-workers
  • 85% would be motivated by rebuilding team bonds
  • 73% of employees would go to the office more frequently if they knew their direct team members would be there
  • 74% would go in if their work friends were there

The bottom line: We want to work and socialize together in person.

How to balance workplace freedom and social connection

How can workplace and facility leaders balance the freedom vs. connection tension? By creating a culture of transparency, trust, and accountability to individual and team performance.

Establish the value of being together in-person

There are many reasons people need and want to work together. A team is a diverse mix of personalities and work styles, so the best way to understand where everyone is at is to ask.

Use employee surveys to establish where your culture is at – and where it wants to be. So first, find out what your teams need when working together in person. And publish the data and responses on a regular cadence. The surveys will reveal what direction your policies should head.

Create flexible hybrid work policies with clarity and buy-in

One of the best ways to establish buy-in is to have department managers work with their teams to create the policies together. The goal is to encourage participation. This way, it’s clear because the team had input. Then, work with other departments on scheduling days.

To help balance out shared workspace and avoid every team being during the midweek mountain, some of our customers are using Mondays and Fridays as alternate days. Often, they are adding in a social component – an end of the week happy hour or early week team brainstorming session – so there’s emphasis on bonding.

Leverage worktech that reinforces freedom and connection to others

After establishing surveys and buy-in to policies, you will have agreement. But we all know that policies are not necessarily going to be strictly followed every week. Each employee will have specific needs, and as long as there is fairness in the approach and employees are performing well in their roles, flexibility and connection will become respected and balanced.

But to take transparency to the next level, it helps to make it easy to know each other’s plans.

With presence awareness –  you can leverage simple, easy to view and share scheduling and location data which will help all teams be able to plan and track how workspaces are being used. With this weekly data, you can optimize the short term and inform the future.

Stay tuned. We’re doing a series of blogs on all the tensions our research discovered, including workplace flexibility vs. certainty, value add vs. cost center, and C02 targets vs. costs.

Download the 2023 Workplace Index: Q1 report now.