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August 24, 2022

Utilization Data and Maintaining Anonymity

The way people interact with the office space is forever changed. As people return to the office, measuring utilization data becomes imperative while simultaneously protecting your employees’ anonymity. In this piece, we explore striking the balance between the two.

The critical importance of utilization data

Over the past few years, the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted how employees approach their work. Companies had to adopt remote working models overnight, and subsequently, employees had the chance to test out new, more flexible working arrangements. The end result is that many employees discovered a preference for working remotely or enjoying the option to work in the office part-time.

While the world is opening back up, how employees view the office space is forever changed. Today, the majority of workers, at 83%, have indicated that they would prefer a hybrid work model. Additionally, another 88% of workers surveyed by Harvard Business Review state that when they are looking for a new position, they will seek out a company that offers complete flexibility in their hours and location.

As businesses adapt to new hybrid work models, there is a huge need to reconsider how they use office space. This is leading to the rise of the modern office design, which is agile and adapts to the needs of the new workforce. What may have once been an office space filled with dedicated desks becomes an open concept space where employees who wish to work in the office part-time can reserve desks ahead of time. Meeting rooms that were once in high demand can be converted into expanded breakrooms, contributing to employee happiness.

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Creating an office space that continually adapts to the changing needs of your employees, requires the ability to analyze what space your company currently uses, how it's used, and what space you actually need based on headcount. These metrics are referred to as utilization data and are a critical measurement for any modern business.

Key benefits of measuring utilization data include:

  1. Ensuring a positive employee experience: Employees working at a physical location have expectations of what their work environment will be like. If you are not meeting their needs, you can create unhappy employees. Through utilization data, you can better understand how you use your space and what employees want. This allows you to adapt your office space to create a positive employee experience. Your employees feel heard, they see that you are responding to their needs efficiently, and they are free to focus on their work.
  2. Optimizing existing space: During the pandemic, you may have downsized your office space or relocated your office to a new building. As people return to the office, even in a hybrid model, you want to ensure that you are making the most of the space you have. Utilization data makes it possible for you to revamp your layout and design based on what areas are being used the most. This is a much more effective solution than simply expanding your office space.
  3. Lowering operational costs: Not all business teams will return to the office at the same pace or in the same way. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to optimizing your office space. Through utilization data, you might find that you are paying for too much space. You might discover areas where you can lower your operational costs by more effectively optimizing existing space.

Accessing data without infringing on privacy

It is clear that utilization data is critical in creating an optimized workplace. However, when you access this data, there is a huge hurdle to overcome—ensuring the privacy of your employees.

For example, leadership should be able to see who is using what space and equipment. But should they be able to see that a particular employee took a two-hour long lunch break one day? Or should they have access to personalized data that showcases that person A takes more breaks than person B?

Accessing utilization data that is not anonymized can result in a couple of key issues. For starters, it can cause an unconscious bias against an employee who might otherwise be an outstanding performer. This can lead to management penalizing an employee or might impact the employee’s standings.

Secondly, employees value their privacy. If employees know that someone is tracking utilization data, they may believe their privacy has been grossly invaded. This gives employees the sense that big brother is always watching and that their management doesn’t trust them to do their job. Employees do not want to be treated as children who need to be babysat, particularly after the pandemic during which employees proved their ability to work independently and still produce.

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The solution is to report on the “pack”

Accessing utilization data is critical to planning and design of your modern workplace. However, ensuring that your employees’ privacy is respected is equally important. So, instead of reporting on individual desks and employees, you should anonymize the utilization data by reporting on packs of desks and rooms.

This allows you to access critical utilization data without focusing on individual employee metrics, which is exactly how Saltmine assists businesses in their approach to utilization data.

For example, if you have a meeting room, the data accessed by leadership might only showcase how many employees, on average, are in the meeting room at any given time. It would also provide information about how many hours the meeting space is used per day.

Similarly, you could see how a pack of desks is performing. A report would not include personalized information about when employee A is at their desk but would indicate how many hours a particular group of desks is being utilized.

This data can then be turned into actionable insights. If you notice that two different packs of desks are being underutilized, you might consider moving the employees into one smaller section. If you see that meeting rooms are in high demand and there are not enough meeting spaces to meet the needs of your employees, you might consider repurposing another space that is underutilized to solve the problem.

In this way, you can make key decisions about optimizing the workflow of your office space without running the risk of penalizing employees for their behavior. Anonymized data is the way of the future. It provides all the benefits of real-time data without the risk of overstepping employee boundaries.

Many businesses struggle with visualizing the essential data points necessary to reveal how and when space is being used. In turn, it becomes difficult to adjust and create an agile office where the existing space is put to best use. Not only can this result in wasted spending, but it can also lead to employee dissatisfaction. When employees show up at the office, they want to know that their needs will be met. Whether that means having access to a desk, a closed meeting space, or a stocked breakroom, understanding your employees’ needs is critical to optimizing the modern workplace.

This is where Saltmine can help your team create a modern office design that responds to employee use without invading your team’s privacy. Saltmine helps your business track and interpret data, lower costs, and empower your entire team to create better workplaces centered around your most valuable asset—your people. Learn more about the Future of Work and how Saltmine can help below:

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