Data gives design the hard facts
In commercial workplace design, there’s plenty of change. Offices are now being influenced by residential and hospitality design, while work continues to grow ever mobile. Even open plan design seems on the way out. We chat to Peter Black, director of independent workplace consultancy, 5Projects, about how facilities managers are navigating the changing landscape.
The role of FM has evolved
Gone are the days of changing lightbulbs and cleaning up spills, today’s facilities managers now need a whole other job title – workplace experience managers – and a revised remit that focuses on experience and people, rather than simply creating a workplace that is easy to maintain.
“Expectations have changed,” Black says. “It’s a change of attitude more about creating a great experience for everyone in the workplace.”
The mindset involves thinking creatively about how to make the fundamentals of work life comfortable and intuitive, as C-level executives aim to attract talent and retain the best staff.
As a result, our buildings have become more sophisticated; a quick scan of Sydney’s skyline reveals a number of new commercial buildings under construction, with highly aspirational talent attractors including lifestyle amenities, mentoring opportunities and the latest technology.
“There has been a hothouse of creativity over the past ten years in Australia, and leadership teams are now more aware of the impact of workplace design as a way to have the latest and shiniest building, because that makes it attractive,” he says.
“People are always looking for the latest thing, and building owners have become savvy in understanding what occupiers actually want,” he says.
For facilities managers, there’s no looking back; this is the future. But how do you make it work for your building?
Office usage is in the data
One of the latest is via next level data metrics, specifically, utilisation, where data measures how often a work station or meeting room is being used across a period of time.
“Hard data can scientifically measure office usage, which can then be used to influence workplace’s design on a real time basis,” Black says.
Black has undertaken two recent studies that show exactly that. Maximum work point occupancy was measured over a two to three week period, and showed 60 – 70 per cent maximum occupancy, or one-third of desks always unoccupied. A similar statistic was collected for meeting rooms, where larger rooms seating ten people were rarely being booked in favour of smaller two-person offices.
“That’s a huge waste. Thirty per cent of space that could be made more productive elsewhere,” he says.
For example, it could be transformed into quieter collaborative areas, in line with recent trends away from large open areas towards smaller, private spaces.
Data is also being collected to provide information on the way occupants work within buildings.
“Sensors on every desk will happen a lot more,” Black says. “With the workforce only going to become more mobile, it makes sense to provide monitoring on a continuous basis.”
Data impact on design
For facilities managers, collecting data is par for the course, but the difference is the way that the data can impact office configurations and design, which can in turn improve energy savings and business performance.
But while some facilities managers are adapting to the new workplace landscape, Black says naturally others will get left behind.
“Facilities managers can be very reactive. If they just change their focus, our workplaces can become much more intuitive and productive.”
So, while it’s the fancy marketing campaign that gets the office lease signed, it’s the story behind the data that can have the longer lasting effect, resulting in better design and staff that want to hang around for the future.
And a creative workforce makes for a better Australia.