By leveraging space utilization and fit-out technology tools, workplace strategists can gain a deeper understanding of where things are now and where they need to go next.
Game-changing workplace connectivity. The new ‘anywhere, anytime’ work ethos. Generational change and the war for talent. These signs are increasingly signaling the time is ripe for workplace transformation. And thanks to new advances in occupancy planning and visualization technology, it’s easier than ever to act on that change. But even the most cutting-edge workplace planning tool can only really fulfill its promise when wielded by a person who understands how and why to use it.
Change may be the only constant, but the rate of that change is accelerating in the way we work. As workplace leaders forge ahead into the future of work, they’re finding new allies in the Internet of Things (IoT), remote monitoring, data and analytics, 3D visualization and augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR).
Space utilization and fit-out technology, combined with effective processes and people, can be used to assess how teams function in a space today and to get a lifelike look at new design plans, including the budget it will take to realize. It can save time throughout the process, too.
Whether planning a renovation or to move into an entirely new space, workplace strategists can leverage these tools to gain a deeper understanding of where things are now and where they need to go next.
Discovering that ‘just right’ footprint
Your current footprint might be much bigger, or far smaller than you need, depending on the strength of your organization’s mobility program.
Last year, 43 percent of American employees said they spent at least some time working remotely. This shift toward more flexible working can have a direct impact on the amount of space needed at work. Where many offices used to go with a standard 1:1 ratio of desks to people, today, 2.5 desks per person is becoming more preferred. Eliminating excess square footage can go a long way in driving value.
At the same time, there’s still such a thing as too little space, which can stymy productivity and focus, and detract from the employee experience. The right size will be one that encourages employee choice, whether it’s to head in to the office and utilize a desk, meeting room or informal lounge space, or to work from home.
With so many possibilities, it can be daunting to pinpoint the optimal square footage to boost productivity, innovation and employee satisfaction, without going overboard.
That’s where tech tools like smart badging data, wireless access points, network login data, phone apps and sensors come in. By churning out real-time information on how people interact with the space—and with each other within it—these tools can help you put together a detailed picture of how your teams are working. You can use these data points to analyze attendance alongside collaboration ratios, track high-traffic areas versus underutilized spaces and draw insights from long-term mobility trends.
With so much data at your fingertips, your combined team of experienced data analysts and space planners can think more critically about how space is used and pursue bold new ways forward without the guesswork.
Combining tech and human intelligence tools in this way, you can strike workplace planning gold: not too big, not too small, but just right.
What does your ideal workplace look like?
Once you’ve bridged the gap between what you’ve got and what you need, it’s time to lay out a design that will deliver the best employee experience. But what does it look like? How does it feel? Does it facilitate the level of engagement and collaboration you need?
The answers are easier to come by now, with walkthrough and rendering technology experiencing a kind of heyday.
Now, apps can visualize any scenario complete with any array of assigned cubicles and offices, or the activity-based environments that are becoming increasingly popular. You can spin around inside the space to get a true sense of a design from any angle.
For example, JLL InSite offers a VR-like experience, minus the goggles, wherein you can drop a point within a floor plan and enjoy a 360-degree view as you wander down a hallway, into a conference room, a lounge or wherever else your ‘feet’ take you [sponsored].
This highly realistic experience is invaluable for decision-making, but that’s not the only benefit of advanced visualization and planning tools.
With a thoughtful combination of people and process, visualization tools can make the whole process easier, more accurate and shorter. For example, a budgeting provision can enable you to see in short order what a design spec will mean for the bottom line.
What’s more, as 2D floor plans become a thing of the past, the industry is moving rapidly to smart Building Information Modeling (BIM). This is meaningful because a code compliant model means the architectural team can now take the visualization and work directly from there.
By connecting advanced tech with the people who can use it, from the broker to the planner to the architect to the designer, a rendering can become more than just a mock-up. It can help diverse teams come together around a shared vision—and bring it to life.
What’s next in fit-out technology?
The workplaces of the future are already becoming easier to define and envision, a trend that’s likely to continue as technology continues to improve.
On the occupancy planning side, there are promising advances. Microsoft for example, is harnessing a wireless LAN to triangulate positioning and create heat maps for deeper insights into how different teams work together. On the visualization side, be on the lookout for innovations in automating test fits within computer-aided design software (CAD). This would mean not only could architects use your rendering—they could actually plug it right into their own system to better consider building peculiarities, like exterior shape.
Artificial intelligence could also become more commonly used in workplace planning. Already, virtual assistants like IBM’s Watson Assistant can be used to create applications that understand natural language—which means in time, they could be programmed to detect other clues about how employees feel about their workplace, rather than simply logging whether they show up or not.
It’s difficult to predict just how people and technology will interact in the future of work. But one thing is clear—human interpretation is still a critical piece of the puzzle. That’s one data point that’s likely to remain true for the foreseeable future.
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