The Data Debate: Is Your Space Working For You?

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I often get asked the question: How do we know if our space is working? How do we know if our space is too large or too small?  How do we know if we have enough "we" spaces for team collaboration versus "I" spaces for focus and individual work?

Why does space matter?

We all know that employees are our #1 expense, with overhead #2. So how do we maximize our real estate investment while keeping employees engaged and achieving our business objectives? How do we know for sure that something is the right solution?

For Business Furniture and Choreo, data has been critical in helping our clients understand the gaps that may exist in their workplaces... gaps that impact the company’s overall business strategy. Data informs us how space is working for you and perhaps - more importantly - how it isn’t.

We recognize that a collection of data points is necessary to tell the true story. Focus groups and survey data of employees is important, but we’ve learned that many employees have an inaccurate sense of reality of their workspace usage and tend to overestimate the time they spend in their individual space. Observation of the use of space - private versus collaborative, time of day, etc. - helps to balance subjective and objective data and to paint a clearer picture of how your space is working for you.

A new tool from Steelcase, Workplace Advisor provides reliable, real-time data into space utilization. Discreet sensors detect where, when, and how long people use spaces - helping audit existing use and inform future planning.

About a month ago, we put Steelcase’s Workplace Advisor to work for us in the Indianapolis Business Furniture space. And the output thus far has been fascinating in a lot of ways. The data challenges assumptions on conference room usage, for example, while supporting ideas about how often other spaces are utilized. The data paints a clear picture. It helps us evolve our space into one that empowers our people to do their best work.

Doing all the data collection helps build a complete strategy around what types of spaces are truly effective. It helps us to right-size your spaces and fine-tune your whole plan. Data helps us uncover emerging trends in our workplaces sooner. It gives us certainty.

Imagine being able to make a decision with clarity, while having the ability to take the risk out of making decisions about your space?

When it comes to gathering data in your workspace, actions really do speak louder than words. Are you ready to listen?

Mary Beth Oakes is the CEO of Business Furniture and Choreo, a Women Owned Business enterprise specializing in workplace research, strategy, and change management.

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