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February 16, 2022

Why Data About People and Space Matters

VergeSense x Saltmine bridges the gap between utilization data and workplace design, planning, and strategy.

Understanding how employees actually use space is more important than ever. As distributed and hybrid workforces become the norm, properly optimizing space has become increasingly more complex. 

The need to capture accurate, real-time usage data has sparked new technology innovations that help workplace teams measure just how people use what types of spaces. 

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One of those technologies is VergeSense, “the world's leading workplace analytics platform.”

To talk about the value VergeSense brings to a workplace tech stack--as well as how it compliments the Saltmine platform--we met with David Burden, Head of Partnerships at VergeSense.

David is a CRE Tech and PropTech professional who is passionate about redefining how integrated technology makes workspaces more intelligent. As a product manager for data and platform integrations, David helps workplace teams better leverage utilization data and spatial intelligence to generate actionable insights for their mutual clients. Prior to joining VergeSense, David led product partnership and GTM programs at Airbnb and Apple.

Why does data--about people and space--matter?

As Peter Drucker once said: "If you can't measure it, you can't change it." 

The way in which we interact with the workplace is changing and the built environment from a real estate perspective is evolving rapidly. While Covid was a catalyst for the work from home movement, and whenever the pandemic finally lets up, there will likely be a “larger” migration back to the office. However, the office won’t--and shouldn’t--look the same. 

Since how we interact with the workplace has changed, as well as how we stay connected to co-workers, companies need to make changes to their:

  • Workplace strategies, 
  • Built environments, 
  • Design of spaces,
  • As well as the tools to help their employees be more productive and flourish. 

The only way companies can make informed space planning decisions is by leveraging a ton of data, which is why data about space and people matters so much in corporate real estate.

With the constant changes and disruption that happens, companies can better inform space planning decisions by leveraging high-fidelity data that reflects just how people use and interact with space--this understanding is key for the future of your workplaces. 

Space demands and strategic transformations

One of the leading cases for why customers are procuring VergeSense is to leverage utilization data in an effort to enhance the employee experience. Innovative leaders are strongly prioritizing the employee experience--especially the office experience--as they want to foster an environment where their people can feel good and be in a safe office environment. 

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Truly safe office spaces provide more than just physical safety--they provide an environment where people can feel secure which makes employees feel good about their work. Human beings who feel secure are more likely to be happy--and happy employees are more productive, collaborative, and feel a sense of belonging which draws them to a space. 

Employees feeling safe in an office environment is critical to drawing them back in. Many employees are open to a return-to-office; however, most employees--nine out of 10--are still concerned with Covid and will continue to work remotely if it doesn't feel safe to return.

This is a total transformation from what workplace strategies used to be. Just three years ago it was people coming into offices, Monday through Friday, by default, and offices were usually operating at 80% on any given day. 

These companies were operating under the construct that was very cut and dry. It assumed that as headcount grows, they can simply model out “how many more seats we need” in any given space. 

Fast forward to today, and it’s totally different--working from home is now the default working environment. And people have proven to be just as--depending on the role--effective and productive at operating in a remote environment.

Companies are now giving their real estate footprint a closer look. Which is a positive transformation because the employee demand for office space hasn't gone away. Only about 10% of people want to work remotely, long-term which leaves a large pool of employees who would be open to office work. 

The trick is providing a worthwhile office space--a productive environment that employees can come into in a flexible manner. The "post-Covid" office has to not only engage employees and keep them productive, but they have to make employees feel happy and fulfilled.

The core data points--in terms of space

The data points VergeSense provides are occupancy and utilization--i.e., the function of the number of people relative to the space's capacity. 

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In its simplest form, when you look at space capacity, you’re trying to understand how often space is being occupied or unoccupied. For example, if a conference room that can hold up to 10 people is only being used 20% of the time, and on average, only two people are using it at a time, is that space being used to its full potential? 

Conversely, are smaller spaces overcrowded? Let’s say more people are coming into the office than expected, and our conference rooms are often booked and at capacity. If this was the case, the data suggests that people are coming in for mostly collaboration.

Either way, data points like these give a better idea on how to better configure space to be more conducive to the behaviors of those who are coming into the office.

In general, ask yourself: 

  • How many people are coming into the building? 
  • What is the total number of occupants in the building?
  • If you're only operating certain floors, how many people are coming into a particular floor? 

From there, organize it by team or department and get a better understanding of which departments are coming into the office, most often. This is where occupancy and utilization data can inform space planning decisions.

Data shouldn’t inform singular initiatives but rather continual iterations

Most companies want to support a hybrid work environment but a lot of companies don't know how and that's okay. Companies more so need to have a cultural change where they stop trying to make things “perfect” the first go around. Corporate decision making can at times put too much stock in assumptions based on historical evidence which is killer to progressive workplace decisions. 

We’re operating in an entirely new paradigm and using data to inform a single spatial decision won’t work with evolving workplace demands and trends. Flexible and hybrid workplaces need progressive and thoughtful approaches to properly support them. Real-time data can help iterate office space as spatial demands change. 

How does VergeSense and Saltmine work together? 

VergeSense is a workplace data platform that collects, analyzes, and then acts on data. Saltmine then intakes that data and provides workplace teams the actionable next steps as it pertains to workplace design and strategy. 

As previously mentioned, workplace teams need a ton of data from a variety of different sources [such as VergeSense]. They also need a way to summarize all that information [Saltmine] to make design changes and run scenario planning models to better understand how spaces can be evolved. 

A tech stack that leverages VergeSense and Saltmine empowers workplace teams to be more responsive and adaptive to changing space needs. Workplace strategies have to be fluid--and workplace teams need to look at an office as a living entity that adapts to how people actually work. VergeSense and Saltmine elevates that endeavor. 

Data reveals how your spaces can evolve

If you want to learn more about leveraging workplace data to inform space planning, design, and execution, you’re in luck. 

Saltmine recently moderated a conversation between Jay West (JLL) and Hannah Kumlin (JLL) to talk about the best practices on how to capture, analyze, and act on workplace data. Jay and Hannah have a mutual passion of leveraging data to create a better employee experience, as well as how to get the best ROI on office space.

Click the image below for the whole conversation: 

Informing Space: The Intersection of People and Data

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