By: Thomas Kessler, CEO and founder of Locatee
Throughout the course of the pandemic, companies have emphasised the future of office working, which is often summed up in one word: hybrid. With the UK government now encouraging staff back to the office, it’s vital for senior leadership teams to understand the current attitudes of their staff towards the workplace, but also to take into account the individual needs of workers who are working remotely.
Data insights: how are offices adjusting?
Hybrid working is not a one-size-fits-all approach. After over a year of remote working, the return to the office for some can represent a big change to the at-home working habits they’ve developed. This is evidenced in the office utilisation data gathered by Locatee below, which shows that, although utilisation peaked at 19% in September across all countries, the average office utilisation for the month in the UK was only 10%. These statistics may point to the fact that workers are continuing to split between in-office and WFH environments.
Office utilisation in the UK peaked at 10% in September 2021
A survey of 1,000 UK office workers conducted by Locatee in July 2021 revealed that 81% of respondents wanted to keep working remotely at least some of the time after restrictions ended. Of those surveyed, only 17% want to work from the office full time, suggesting that for many people remote working has benefits they simply won’t give up. However, the general trend on the graph, although still low, is creeping upward, suggesting that workers may be mixing their in-office working habits with their (new) normal routine. With some workers reluctant to return to the office, it’s essential that senior management create a hybrid model that works for everybody. However, smart decisions for hybrid working cannot be made without accurate data.
Why data needs to underpin any hybrid model
Data insights will enable workplace leaders such as Employee Experience managers and Corporate Real Estate Managers (CREMs) to optimise the in-office experience for workers as a way to make in-person working more appealing to home workers. A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Locatee found that companies that had optimised their workplace data insights and data management saw it as a key contribution towards improved employee productivity and increased employee satisfaction compared to companies that have not optimised their workspaces.
Shifting to one centralised, cloud-based data solution that keeps track of data such as office density and popular areas of the office is a great way to reassess how a company uses a space. For example, if data points to employees only using certain specific desk types or meeting rooms, companies should adapt this space to reflect that demand.
Another example of how data can underpin hybrid strategy is with office occupancy. If certain members of the workforce wish to continue to observe social distancing, data proof points such as office occupancy, which can be ascertained through heat map technology, will inform managers of how busy the space will be on a given day. They would then be able to relay this information to said employees, meaning they feel more comfortable to come into the office with the reassurance that they will be able to socially distance themselves from other workers.
Employee satisfaction matters
Another proof point from Locatee’s research found that only 40% of businesses are collecting employee satisfaction scores. These metrics are a vital component for any successful office management strategy, especially in the post-pandemic era when the workspace increasingly functions as a hub for social activities and employee wellbeing. Whilst employee satisfaction scores are regularly collected for HR purposes, it’s important to supplement survey data with passively collected data capturing behaviours, to verify and validate the intents declared in surveys. In this way, companies are truly able to understand wellbeing and engagement in the office space.
Simple modifications to the corporate space, informed by the needs of the workforce, means management will be able to make employees feel valued and listened to, leading to boosted engagement, productivity and satisfaction. It’s important to remember that in order to attract employees back to the office, even if only for a couple of days per week, companies need to check in with the needs of their workforce, adapting accordingly.
Essential to any hybrid strategy is taking into account the worker, their needs and their feelings. The pandemic has exacerbated a need to check in with workers, and as companies vie for a hybrid model, the best way to facilitate this transition is through data insights that inform top-down decisions. Reassessing a space according to use and staying aware of the different circumstances dictating a worker’s in-office/WFH split are just two examples of how data proof points can aid a company to optimise workflows and boost engagement amongst the workforce. As more and more offices begin to welcome back employees, senior management must take a holistic approach to decisions concerning hybrid working.