Forecasting Spatial Requirements

Podium Property Insights: Forecasting Spatial Requirements

With the hybrid office in flux, as the impact of the pandemic waxes and wanes, forecasting spatial requirements helps workplace managers optimise the office to ensure it is delivering the maximum business value in both the short and long term.

Knowing how much space to allocate to people and teams within the office is no longer a simple numbers game. The power of predictive analytics can not only forecast likely office attendance rates during uncertain times, it can also provide workplace managers with valuable insights into what staff and teams need from that workspace – in order to ensure they get the most from their time in the office.

Before the pandemic, determining an organisation's office requirements in terms of desks, meeting rooms and other facilities was a relatively simple formula. At most, they might bring in consultants to undertake a two-week time and motion study, to better understand how staff use the space. They likely worked on the assumption that little would change in the foreseeable future. Tracking the growth of the organisation using recruitment and HR data was enough to ensure that the workplace kept up with the needs of the business.

Today it is a very different story, with the flexible hybrid office seeming here to stay. Workplace attendance can vary greatly from one week to the next, depending on the state of the pandemic. Attendance rates can also vary widely between different staff and teams, depending on their roles within the business and the current phase of their different tasks and projects.

All of this combines to create complex peaks and troughs in the demand for desks, meeting rooms, creativity areas and other office space during any given week. That said, there is much more to forecasting spatial requirements than simply determining how much space is required to squeeze the right number of bodies on a given day. It's not just about giving them enough space, it's about giving them the right space in order to cultivate workplace productivity and nurture workplace culture.

It is vital to acknowledge that how teams work together, and what they require from a functional and productive workspace, has also changed during the pandemic. Today, attending the office is less about working at a desk in solitude – something that most staff can do at home. Instead, staff come into the office to meet their need for interaction and collaboration.

Of course, maintaining sufficient and appropriate workspace for an organisation's entire workforce is inefficient in the age of the hybrid workplace, but making assumptions around space requirements is fraught with risks to productivity and employee satisfaction.

Even while the world is in flux, forecasting spatial requirements through Podium Property Insights can determine likely space requirements by applying statistical algorithms and machine learning techniques to a wide range of data sources.

Rather than only relying on 'lagging' indicators, which draw insight from what has happened in the past, forecasting models can also consider 'leading' indicators by studying current behaviours, to better predict what's likely to happen in the future.

For example, the number of days absent from the office is a lagging indicator of attendance, only becoming clear after the fact. Meanwhile, employee satisfaction can be a leading indicator of attendance, in order to proactively anticipate the number of people likely to attend the office on any given day.

Dynamic forecasting can predict metrics curves over time, allowing for not just workplace patterns but also broader influences across the city, such as COVID-19 infection rates, traffic flow, public transport access and events such as public holidays.

The value proposition of forecasting spatial requirements in Podium Property Insights extends far beyond determining the optimal spatial requirements to address staff's immediate needs. It can also assist with medium and long-term planning, in alignment with business goals.

In the short-term, forecasting spatial requirements can assist with appropriate allocation of desks, meeting rooms and creative spaces in order to meet fluctuating demand. This can result in an immediate boost in both productivity and employee satisfaction – ensuring that individuals and teams have what they need to succeed and aren't clashing over access to limited resources.

Establishing the ability to dynamically allocate space according to needs can also assist with encouraging people to return to the office in the knowledge that they will have access to the facilities to perform tasks which are more difficult to do at home.

Other short-term benefits include improved resource usage to minimise waste and assist the organisation with achieving sustainability goals. This can extend to reducing food wastage and optimising cleaning schedules, along with reducing energy consumption by reducing the load on lighting and HVAC systems.

In the medium term, forecasting spatial requirements can inform efforts to reconfigure space in order to meet the ongoing needs of staff. This might include reducing the number of desks but, in return, increasing the number of meeting rooms and other spaces designed for collaborative work. Forecasting data allows workspace managers to right-size these spaces in order to maximise their availability.

The hybrid office has also increased the demand for different kinds of in-office workspaces, such as quiet booths where staff can work in peace without disturbing others. Podium Property Insights offers the ability to predict how changing space allocation and configuration will impact which members of staff use those spaces and how they use them.

In the long-term, the insights gained through forecasting spatial requirements can assist with right-sizing the office footprint when renewing leases and considering subleasing space.

The accuracy of forecasting spatial requirements naturally depends on the availability of data. While building access control entry/exit data and booking data can offer a rough picture of workplace attendance, workplace sensors provide much more granular insight into how people actually use the space.

While cameras have the potential to act as sensors for gathering occupancy and space usage data, their usefulness is often limited by the fact that camera networks tend to focus on entries and exits. This makes it difficult to gather a complete picture of the office.

An in-office sensor network offers a much clearer view as to how office space is actually being utilised, such as comparing meeting room booking data with occupancy data. While meeting room booking data might indicate that eight staff members were scheduled to attend for 60 minutes, sensors can reveal how many staff actually attended and how long they remained in the room.

Real-time occupancy data also offers the ability to automatically release booked spaces if no-one attends after a certain period of time. The granular insight from sensors can even drill down to individual desks, to assist with desk bookings and see more clearly how the office is used during the day.

These types of richer insights can improve workspace availability and forecasting, as well as planning in terms of the optimal number of desks as well as with the optimal number and size of meeting rooms.

With the hybrid office continually in flux, workplace managers can no longer simply rely on historical data to estimate the best workplace configuration to meet the needs of staff, teams and the business. Podium Property Insight's ability to draw on a wide-range of historical and real-time data to forecast spatial requirements ensures that the workplace can also remain fluid to respond to changing needs.