The Evolution of People-Counting Technology for Space Management

people working in an office space

There are four people sitting in a room designed to hold fifty. Does it matter? Strategic Space Planners responsible for multi-building corporate and college campuses say yes. Leasing agreements and building maintenance are major budget items for large employers and universities. But how do Strategic Space planners validate building, floor, and room utilization?

Organizations started experimenting with manual clicker studies and sensor-based data for campus space planning, but that only got them so far. Today’s software-based solutions and spatial intelligence can harness predictive analytics that is scalable, cheaper, and faster to get started.


1. FIRST, THERE WERE CLICKER STUDIES


For many years, corporations have been utilizing clicker studies to gather employee data and occupancy analytics. They were used to shed light on where you need to increase collaborative spaces and the average number of people in a meeting room. The problem is that these manual studies become instantly outdated, capturing a moment in time not a true representative of use. 

Facilities leaders found that manual counts lack the precision required to meet the transformational needs of today’s office space. Also, because these analytics aren’t connected to other types of data such as meeting room scheduling tools, what you have is occupancy data without context. Context becomes a driver in terms of what to change in order to maximize your space. Manual clicker studies don’t provide facilities leaders the ability to track patterns or visualize their spaces and how it’s being used. 


2. HERE COME SENSORS


Facilities leaders began looking to sensors to gather employee data and space utilization analytics. Sensors were able to provide granular data about how many people may have occupied space, such as a conference room. 

Sensors were able to do what clicker studies never could, which is to allow operation teams the ability to visualize their space in a format that could be easily understood. 

Although sensors appeared to be a better way to measure occupancy, they came with many challenges. Like all on-premise hardware solutions, sensors require installation and maintenance which drives costs up. And if you’re managing a sprawling campus, scaling a sensor-based occupancy strategy becomes costly quickly.


3. OCCUPANCY CONCERNS DURING COVID-19 


The emergence of the coronavirus resulted in people focusing on occupancy more than ever before. Overcrowded spaces soon became corporations’ biggest concern. Hot topics included occupancy monitoring and counting the number of people entering and exiting a building. 

Apps such as the Doorman app which was originally marketed towards security staff at clubs and bars can now be used for routine occupancy monitoring. Occupancy data is no longer just a security concern, but can be crucial when making leasing decisions and designing office spaces for employees.

Corporations had to reduce their office space or restructure their office spaces to accommodate a workforce that was not likely to return to a 5-day office. They had to get creative. This meant turning unused conference rooms into new common areas for employees to reduce vacant space.


4. THE RETURN TO OFFICE AND CAMPUS


The evolution of technology relied on more sophisticated views that leveraged historical data for predictive future usage. A new campus experience combined with a return to office plan meant Senior Leadership Teams were reconsidering why they had to build or expand. For example, The University of Iowa is converting residence hall lounges into dorm rooms as enrollment and occupancy spikes. 

This requires predictive analytics and software that can leverage existing infrastructures to collect space utilization information. Predictive analytics allows companies to understand patterns of life—how employees use office spaces over time—to inform major spatial decisions. The information is anonymized, so visual representations are provided without PII.  

“​​If CREs can focus on utilizing data to look at employee behaviors on those data insight platforms, more so than chasing the next shiny technology object that’s being thrown at them, then I think that can be really helpful because there’s such an abundance of technology” says Robert Teed, Founder and CCO of Integri Group, quoted in an Armored Things Fireside Chat about the evolving role of CRE leaders

The Armored Things platform allows users to uncover occupancy analytics and track patterns over time, relying on historical views to predict how a space will be used in the future.

Want to learn more about Armored Things Space Analytics Solution? You can visit our website or reach out directly to sales@armoredthings.com for a quick demo.

Alex Trotto contributes to the Blog and Social Media channels for Armored Things. She is currently a Northeastern University student in her sophomore year.

Predictive Space Analytics For Portfolio Management

Corporate facilities leaders are focused on optimizing attendance and deciphering how to provide accommodations that employees actually need. 

A few years ago, companies were using clicker studies and sensors to collect office usage data and make workspace design decisions. Now, they are taking advantage of software and existing infrastructures like Wi-Fi to gather predictive analytics and inform their hybrid work strategies. 


THE HYBRID SOLUTION STARTS WITH PREDICTIVE ANALYTICS 


Organizations started experimenting with manual clicker studies and sensor-based data for campus space planning, but that only got them so far. Today’s software-based solutions and spatial intelligence can harness utilization metrics – and are scalable, cheaper, and faster to get started. The information is anonymized, so visual representations are provided without PII.  For example, the Armored Things platform allows users to uncover occupancy analytics and track patterns over time, relying on historical views to predict how a space will be used in the future. 

When it comes to allocating space or making costly decisions to add or build space, predictive analytics can provide critical data to decision-makers. 


PREDICTIVE ANALYTICS CAN HELP: 


  • Cost savings –  What many companies don’t know is that an investment in smart space planning software can save them money per square foot and help them find cost savings at scale. For example, predictive analytics and space utilization software can help decrease deferred maintenance costs by providing data for relocations. 
  • Reorient spaces – Predictive analytics can help facilities leaders reorient the workspace in a way that yields increased engagement and collaboration and lure employees back into the office. Companies like Amazon have begun to reevaluate their office designs in order to meet future employee needs. The pandemic has changed the way people connect and work, so it’s crucial that office buildings reflect that. 
  • Forecast new property investments – Space utilization data allows space planners to predict future utilization patterns and pinpoint what spaces are occupied and aren’t. This information can help facilities leaders with lease decisions. Corporations can decide whether they need to expand or reduce their office spaces. This is known as Capital Expenditures or funds used to acquire, upgrade, or maintain capital assets.  

HOW CAN COMPANIES USE PREDICTIVE ANALYTICS TO RE-ENGAGE EMPLOYEES? 


Companies can use space utilization software from Armored Things to measure occupancy and utilization patterns in order to make future spatial decisions – and in the end, save money. 

Using predictive analytics, we are able to aid space planners by showing them where underutilized spaces exist based on usage over time. Armored Things works with Strategic Space Planners across the U.S. to optimize office spaces and help drive decisions around building leases and scheduling. 


WHAT ABOUT THE NEW CAMPUS EXPERIENCE?


We also help Higher Education officials prepare for the next chapter of on-campus learning by allowing them to solve space disputes and meet new space requests with hard data.

This sort of data is shared between offices including Space Planning, CIOs, Chancellor, and the Registrar. We help universities like the University of Tennessee Knoxville redefine and connect their campuses with modern cloud technologies

Want to learn more about Armored Things Space Analytics Solution? You can visit our website or reach out directly to sales@armoredthings.com for a quick demo.

Alex Trotto contributes to the Blog and Social Media channels for Armored Things. She is currently a Northeastern University student in her sophomore year.

6 Things To Know About The New Workplace Experience

female colleagues in a discussion

The rules for the new workplace experience are still being written. Employers are walking a fine line as they try to offer up a smart space and place for employees to get their best work done – and not simply reopen the same old offices.

So, what have we learned in the last two years? A lot of things, as it turns out. Here’s 6 things to know about the new workplace experience – trends that CRE and HR leaders know are here to stay.


1. EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT FOUR-DAY WORKWEEK


Companies are studying if a shorter week might solve some of the workforce’s biggest concerns as work and work life continue to evolve. The four-day workweek is a solution that makes sense for some companies.

4-Day Week Global is a not-for-profit community that researches and supports a shorter work week. Their research says 63% of businesses found it easier to attract and retain talent with a four-day week.  A four-day workweek is already supported by 85% of American adults, according to 4-Day Week Global. Companies of all sizes – including Microsoft – are giving it a whirl.

Microsoft did a small trial in Japan. During the summer of 2019, it gave its 2,300 employees every Friday off with no pay cut. Microsoft’s expectations were exceeded. When sales per employee were used to measure productivity, the company saw a rise of almost 40%. Microsoft said that the trial was a success due to short meetings and remote conferencing. The shift happened because workers only had four days to do a week’s worth of work.

​​A four-day workweek isn’t just for large companies; it’s been explored at a lot of organizations around the world as a way to improve the new workplace experience.


2. PROXIMITY BIAS IS REAL


“There are still harmful stereotypes that people working remotely are less productive or that flexible work means a loss of collaboration because people aren’t in the same space,” says Blessing Buraimoh, Head of Diversity & Inclusion, EMEA Workforce Advisory at JLL, quoted in this piece on Proximity Bias and other stereotypes associated with the new flexible workplace.

This “proximity bias” may have unfavorable long-term effects on workers and the organizations they work for. The bias needs to be worked on since it appears that most businesses will never return to the outdated 9–5 feet on the floor system.


3. COLLABORATIVE SPACES ARE IN DEMAND


Companies that embrace some remote and hybrid scheduled employees may nonetheless desire modern work spaces, trusting that regular office use would promote employee collaboration.

Companies aim to make conference rooms more hospitable and conducive to collaboration in order to entice workers back to the office. In a Wall Street Journal article about companies’ plans to remodel offices, President and Chief People Officer of Salesforce Brent Hyder stated that Salesforce strives to create shared spaces for teams to collaborate in conference rooms by replacing desks with couches and televisions. The goal is to create a pull towards the workplace rather than a push. 


4. HYPERFLEXIBLE SPACES ARE CRITICAL


In a lot of industries, 40% space underutilization rates are real – a number no longer tolerable as corporate and college campuses begin to understand smart space planning.

That means multi-purpose spaces, configurable spaces, and shared spaces need remodeling.

As gatherings grow less formal and hybrid work patterns bring fewer people physically into conference rooms, the size and shape of the traditional conference room is evolving. For better or worse, the ways we use conference rooms is fundamentally changed – which means a new pattern of utilization.


5.  SHARED WORKSPACES ARE BACK IN VOGUE


The New York Times’ Emily Woo reports that employees are choosing flexible co-working spaces over conventional offices because they allow them to sign short-term contracts or drop in to shared spaces as needed. These co-working spaces are currently overflowing. 

However, even in these co-working spaces, replicating the atmosphere of a pre-academic office is the aim for some businesses. One of the first businesses to return to a WeWork space was a start-up, Merge, that creates business software for payroll, accounting, and human resources. It expects its employees to come in at least four days a week. After the official workday wraps up, they attempt to make WeWork’s common area feel like their own workspace by hosting a shared “work dinner” there.


6. HYBRID IS MAINSTREAM


HR leaders must assess how these trends will affect their organizations both now and in the future, as well as how much they will alter their strategic objectives and goals. In order to draw in and keep talent, an organization’s EVP must include a commitment to well-being.

In one Accenture survey, 83% of 9,326 workers say they prefer a hybrid model — in which they can work remotely at least 25% of the time. At the same time, these employees need to feel connected to a corporate culture and their teammates, and more than 65% across all age groups say they want to see other coworkers regularly.

The new workplace experience is about working smarter – from anywhere.

To learn more about how Armored Things is helping CRE leaders make the most of their spaces, check out our CRE Guide or reach out directly to sales@armoredthings.com for a quick demo.

​​Nupur Patra contributes to the Blog and Social Media channels for Armored Things. She is currently a Graduate Student at Northeastern University in the Digital Media program.

Want Real Experience? Work For A Startup

I wasn’t sure what to expect for my first co-op or even what I wanted. As a communications and media studies major, I scoured the Northeastern co-op database looking at any position in either of those fields. Throughout the fall, I applied for companies big and small, ranging in all different industries from law firms to daily news sites. 

One of the companies on my list was a Boston-based software startup called Armored Things. But I was quite hesitant to work for a company focused on cutting-edge software – I had no familiarity with AI or machine learning.

However, during my interview, I was told that I would be able to have a hands-on role and be put to work, and as a college sophomore, I was hungry for the challenge. 

Six months later, I’m so happy that I made the decision to work for Armored Things. I have been able to learn more about the tech space and market as well as gain valuable or real-world experience that I wouldn’t have at a larger company. 


SOME BENEFITS OF STARTUP INTERNSHIPS:


  • Exposure to the C- suite – At larger companies, there are many layers between a co-op and a CEO but at Armored Things, the C-suite is working at the bench directly beside everyone else. Their accessibility made it easy to float content ideas to them, ask for expert opinions on industry topics, and even chat about career opportunities. It should be noted that Armored Things has a female founder and CEO, an extra inspiration for me.
  • Name recognition at company meetings – Company “Shout Outs” are a regular part of our All Hands meetings each month. At our April meeting, I received a shoutout from someone outside my department for my blogs and social posts. It’s nice to know that the sales directors and BDRs actually read my blogs and reference them to customers.
  • Immediate impact – One of the most rewarding aspects of my experience has been seeing the social media channels grow significantly. Thanks to a Wordle ad on Twitter that I helped curate, our Twitter account saw a 20,000% increase in impressions in the month of April! During my 6 month co-op, I learned to create a social media calendar and since we are a small team, it was my job to own the posts end to end. That means writing, scheduling, posting, and measuring the success of my posts. 
  • Daily 1:1s with a Senior Manager – For me, this might be the most significant difference from working at a big company. I was able to benefit from mentoring from an experienced Senior Marketing Manager. She has guided me through marketing campaigns, PR releases, and paid social media campaigns as well as given me additional career advice. I’ve learned so much from her about the marketing world, but also the corporate world in general. 

Startups come with a lot of challenges, and every day is different. The benefit for a co-op and intern is that they are thrown right into the action. My time with Armored Things may end in the next few months, but the knowledge and skills I have gained will follow me throughout the rest of my professional career.

Alex Trotto contributes to the Blog and Social Media channels for Armored Things. She is currently a Northeastern University student in her sophomore year.

Why Are Companies Investing In Workplace Analytics?

a person presents while another listens

It’s unpredictable, unprecedented – and sometimes it can feel unmanageable. That’s the new workplace, where corporate leaders are working to create new ways to reduce unused space and create more interactive, collaborative space for employees on the days they work in the office.

Whether it’s a full week or a single day, employees across many industries are expecting an office experience that is better than the one they left two years ago.

Technology will play a critical role, that’s clear. A recent CBRE survey titled Spring 2022 U.S. Officer Occupier Sentiment Survey reported that 53% of respondents are considering occupancy sensors to help design the new workplace. So how exactly does smart software fit into this new post-pandemic work model? 


HOW CAN SPACE ANALYTICS BE USED?


Smart software – such as space utilization software – allows Strategic Space Planners to leverage existing data sources, with or without sensors. This approach typically costs much less at scale. That’s because AI software pulls in data sources such as Wi-Fi, cameras, and badge systems. This information can be used to determine whether office spaces are being under or overutilized and also help them predict future needs.


SPACE ANALYTIC SOFTWARE CAN BE USED IN THE WORKPLACE TO:


  • Measure occupancy and utilization patterns in order to evaluate and reorganize office spaces.  
  • Increase office use and meeting room use through integrations with room booking technology. 
  • Help deferred maintenance costs by providing data for relocations. 
  • Understand when spaces are occupied or not occupied to help forecast new property investments.

HOW CAN COMPANIES CHOOSE THE RIGHT APPROACH? 


There are various ways that companies can begin to integrate software into their workplace. First off, it’s crucial that executive leaders know what goals they want to achieve by utilizing smart software. One goal for corporations is to focus on maintaining employee privacy while also gathering space utilization data. Employers also need to properly communicate to workers that space utilization data is not connected to evaluations or performance reviews. It’s about planning for current and evolving campus needs.


HOW CAN I ESTIMATE ROI IN WORKPLACE DESIGN?


Technology in an office building can be quite an investment, so it’s important for executives to know whether a software investment will save or cost them money – this can be uncovered with the help of an ROI Calculator. By providing the square footage of the space and monthly lease costs, users can find cost savings at scale. 

Companies can use space utilization software from Armored Things to measure occupancy and evaluate and reorganize their spaces – and in the end, save money. Armored Things is helping companies like Boston Scientific understand when spaces are occupied or not occupied to help forecast new property investments. Using spatial analytics, we are able to aid space planners by showing them where underutilized spaces exist based on usage over time. 

Want to learn more about Armored Things Space Analytics Solution? You can visit our website or reach out directly to sales@armoredthings.com for a quick demo.

Alex Trotto contributes to the Blog and Social Media channels for Armored Things. She is currently a Northeastern University student in her sophomore year.

Five Ways Companies Are Facilitating A Return To Office

COVID cases have dropped, the world has reopened – and so have most office buildings – but there’s plenty of confusion about what that means for employees. Corporate real estate leaders and space planners hope to increase office occupancy through the accommodation of new ways of working. 

An April survey by real estate management giant CBRE solicited input from 185 executives with US Portfolios. CBRE published the report titled Spring 2022 U.S. Office Occupier Sentiment Survey

Among the highlights were the focus on office presence and prioritizing space sharing. What follows are five suggestions CBRE advisors have for executives to demonstrate the value of the office to their employees.


1. COMMUNICATE STRATEGIES WITH EMPLOYEES 


Whether it’s in-person, remote, hybrid, or shybrid, companies need to properly communicate their return to office plans to employees. Sixty-five percent of corporate leaders believe a  decisive and consistent executive messaging on leadership expectations will facilitate a better return to office.

Google, for instance, said they expect employees to return to the office three days a week with two days of remote work. Other companies such as Tesla are requiring employees to spend a minimum of 40 hours a week in the office. These executive missives, reported on by national media outlets, have paved the way for smaller organizations to follow. 


2. SOLO DECISIONS WON’T FLY 


While the C-suite is the one calling the shots on emerging workplace challenges, they require the buy-in of HR teams, office managers, and facilities leaders. During our time away from the office, headcounts changed, the space required for each employee has remained in flux, and people prioritized healthcare needs that require exemptions and other logistics. Fifty-eight percent of executives are hyper-focused on collaboration efforts with cross-departmental leaders on targeted strategies for a return to the office, CBRE reported. 


3. EQUITABLE HYBRID STRATEGY REQUIRES TECHNOLOGY 


With more companies leaning in on hybrid strategies to meet employee needs, it’s crucial that heads of workplaces incorporate technology into their return to office strategy to keep executives and employees connected. Forty-six percent of corporate leaders are planning to work with technology departments to deliver a more equitable hybrid working experience through enhanced video conferencing according to the survey. 


4. STRENGTHEN COVID PROTOCOLS


As we work to figure out the new norm, 40% of companies will continue to require vaccinations, testing, and masking along with various other protocols (CBRE). For example, Netflix is requiring all employees and visitors to be fully vaccinated before returning to the office. COVID policies are lessening but the impact of the pandemic will continue to affect workplace norms for some time.


5. MAKE THE OFFICE EXPERIENCE UNIQUE


Many employees enjoy the flexibility that hybrid and remote working provides them. They now have more time to pursue their hobbies or spend time with family. Who would want to give that up to sit in a boring office building all day?

In order to lure employees back into the office, CBRE reported that 36% of corporations will curate events or other work experiences that are unique to the office. Medicare plan comparison platform Clear Match Medicare has introduced a free lunch program where employees have access to food trucks each day of the week. Google has announced that their office amenities and perks such as fitness centers, full shuttle services, and game rooms will be returning. 


RESHAPING THE OFFICE


Corporate leaders across the nation are reimagining office spaces of all sizes to create unique experiences. According to the CBRE report, 53% of respondents are considering adopting occupancy sensors. Executives plan to utilize technology to drive more consumer-oriented experiences for employees and encourage them to return to the office. 

Many corporations are already getting creative, turning unused conference rooms into new common areas for employees, for example. Salesforce is clearing desks from vacant conference rooms and replacing them with couches and televisions to create spaces for teams to collaborate. Some companies are taking drastic measures to make the return to work appealing for employees even if that means relocating their offices to be closer to where their employees live. Software development studio, Ustwo, just recently moved its New York City office from Manhattan to Dumbo where most of its employees live in order to cut commute time. The new office was smaller and also better suited for employees, providing them with an open-air rooftop with Wifi for meetings. 

Companies can use space utilization software from Armored Things – with or without new sensor installations – to measure occupancy and evaluate and reorganize their spaces. When using software, operations teams can visualize their space in a format that can be easily understood, and apply historical overlays to see predictive use cases. Armored Things is helping companies like Boston Scientific understand when spaces are occupied or not occupied to help forecast new property investments. Using spatial analytics, we are able to aid space planners by showing them where underutilized spaces exist based on usage over time.  

Want to learn more about Armored Things Space Analytics Solution? You can visit our website or reach out directly to sales@armoredthings.com for a quick demo.

Alex Trotto contributes to the Blog and Social Media channels for Armored Things. She is currently a Northeastern University student in her sophomore year.

Walk This Way

collage with pictures an event

The Purposeful Intent “Walk this Way” event in New York City brought together leaders in corporate real estate across industries to discuss the future of work. The event featured roundtable discussions and special guests such as DMC and Innovation and Creativity Consultant Duncan Wardle. 

What can we learn from performers and magic makers designing Disney experience about the future of work? Well, a lot as it turns out. As the value of human experiences skyrockets, CRE leaders look to tear down the traditional office walls and draw workers back to the office for the experience. 

The event ​​curated valuable conversations with workplace & corporate real estate leaders while galvanizing attendees to continue their innovation efforts and become change agents in their communities and workplaces. 

While there are a number of priorities space planners are tackling, here are the main takeaways from the event according to leaders in the industry. 


OUT WITH HIGH-TOUCH, IN WITH HIGH-TECH FOR CRE


What was once a world of clicker-studies and spreadsheets is now–like many other things–tech-enabled. Sprawling CRE portfolios were managed through manual processes, requiring time and labor from resource-strapped teams. But even before the pandemic’s disruption, the emergence of prop-tech companies has started to alleviate manual workflows, freeing CRE leaders and their teams up to drive more creative, impactful decisions. 

Many corporate real estate leaders are using technology to foster cross-functional collaboration which is essential for a distributed workforce. To do this, they need the full force of their team’s capabilities. Technology allows them to share reporting, validate decisions, and project impact.


WORKPLACE PROFESSIONALS CURATING EXPERIENCES 


You can’t talk about the future of work without acknowledging the employee experience.  Companies both big and small will continue to navigate this changing landscape for some time. During the conference, three distinct camps emerged with some brands seeing office attendance as an essential part of their corporate DNA and other brands seeing the need to earn employee attendance with increased office benefits. A third group is suffering pandemic paralysis, rolling (and rolling back) shybrid policies


EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN REQUIRES PURPOSE 


One way executives are making the office experience worth the commute is by redesigning spaces to become more efficient and collaborative. But while office redesigns tend to delight and dazzle employees upon roll-out, best-in-class corporate campuses follow a tried and true formula for success. Here are the top three things all successful redesigns require: 

  1. Support from company executives
  2. Business goals that tie directly to redesign decisions
  3. The ability to deliver space utilization metrics and analytics  

Armored Things was a proud sponsor of this month’s Purposeful Intent event which gave leaders across the industry a seat at the table to foster meaningful conversations to improve the future of work. 

In order to curate the best workplace environment and experience, facilities leaders need data. Data enables them to predict future utilization patterns to accommodate a workforce that will not return to a 5-day office presence. Powerful AI software like Armored Things has helped major employers encourage workers to return to the office in a safe manner. 

​​To learn more about how Armored Things helps facilities management teams, schedule time with one of our experts today.

Hybrid, Shybrid – And Now It’s Summer

Everyone’s heard of remote and hybrid work models, but what about the “shybrid” approach? The term “shybrid” was first coined by Paul McKinlay, vice president of communications and remote working at printing company Cimpress, in a Bloomberg article in December. McKinlay described it as “the failure of companies to accept that they have, in many cases, lost the right to demand in-person attendance at a piece of real estate on any kind of regular basis. It’s about continually pushing back return dates without declaring on a future model and leaving people in this limbo.” 

This shybrid approach is the result of a big gap between what employers want and what their employees want. An August survey from accounting and advisory organization, Grant Thorton, showed that 89% of executives plan to return to the office full time while 17% of non-executive workers want to fully return to the office

This reluctance to commit to a single return to office date or strategy causes valuable talent to walk out the door–every departure costing companies money, resources, and time to rehire. 


WHY DON’T EMPLOYEES WANT TO RETURN TO THE OFFICE?


Employees enjoy the flexibility that hybrid work offers them. They can decide when and where they work instead of being confined to a cubicle from 9 to 5. Hybrid work settings also allow employees to have a better work-life balance. Flexibility makes it easier in some cases to work around strict childcare hours and have more opportunities to participate in hobbies outside of work. Remote work also eliminates expenses for employees whether it’s wardrobe or commuting costs.  

The pandemic has introduced the benefits of working from home, and many people aren’t willing to give up the freedom that a hybrid or remote work model provides them. A January poll from Bloomberg Morning Consult showed that 55 percent of remote workers would consider leaving their job if they were asked back to the office. 


WHY IS SHYBRID STILL HAPPENING A YEAR LATER?


Some suspect that this stubbornness from employers comes from their refusal to relinquish a sense of control. Others believe it may be due to fear of losing the company culture and difficulty collaborating and communicating virtually

Despite employers’ efforts to get people back in the office, many employees are reluctant to comply. Since many companies adhere to a hybrid or remote approach, organizations that continue to push in-person attendance suffer to retain talent, costing them money. 


Since many companies adhere to a hybrid or remote approach, organizations that continue to push in-person attendance suffer to retain talent, costing them money.


Robert Teed, an Armored Things advisor, and Founder and Chief Coaching Officer at Integri Group, acknowledged the battle between executives’ desire for a full office and employees’ preference for remote work at a recent fireside chat. Workers have said, ‘Hey, we want more flexibility,’ Teed remarked. “I tend to sort of wrap that [together] as being choice and flexibility, but the concept is exactly the same: it’s that they want to control that part of their lives.” 


SO, WHAT’S NEXT FOR RETURN TO OFFICE? 


Well, the summer months and typical vacation schedules might not help. The Pew Institute conducted a survey that showed that 64 percent of workers felt that it was easier to balance work and personal life after switching to telework. This includes the ability to vacation and spend time with family. 

Not being constrained to the office, remote employees are able to work from wherever they choose which allows them to travel during the summer months. 


WHAT CAN EMPLOYERS DO?


If employers are going to continue to pressure workers to come back into the office, then they need to redesign their spaces to enhance the in-person experience. Consequently, space planning teams have been tasked to plan the smartest spaces possible. For example, Space and Occupancy Planners at Wells Fargo, Inc. in Minneapolis are expected to understand shared and flexible seating and workplace strategies as well as concepts such as desk sharing. 

Space planning teams are also reducing costs with better space management. Corporations need to reduce or restructure their office space in order to accommodate a workforce that will not return to a 5-day office presence. 

Space planners need data they can easily visualize and the ability to predict future utilization patterns. They can get some information from badging but it lacks sophistication and the ability to predict future trends. Powerful AI software like Armored Things has helped major employers bring workers back to the office safely

To learn more about how Armored Things is helping CRE leaders make the most of their spaces, check out our CRE Guide or reach out directly to sales@armoredthings.com for a quick demo.

Alex Trotto contributes to the Blog and Social Media channels for Armored Things. She is currently a Northeastern University student in her sophomore year.

NFMT Women In Facilities Management 2022 Coverage

The May Women in FM annual (virtual) event, hosted by NFMT and sponsored by Armored Things, brought together leading female voices in the field of Facilities Management for a panel discussion on their experience coming up in the industry, their strategies for success, and the ways they bring their whole selves to bear on the profession. 

 The event attracted more than 200 attendees.

Today’s FM career track draws on a much wider breadth of experience than it once did – that’s everyone from property managers to sustainability experts and specialists in urban informatics – and yes, the people who deal with burst pipes. 

“If a pipe burst – like it did yesterday – I’m the one that is going to be on hand,” explains Nicole Sherry, Director of Field Operations for the Orioles and one of only two women in MLB history to hold that title

To Sherry, the legendary field at Camden Yards is like her other child. “It’s like I have two children that really need a lot of attention and I try my best to teach my crew everything that I do so that if I need to be out for whatever reason, they can step right in without any harm to the field.”

The 24/7, 9-1-1 nature of FM jobs may not have changed much since Facilities Management titles were introduced 50 years ago– but Sherry is among the many women who are transforming the industry.


“So, it’s loving problem-solving, loving buildings, loving people, loving dynamic environments and challenges.”

DIANA ORTIZ BURNS, DIRECTOR OF FACILITIES AT MERIDIAN INTERNATIONAL CENTER

DIVERSE SKILLS AND SPECIALTIES



Director of Facilities Diana Ortiz Burns brings more than a decade of experience in operations management and environmental sustainability to the Meridian International Center, a Washington, D.C. – based nonprofit. 

“We’re always going to be different in this industry, and I think I’ve realized personally – that’s a thing I’m really embracing – how I’m different, and why that’s awesome.”

As the field grows more diverse – in terms of skill sets, backgrounds, personalities, race, gender, and all the ways diversity can be represented – the greater the opportunity for the career and the titles associated with it to have the greatest impact, says Ortiz Burns.

“So, it’s loving problem-solving, loving buildings, loving people, loving dynamic environments and challenges.”


“It’s not just all about building operations or events or moves or project management. There’s just something new every single day.”

WENDY LIBERT, SENIOR FACILITIES MANAGER AT THE AMERICAN INSTITUTES FOR RESEARCH

DREAM JOBS, MENTORS, AND ADVICE



“I never thought that facilities were my dream career going into it,” said Wendy Libert, Senior Facilities Manager at the American Institutes for Research. 

“It has turned into a dream career because [it has changed] and I’ve never been bored with it. There’re so many different directions you can go.

It’s not just all about building operations or events or moves or project management. There’s just something new every single day.”

Ericka Westgard, Vice President of Operations at C&W Services, a facility services company with more than 600 customers, set her sights on her career path early, earning a B.S. in Facilities Management. 

As a student, she says, “I probably didn’t really get the full understanding that as a facility manager you’re the one that’s going to be running towards the fire when everybody else is running outside.”

Westgard’s career remains exciting in part due to new challenges, and new technologies.

 “At one point, it [FM] was probably viewed as more of a support-type role – or more of a functional role.” Today, she says high-performing FM leaders are viewed as an “innovative, core competency.”


WHOLE SELVES, REAL WORK


The importance of mentorship was central to the NFMT panel discussion. Not just for networking, but for honest feedback, and a confidant when workplace dynamics are challenging.

“It’s definitely helped me personally,” says Ortiz Burns. “I had men and women who really took me under their wing, and I wouldn’t be here without them.”

What’s some advice they’d give their younger selves, or anyone following in their footsteps? For starters, take care of your own mental and physical health before attending to the physical properties and spaces you’re responsible for maintaining and improving. 

Develop a global awareness – whether it’s learning a second language, or developing a new understanding of ways to increase DE&I on the teams you manage. Learn new technologies by asking for training and support so some work can be automated or completed remotely. And bring your whole self to work, even if it means saying you need a break. Vulnerability during intense times can help facilities management teams know they are part of a team that prioritizes employee work-life balance. Also:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  • Trust your instincts, even early on.
  • Train your team to feel empowered.
  • Find a mentor – be a mentor.
  • Search out supportive leaders and organizations.

And, from Armored Things Roberts’ (no surprise) a plug for data as a way to level the playing field.

“It’s not just women’s voices that could be discounted. It could be a more junior employee could be someone new to the team – who might have a great perspective. We want to give people data so that they will be the most informed people at the table when it comes to planning our smart spaces.”

To learn more about how Armored Things helps facilities management teams, schedule time with one of our experts today

Space Planning Job Market Sizzles

In Minneapolis, Wells Fargo, Inc. wants a Space Planner who is able to review and resolve all space requests in the queue. 

In Massachusetts, Moderna, Inc. wants a candidate to act as a MAC (Move, Add, Change) lead for employee moves. 

And global real estate management company CBRE is looking for a Space Planner to predict future space needs based on changing workplace needs.

In a wide range of industries across the U.S., the hunt is on for strategic Space Planners who can help the corporate world save money and time and improve the return-to-office experience. Titles may range from Space Planner/Data Analyst to Designer/Space Planner and Advisor, Workplace Spaces – but the task is generally the same: help plan the smartest spaces possible.

And more and more, space planning roles reference occupancy analytics. For example, Wells Fargo requires that candidates for a current Space and Occupancy Planner position have strong experience with “office space and occupancy planning either as an occupancy consultant or as an employee in a corporate real estate department.”

And much of the activity in this career sector is about returning to campuses and offices. Candidates for the job title Space and Occupancy Planner at Hasbro, Inc. are required to support “the business with its current space planning needs as well as strategically plan for future hybrid working arrangement.” 

As Molly Glasgow, executive vice president at the commercial real estate management giant JLL, told WRAL Techwire, “Companies are still investing in space. Even hybrid and “fully remote” companies.”


WHAT ARE THE STANDARD JOB REQUIREMENTS FOR A CORPORATE SPACE PLANNER?


The main responsibility is to make efficient use of space while also keeping costs low. This can include everything from determining where to place cubicles to deciding whether to sign multi-million dollar leases. Many companies require Space Planners to have 4-year degrees in interior design or architecture, but requirements range from 5 years of work experience to a few years of training to a high school degree. Other than education, most of these space planning positions require candidates to be creative, organized and have advanced communications skills. 


HOW DOES OCCUPANCY ANALYTICS EXPERIENCE HELP?


Through the collection of occupancy data, they can determine how to set up offices or classrooms, and project headcounts and utilization over time. Many Space Planners are tasked with creating plans for short and long-term occupancy needs through utilization strategies and real estate decisions. They also produce and develop daily occupancy reports in order to communicate space utilization in office spaces. 

These Space Planners are then obligated to distribute the data that they gather to stakeholders. The data is used for project proposals for office buildings and many corporate Space Planners are required to report to the C-suite for space design reviews. 


WHAT ARE THE NEW RESPONSIBILITIES FOR CORPORATE SPACE PLANNERS? 


As we enter a post-pandemic world, the way office space is used has changed drastically. The Space and Occupancy Planner at Wells Fargo, Inc. in Minneapolis is now expected to understand shared and flexible seating and workplace strategies as well as concepts such as desk sharing. Many corporations are also beginning to invest in technology to accommodate their hybrid work model which can be costly. Senior Space Planners at CBRE are responsible for developing opportunities to decrease costs while increasing process efficiencies. 


HOW DOES OCCUPANCY ANALYTICS SOFTWARE HELP SPACE PLANNERS?


By using AI and combining it with other inputs, Space Planners can generate valuable data and insights previously unattainable such as collaboration scores. Planners can use this data in order to create next action recommendations for office spaces and solve disputes over space – all while adding long-term value to leases. Smart planning can also help organizations avoid the high costs of deferred maintenance.

To learn more about how Armored Things helps facilities teams deliver on priorities like this, schedule time with one of our experts today.  

Alex Trotto contributes to the Blog and Social Media channels for Armored Things. She is currently a Northeastern University student in her sophomore year.