Presented By: Locatee
How Office Space Planning And Utilization Just Got Easier
With the very nature of work and office life in severe flux, office managers can be forgiven for some confusion on how best to engage in space planning and optimization. Partner Insights spoke to Sabine Ehm, thought leadership and research manager at Locatee, about their products, which allow companies to plan and optimize space with greater precision than ever before.
Commercial Observer: What does Locatee do?
Sabine Ehm: Locatee measures occupancy of office spaces using network connections. We detect if an employee is in the office via cable connections, Wi-Fi or Ethernet. There are calculations in the background that allow us to localize people, so we can show occupancy levels in the building, and also where people are located in the building.
How does Locatee do this?
We’re analyzing data from the network — clients don’t have to install anything. We simply need access to certain information in their server environment.
How is the information you detect and compile used, and what is its value for your clients?
Space planning portfolio optimization and determining space needs for the future used to be done using what clients would tell us. Back then, we didn’t have data for this, because technology wasn’t at that point yet. We went by opinion and gut feeling, which is a risk, because there’s a lot of money involved. By Locatee’s offering this utilization data, you have, for the first time, a fact-based mechanism on which to base utilization decisions. This allows clients to optimize their portfolios to possibly consolidate size, thereby saving on rent and operating costs, and also to improve operation of their locations. For example, we have customers who base their cafeteria menu planning on on-site occupancy so that they produce less food waste. When the pandemic was in full swing, our customers used our live data to make sure occupancy levels didn’t pass a certain threshold, so that everybody would be safe to keep their distance. Other companies use the occupancy information together with the weather forecast to improve the operation of HVAC systems — it’s operational optimization.
Talk about how Locatee collects, uses and protects data, and how that data contributes to greater knowledge in shaping the work experience for your clients.
We’re reading network connections every six minutes, anonymously. We’re not able to track, for example, if someone came in on Monday and then again on Wednesday. The employee data stays private. The big advantage is that we can show live information, and that can inform things like identifying an empty meeting room or desk. But also, we gather and aggregate that data so you have utilization patterns over time.
How does using Locatee’s services increase employee satisfaction for your clients?
Employee satisfaction stems from space programming — examining utilization throughout a building, including at a more granular floor or zone level. This allows you to see whether the workplace environment you are offering is adapted by employees. By tracking that, companies can ensure that their workspace is catering to employee demand.
Can you walk us through how a real-life client is using Locatee, as well as some of the advantages they have derived from the company’s services?
Swiss Re, a Zurich-based reinsurance company, deployed Locatee across their global real estate portfolio to gather data to analyze an upcoming lease renewal decision. By using historical data from one year, provided by Locatee, Swiss Re realized that it was possible to consolidate floors within a building in Munich. This led to cost savings by eliminating a section of the office that they were not utilizing.
How have corporate real estate and HR managers been shifting to more of an employee-first approach, and how can using Locatee assist them in that direction?
During the pandemic, companies realized that giving employees workplace flexibility would help with employee retention and work satisfaction. For the first time, companies started regularly surveying their employees on their satisfaction and well-being, and on how many days a week they would want to return to the office. But satisfaction surveys are only one side of the model. You need to look at more quantitative data as well to see what people are actually doing, and bring those two together to inform what kind of workplaces should be offered to foster innovation, creativity and community.
What are Locatee’s goals for the near future in terms of company achievements, and how it hopes to contribute to the increasingly hybrid style of work?
Due to the shift in focus toward employee experience, we have added new features to the product. We’re going into more detail on meeting room utilization, for example, because meeting rooms are expected to become a more scarce resource. Another feature we’re looking at is around team utilization patterns, because everybody likes to work differently. Then we have a couple of research projects looking further ahead, including working with the University of Applied Sciences in Zurich to establish a framework for marrying employee satisfaction ratings and utilization data.
Given the immense changes in the past few years, how do you see the world of work continuing to evolve over the next, say, five to 10 years?
We think companies might start to trade spaces if they know they have a surplus short term. They could allow other companies to use that space if they need overflow capacity. While hybrid working means companies will need to be more flexible, this increasing flexibility means that companies’ real estate portfolios will need to be more flexible as well.