Making Smart Decisions: Data’s Role in Your Office Move

Christina Clark, managing principal of Cresa's Global Portfolio Solutions group, explores the power of data when making smart real estate decisions. In the article, Christina explores the multiple approaches to collecting data that is valuable to making real estate decisions from staff occupancy to commuter insights.

Remember when your Mom said: do your research, know the facts, make a pro-con list, weigh your options before making a big decision? Whether we agreed or not, she was right then and the same holds true now for real estate decisions. While a data-driven decision might lack the thrill of instant gratification, time and time again they prove to lead to the best long-term decisions for your company’s culture and economics.

Is your company contemplating an office move or an update to your existing space? If so, like many executives, you may find yourself inundated with news stories highlighting the latest in office trends, on-site amenities, and employee perks. The effect of the physical workspace on a company’s culture is well documented, but in what and where should you invest?

The greatest perk you can give your employees is a thoughtfully designed workspace that enhances their overall office experience. While this may not happen overnight, it can be achieved by asking the right questions and relying on data from facts gathered methodically and reliably to provide the answers.

Data: The Benefits

When considering office relocation, it is critical to consider how a move would affect employee commute time, transportation options, proximity to clients and competitors. Begin by reviewing where employees reside with a zip code analysis and then map their typical commute pattern, mode, and timing. This aggregated data will clearly define the parameters of your new office locations – without the inherent personal bias of the leadership or deference to the loudest person on the team.

Or maybe you’re wondering how well your existing space is being utilized? Anecdotally, an office lead will often say the team (or an employee) is in the office daily, utilizing their individual desks, and in need of more conference rooms. They mean well, however, their interpretation isn’t always reflective of the facts. Recently, we tracked utilization in an office for a client. Assuming a 1:1 ratio of desks to employees, 96 of their 99 workstations were occupied, suggesting the office would soon be at capacity. But before pursuing additional space, the company – with the support of its employees – tracked badge data and was able to determine how often the existing space was being utilized. To their surprise, the data showed that many employees worked remotely throughout the week – leaving desk utilization at only a 33 percent! Had the company not taken a data-driven approach to their decision-making, they may have opted to expand – thereby increasing their spend – rather than finding a smaller, more suitable space.

Both of these examples speak to data’s primary contribution: eliminating personal bias and presumption from your real estate process. Making decisions based on facts will illuminate a workplace strategy that is truly reflective of your company’s needs.

Capturing the Right Data

Data is only valuable when it empowers you to make decisions. Of course, this also means it needs to be accurate. There are many methods for gathering workplace utilization and it is important to select the method that will produce meaningful data for your company. Employee movement and space utilization can be measured using opt-in phone apps, sensors placed underneath desk chairs, badges used for entry and exit from the office, or through IP addresses. There are pros and cons, various expenses, and regulations to consider for each method.

To ensure your employees are on board, leadership should be transparent about what it is doing and its intentions. Typically, even if downsizing, an inclusive process with the employees’ participation results in a better work environment and the on-site amenities they selected.

But What About the Bottom Line?

Collecting this data requires an initial investment of time and money, but long-term it will provide you with better information towards making an informed decision. Data ultimately prevents your company from spending unnecessarily – advising you to scrap the proposed expansion or move across town. It can also inform creative workplace solutions such as what type of amenity space do you need or is hot-desking a possibility. With real estate typically consuming the second highest line item on a corporate balance sheet, spending a nominal amount to collect and analyze this data can help prevent costly errors in real estate strategy and delivery.

In an era of specialization, office design is no exception. Every company has a distinct culture that is best supported by their own unique office layout. Determining the right space for your company requires a thorough understanding of your goals as an organization and the habits and preferences of your workforce. Data can help you do just that.

This article was originally featured on HRTechnologist. Read the article here.