Data indicates that organizations plan to continue a hybrid work model for the near term. A Mercer survey last May found 70% of companies said a blend of in-person and remote working will be the new normal.
But this hybrid model will also place greater onus on employers and facility managers to provide a healthy and safe working environment when employees are in the office.
That’s a tall order when 52% of employers said that they are only “somewhat prepared” to provide safe and healthy environments for their tenants and employees.
There are no easy answers to make workplaces, universities or other gathering spots safe and productive. But one important aspect of office and public health involves workspace analytics software, which helps organizations better safeguard workers in the office and make them more productive.
Workspace analytics technology provides insight into employee density in a given physical space. By issuing alerts when the number of workers reaches capacity in a given space, the technology can ensure that workers’ social distance from one another. The technology can also queue up cleaning services or other workflows as necessary when spaces are used. Workspace analytics can also integrate with other workplace scheduling and collaboration tools to schedule meetings, create capacity alerts, or to trigger follow-up activities.
Technologies such as Armored Things have become increasingly critical to determining worker density, and environmental factors, such as building temperature, electricity used on a given floor or in a room. The software can enlist an organization’s existing cameras, sensors or other hardware, then derive data from these devices to track how many people have entered a facility.
We sat down with Chris Lord, Co-founder and CTO, to discuss the value of workplace analytics in organizations today.
WHY IS WORKSPACE ANALYTICS GATHERING STEAM RIGHT NOW?
Chris Lord: The pandemic that we’ve all lived through is probably one of the driving forces behind it. Two years ago, space utilization was an important part, but it wasn’t a necessary part.
The pandemic has really shifted people’s thinking in terms of what is necessary [vis-à-vis a physical presence in the office].
It’s forced us to reconsider how we use space [and to ask questions like], “When do we need to meet and why?” And “How often do we need to be in the office together?”
That’s really forced us to collect data to understand and ultimately to optimize what we do. Then the big questions are, “What is it that we’re trying to optimize?” and “Are we trying to optimize employee experience? Operational costs? Capital costs?”
You don’t just need data, you need the right data to inform the decisions you’re trying to make.
In some cases, we need precise data to help with hot-desking [a shared-desk system for hybrid office/remote work models].
So, you may need that data to develop a hot-desking model, or you may need to understand overall utilization patterns and patterns of life within your space so that you can make coarse-grained decisions: “Do I have enough space or too much? Is it underutilized? That’s what’s driving a lot of corporate clients toward [workspace analytics] and where we obviously play a big role.
AS YOU CREATE THESE DASHBOARDS HOW DO YOU DETERMINE THESE ORGANIZATIONS’ END GOALS?
CL: We have a set of proven use cases that can help customers. That can direct the conversation, but at the end of the day, it’s really trying to understand what it is that [customers] want to do and what are the questions that they’re asking?
So, the value of Armored Things is that you get continuous information about your environment, and how it’s being used. It’s something that’s there all the time. Sometimes that requires a deeper conversation on the facility side. [Companies] are used to these one-off studies that are a point-in-time snapshot and given the rapid change around us, has a shelf life.
A point-in-time study that [I] did two years ago has very little bearing on what [I] need to do today. We can provide the look-back to last month, last year, last quarter, but the value of it every day and that opens up new opportunities.
I like to talk about democratization [of data], taking our data and making it available to your employees, to tenants, to whoever needs to make a decision. Our vision was three years ago, four years ago, to be the Google maps of people, not cars: Being able to show you where people are at any point in time. That’s the democratization of data.
HOW DO YOU SOLVE THE PROBLEM OF DATA-DRIVEN DASHBOARDS THAT AREN’T ACTIONABLE?
CL: Most people don’t have the time to swim in all the data. It’s not their job to be exploring data. What they need to do is figure out how to do what they’re doing better, faster, easier with fewer people at less expense than they did before.
Most people don’t have the time to swim in all the data. It’s not their job to be exploring data. What they need to do is figure out how to do what they’re doing better, faster, easier with fewer people at less expense than they did before.CHRIS LORD, CO-FOUNDER AND CTO, ARMORED THINGS
The shift for us has been one of building our application, the set of features within the application, and through our partners to directly address what that looks like. Some of that is simple. So some of that is you know rather than present you a lot of charts and graphs, we present you the KPIs [key performance indicators]. So right at the top are the set of KPIs that tell you, what’s happening at a glance. Some of it is building in capabilities like alerting, right? Rather than having to let you look at the data and make a decision we’re just telling you about the decision that needs to be made, based on the triggers that are important to your organization to your environment. And so that’s, that’s one way, you know, you don’t have to be living in the dashboard.
We can target the data experience to the persona—to a role, a function. When you come in you self-identify as I’m a facilities manager, “I’m in charge of operations, I have a staff that is there on game day, I am–whatever [the role] is. You identify, and then your experience is tailored to your needs.
Then our software asks you, “What changes would you make if you had dynamic and new information all the time?” If I’m a university, I’m scheduling custodial services, if I’m an office place. I’m scheduling the same sort of thing, and I’m making determinations as to whether I clean these rooms, don’t clean these rooms, have to have more people on staff, because there’s more people there. All these things are things that we’re used to thinking of and doing in a very static way.
AS WE LOOK AT THE PAST 18 MONTHS, THIS TECHNOLOGY IS SO TIMELY. IT HAS REAL IMPLICATIONS FOR SO MANY DIFFERENT INDUSTRIES.
CL: Our earliest customers were in the university space. The safety and the security of students is foremost in [universities’] mind all the time, and we were an effective part of that. But those conversations opened up opportunities in better use of space.
And they’ve also shifted into opportunities around, “How can we improve the outcomes of students?” “Are we providing the right resources based on where they’re spending their time? “Are there things that we can learn about how groups of students are spending their time, respecting their privacy, that will inform better space and better information delivery to our students?”
And so we started there. And now, sports stadiums are a huge customer for us, and other venues where we bring people together. People are their core business, right? And if people are your core business. you want to know where they’re spending their time, you want to know where those opportunities are.