Harnessing workplace data technology to identify trends and patterns in the workplace, forecast FTE and prepare for the increase in freelancers

Is your business collecting data on how your workforce uses space within the office, which teams are working together more frequently, how often people are at their desks and the occupancy of meeting rooms, silent pods or casual areas throughout the day? If the answer is no, then there’s a good chance you have an inaccurate understanding of how space is utilized across your office portfolio.

Every workplace monitors utilization in some way, either manually or through technology, and often, only at a moment in time to make a property decision.  But is that enough?

Access to live utilization data is the gateway for identifying trends and patterns across an organization and within the workplace. The power of data should never be underestimated, particularly in the workplace where, on average, 51% of desks go underutilized at any one time[i]; with this figure expected to grow as the nature of work continues to transform.  The organizations which are currently doing this well are achieving fantastic insights and overall results.

The benefits of understanding how space is used across your workplace/or by your workforce

Workplace data provides valuable insights into people, places and technology, all of which are important components of a healthy workplace.  With property typically the second largest expense for an organization, understanding how your people interact within the space provides powerful insights to drive intelligent property decisions.

You can’t manage what you can’t measure

Collecting real-time space utilization data provides the most accurate measurement and understanding of space. Marrying measurement of how often a space is being used, with management, against how the original space was designed to be used, is a critical element. A space management platform provides deep data-driven insights that are otherwise impossible to gain. From here, organizations can start making evidence-based improvements. Ongoing live and static data that is incessantly updated gives an understanding of workplace behaviors that improves productivity and workforce engagement.

We will now explore four areas that are playing a major part in utilization and future office demands.

Forecasting FTE & Freelancers

Forecasting FTE is a challenge that is going to increase year over year. According to research from PayPal, freelance work has increased significantly in recent years with 70% of Australian businesses using freelancers for more than two years and commissioning more than five per year.  With freelancers expected to rise, there’s never been a more important time to have visibility of the composition of an organization’s workplace and the amount of space or workstations available for use in times of growth and uncertainty.

Understanding and learning how to juggle and allocate space for part-timers and freelancers is a topic being raised more and more often by occupiers. In the very near future, freelancers and part-timers will require more visibility around the availability of space within the office to help them determine the best time of day to come into the office, whether the office is close to maximum capacity, if they need to book a desk in advance or move to an external flexible partner space. With organizations having access to live data and understanding space utilization, freelancers and part-timers will have an understanding prior to coming into the office of how and where they will work on any given day.

Determining core vs flex space

Understanding how space is used in the office will help to identify the required core space and flex space. Core space refers to space that is essential to your business; it has a long-term usage and is unlikely to vary dramatically.  Flex space refers to flexible space, meaning it can change in the short term based on the current business and workforce demands.

Understanding core space and flex space is particularly important for organizations which will be undertaking or considering an office move, expansion or contraction, as this allows senior management to make confident and accurate decisions on the Net Lettable Area (NLA) requirement, the workplace strategy and design of the next office.

By knowing the amount of core space required, an organization can consider alternative leasing models, such as using a flexible workspace operator, to maximize flexibility, minimize risk and accommodate for future growth or FTE reductions.


Sensors are the most powerful tool in the modern space manager’s arsenal when it comes to measuring space use. Sensors offer excellent value for money, provide an incredible depth of data and are highly accurate when compared to manual people counting.

Providers in the sensor market are emerging at a rapid pace. Data from sensors swiftly enable property teams to assess current issues or aid in their decisions on capacity, seat charge, potential change of work styles to activity-based working (ABW) or team-based working or, more commonly, churn management of an existing workforce.

Visual management tools, such as simple.space and Serraview, feed data from various sources (including beacons) to help workplaces visualize, manage and plan their work spaces, making the overall process significantly smoother and more accurate.  For a recent project, we compared a manual people counting study for to a visual management tool’s sensors and found the actual workplace occupancy rate was lower than the manual observation that the survey reported.

Meeting Rooms

Utilization statistics typically do not go far enough in measuring meaningful data in meeting rooms. Downloaded data from internal booking systems provide information on who has booked the space and potentially the number of attendees but fail to accurately capture whether the meeting commenced and how many attendees were present.

I recently met with a company that is tracking not just the actual number of attendees in a meeting room but also the percentage probability of not getting a room when you need one. This company’s algorithm informs corporate real estate, workplace strategy and design with evidence-based data that influences refurbishment or new build works.

Data Aggregation

Aggregation of data will become the focus for many organizations in the next few years. There are multiple systems and providers collating data through sensors, lockers, access control, space management, car-parking, end of trip facilities, meeting rooms, collaborative and event spaces.

The challenge to these providers now is how they integrate with other systems to truly capture all the data sets required.  There is currently not any one company that has brought all of this together, providing a holistic view on all data points and most importantly, aggregating and analyzing the data into meaningful and tangible recommendations.

So, when thinking about your workplace and how space is utilized by your workforce, the number one question that needs to be asked is ‘What questions are you really wanting or needing answers to and why?’.

If you are interested in gaining a better understanding of how collecting and tracking data would benefit your organization and the tools best suited to your workplace, please feel free to get in touch.

[i] Serraview https://serraview.com/solutions/

The Head of Workplace Management Services in Australia, James Armstrong has an extensive background in workplace and hospitality and is a market leader in providing service-orientated advice and management outsourcing to occupiers and landlords globally.