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Workplace Analytics Series Pt. 1: The Best Data for Facilities Managers

employees in the office, office data graph
Chuck Leddy
Published on

Relevant data and analysis should inform what you do as a facilities manager and help drive the decisions you make, the actions you take. Workplace analytics are a dashboard of relevant metrics (i.e., actionable business insights) that can fuel improvement, helping facilities managers optimize operational performance, while driving more efficient operational costs and improving employee/visitor experiences.

But you can’t improve what you can’t measure, which is why data analysis is vital for any facilities management success.

Data Analytics and Performance Optimization

Data analysis can guide you like a good GPS system does. For example, I like to jog three times a week to support my overall health. I use an app on my phone, as well as a heart rate monitor, to track and measure my performance. My phone literally becomes a real-time performance dashboard, albeit for a slow runner. I try to do most of my runs at a pre-defined target heart rate of 127 beats per minute/bpm. 

I know I’m getting fitter over time when I can run the same course faster at the same heart rate of 127. Seeing the patterns in my performance data points builds confidence and helps me gain a better understanding of what I may be doing right (and wrong) and make more informed decisions about my health.

Like a fitness tracker, workplace analytics can help leaders understand the health of their office.

Whenever I have a below expectations run, for instance, I do a deeper data analysis to figure out why. Did I get enough sleep last night, leading to fatigue which impacts my heart rate? Was it very windy outside today, slowing down my “speed” and impacting my heart rate? Has my nutrition taken a step back in the past few days (too much pizza, not enough vegetables)? 

By tracking these diagnostic analytics and asking the right questions to understand the root causes of my performance concerns, I can gradually improve over time and make necessary adjustments along the way.   

Office Analytics for Facilities Teams: Core Capabilities

Workplace analytics can help you and your facilities management team as you seek to save money and drive improvement around space and equipment and energy usage, but to leverage them effectively, you need a couple of core capabilities:

  1. Regular access to relevant performance data (i.e., a workplace analytics dashboard, as part of a larger workplace management platform).
  2. An understanding of how to use and interpret relevant data to turn valuable insights into action/decision-making. Raw data, by itself, is useless.
  3. A “learning” mindset and a process for interpreting data and analytics to improve performance via an iterative feedback cycle, largely driven by the right questions and data to make data-backed decisions.

You saw from my jogging example that my relevant performance metrics are modest, including heart rate, running pace, and running distance. An Olympic runner, by contrast, would want more detailed metrics (around oxygen efficiency, running mechanics, etc.) that she might share with a coach to inform weekly or daily conversations about improving performance. 

When you know which data is more pivotal for your function, you can quickly access analytics that move the needle.

Every workplace is different, of course, and serves different stakeholder needs. So which performance metrics are most useful for you as a facilities manager and why?

As with all things strategic, you’ll want to begin by:

(1) Understanding where you are today (i.e., your current state) and assessing what your current and future needs are;

(2) Envisioning what success might look like for your workplace based on its needs (i.e., your business goals);

(3) Working your way backward, using relevant performance metrics to guide and track you from where you are today to where you want to be. 

“Employees, employers facility managers, and visitors all have new expectations for the office, they want flexible tools and resources that make in-person work simple and successful, and they want these tools to just work,” says Robin’s VP of Product Ciara Peter.

So it helps to constantly track what your people (employees and visitors alike) expect from your workplace in terms of facilities, layouts, processes, technology tools, and more – as a prerequisite for evaluating whether their needs are being met.

Knowing What Metrics Matter Most to You

Knowing what metrics and valuable information matter most requires you to ask, and keep asking, for feedback and data from the people who use your facilities. You’ll have some metrics that nearly all facilities managers track, but others may be unique to your workplace and organization. You may even want to leverage predictive analytics and AI to gain even more actionable insights from facility data.

“Utilization by floor is obviously a key area to track, but so is your office attendance rate and your retention rate. Are you seeing people stay at your company longer at different locations? That attendance and retention data can help you understand whether you have the right office environment in place," explained Aishu Leitz, Robin’s Sr. Product Manager for Data and Insights, in the webinar Office Analytics 101: Planning for the Future.

"Seeing department level utilization is another key indicator, because having managers and departments coming together in the office can really boost engagement and productivity. Being able to measure and analyze all these KPIs, with the help of a custom dashboard, is really important for creating value through your own data analytics.”

Break down your workplace data by department, building or location for more granular insights.

Facility Management is Never “Set and Forget”

Building a workplace and facility that your people will want to work in (and even love) is always an iterative process of evolution, not a “set-and-forget” proposition. Robin’s custom analytics platform gives facility management teams like yours enterprise-grade analytics to help optimize your workplace and facilities in flexible ways that address the particular, evolving needs of your workplace, facility, and the people who use it.

Using the custom dashboard, facilities teams and facility managers can easily configure reporting and format data to support data-driven decisions that align with their strategic goals. You can spend more time analyzing and acting upon your relevant workplace data and less time formatting it. You don't need to be a Ph.D. in big data analytics -- if you’re spending all your time figuring out the insights from space usage data, then there’s little time left for using data and acting upon it.

You can also share your customized workplace data (whether you call the data sources of it “metrics,” “KPIs,” or whatever) with other workplace leaders in the company C-suite. At the end of the day, your customized dashboard becomes a navigation tool offering you a granular level of workplace performance data analysis that empowers you to evolve your strategic approach over time, based upon relevant data.


How to Take Action with Office Facilities Data

How do you transform insights into relevant action that improves the overall performance of your workplace? You need to have conversations with your stakeholders, especially your workplace team, about what the data/KPIs mean and what to do about it. Some tweaks and adjustments will be easier and less expensive to make than others.

Turning up the temperature when lots of people are complaining about the cold, for instance, might seem like a quick fix, while “adding more natural light” in common areas could take more time and lots of money to address. 

If your data shows you that none of your building floors are being fully utilized, you have the evidence you need to consider downsizing confidently.

From Insight to Action: An Example

You’ll want to set up a process for reviewing your customized metrics/KPIs and then making collective decisions around what to do. That review process should include the capacity to prioritize issues, execute on solutions, and track changes made via performance data (thus closing the feedback loop). 

Let’s look at an example to illustrate how insights might get transformed into action. Assume that your customized, facility management software or asset management dashboard shows that an office has a relatively high cancellation rate for its room bookings.

The space gets booked, but doesn’t get used. That’s obviously wasteful and a potentially big cost problem. Once the “high cancellation” issue has been identified, a facilities manager would want to dive deeper into the data to clearly understand the cost implications of the problem, why it’s happening, how the situation can be improved, and what priority to give the issue.

A facilities manager could use their custom dashboard to drill down on the relevant space utilization data by day, department, or individual user to hone in on the root causes of the “room booking cancellation” problem.

With all that data in hand, said facilities manager could then hold conversations with relevant people about why they canceled their bookings. Once the facilities manager has taken a deep dive into all this quantitative analysis and qualitative data in order to fully understand the problem, she can then work with the leadership team to brainstorm solutions to improve efficiency in the current system.

Finally, the workplace team can decide what changes to make and when. Best of all, they can use the customized dashboard to see whether the changes made have actually helped to reduce the high cancellation rate – closing the feedback loop. 

When workplace teams have data about how their own office is being used, they have access to cost-saving insights.

Upleveling with Advanced Analytics 

Beyond the basic metrics around tracking your energy consumption, usage and space utilization, what other metrics can help you improve facilities management. And how might you use these more nuanced analytics and value-adding insights to create value?

You can use prescriptive analytics software to support any number of workplace business goals and tasks, including to improve operations and:

  • Manage in-office policies: See if employees are meeting office attendance goals set by leadership. So if your RTO policy asks people to come into the office 4X per week, are people complying? A Robin report shows that 45% of employees have a 4X per week in-office mandate, but of those employees, only 24% report being in the office at least 4 times a week. To see if people are complying with your mandate, you can drill down by the departmental and even the individual level to get answers.
  • Avoid resource inefficiencies: Understand daily resource usage across departments and floors, including in meeting rooms, and then re-allocate those resources based on needs and historical patterns of usage.
  • Improve workplace design: Identify opportunities to adjust office layouts. So if 80% of your meetings involve more than 3 people and half of your meeting rooms are small-sized and suitable for 2 people, you might want to reduce the number of smaller meeting rooms and add more midsized rooms that accommodate 3 or more people.
  • Effectively manage spaces: Determine strategies for long-term space management and cost reduction. These changes might mean recognizing that you have underutilized space, allowing you to consolidate the spaces that go used and lease out underutilized space or shift its purpose, depending on your needs.
Advanced analytics will automate insights about your office to help you make smarter decisions.

Leverage Workplace Analytics to Build Better Offices

At the end of the day, you can think of workplace data analytics as the digital cockpit of a car. You have your bearings and destination locked in, meaning you have a strategic destination. You can use your workplace data analytics now as a navigation system. If you’re on track, then keep going in the same direction. If you veer off track, you can then use the incoming descriptive data to course correct as you go.

Your destination as a facilities manager, of course, is to build and maintain an office that people will want to come to, one where people can do their best work, individually and collectively.

Learn more about how Robin can help.

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Does your office collaboration need a reboot?

Find out if your workplace strategy is a hit or a miss.

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