Increase office space efficiency with IoT

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Did you know that it costs between $4,000 – $14,000 per year for a workspace for one employee? For a small company of only 100 workers, you’re looking at over a million dollars. For companies with employees in the thousands or hundreds of thousands, that number quickly turns into hundreds of millions, if not billions. This cost covers items such as rent, utilities, desks, tax, insurance, phone services, coffee and snacks, cleaning services, etc. However, despite all of this space – 12 billion feet just in the U.S. – and the costs associated with it, nearly 50% of it sits unoccupied or under-utilized for the majority of the day.

Think about your own office space. Are there days where you look around and wonder where everybody is? How much time do you actually spend sitting at your desk? Are you constantly bouncing around from meeting rooms to off-site client meetings to working from home – to enable better productivity and flexibility? We no longer live in a world where we sit at our desks from 9-5 and how we manage the space in our buildings should be just as agile and flexible.

Influences of a Mobile Workforce

The workforce is becoming increasingly mobile due to advances in technology that enable features like virtual meetings, mobile workspace and increased collaboration. Applications such as Slack, Box & Google Docs have revolutionized team communication and collaboration, removing the need for everyone to be in a room together – or even in the same time zone.

This level of mobility and flexibility is becoming expected, especially for the millennial workforce who grew up untethered and know that they can be just as productive (if not more so) working from a coffee shop or their home office (i.e. their couch) as they can from a desk in their office. However, when they do come into the office, there is a certain expectation that there is an array of options available for their work needs and personal working style.

Some people thrive in chaos and have no problem focusing intently on a project at their desk despite continuous interruptions from colleagues, while others need to find a quiet space to channel their concentration. Having their own desk space is still important but so is having access to a conference room or quiet corner when the need arises. There’s nothing more annoying than trying to book a meeting room through your calendar system, having it show no open rooms, and then walking around and seeing a bunch of empty rooms because people did not bother to cancel or update their reservation.

Challenges for Space Planners

Despite these challenges, most would think there must be an easy way to optimize the space available. Up to this point, there really hasn’t been. Space planners are working on limited information and do not have the resources available to understand how a space is being used or if a space is being used regularly. They know if a desk has been assigned to an individual but not if that person actually comes into the office on a regular basis to use it. They must rely on anecdotal feedback to understand if or when to re-assign that space. For example, if Johnny gets assigned Seat A but only comes into the office once per week, the only way the planner knows this is if it is reported to them in some fashion. If Mary joins the company a few months later and plans to come into the office every day, they may not be aware that Johnny’s seat is essentially up for grabs and Mary will get stuck in the broom closet until a seat officially becomes available. It becomes a messy process based on limited information.

Alternatively, if there is too much space and planners feel there is a need to reduce their space, it is challenging for them to make the case to the business leader without any solid proof points. It’s easy to refute the statement “I’ve noticed we have quite a bit of unused space this month”, but not quite as easy to ignore a proof point like “Based on data collected over the last 30 days, only 25% of employees come into the office more than 3 days per week, and at any given time, we have at least 50 open desks and 10 unused conference rooms. We should consider eliminating one floor of space.” Or vice versa “80% of our employees are coming in 4 or more days per week and we estimated that number would be closer to 50% so we need to consider adding more space.” This is a general example, but you get the point. Data speaks more powerfully than observations.

It’s time to Sense, Analyze & Act

So what can be done to enable space planners and business leaders to have the proof points required to make informed decisions about their spaces? Watson IoT provides a three-pronged solution: Sense, Analyze & Act.

Sense: Using IoT sensors, we can sense the real-time interaction with a person to a location. As people are coming in and out of a building, onto floors, or using conference rooms, these sensors can track their activity.

Analyze: Advanced analytics provide a cognitive learning experience to look at this vast IoT data coming into the buildings and be able to provide actionable insights to the workers that need to interact with these locations.

Act: Providing actionable insights to space planners enables them to make informed decisions on space utilization.

Figure 1. Watson IoT Space Utilization Framework

Figure 1. Watson IoT Space Utilization Framework

Make the most of your space

To further understand how Watson IoT can help you understand and improve your space utilization, check out this on-demand webinar, Using IoT to Understand Space Utilization. You’ll get an in-depth view into how Watson IoT data from your buildings, lighting, employees, and even restrooms comes together with external data to provide actionable insights to help improve utilization, cut costs, and increase employee productivity.

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