A vital part of any occupancy analysis is understanding who the occupants are. The identity of individuals is not required; however, it is important to be able to classify individual occupants in several ways:
Organizational Unit: also known as Business Unit, this classification groups people based on the organizational structure. This is essential as workplace engagement will typically be with managers and leaders of these units, and so it is necessary to be able to provide analysis based on their occupancy.
Job Role: the individual’s job role allows people with similar jobs to be grouped, even if they are in different parts of the organization. People with similar job roles often exhibit similar patterns of workplace behaviour and have similar Space Demand profiles.
It is also useful if the patterns in the occupancy data of an individual can be correlated over time – so that even if the identity is obfuscated, the same individual can be identified throughout an analysis period.
There are inevitably privacy issues associated with recording data about individuals. However, providing the intention of the data collection is for legitimate improvement in the workplace, and the data is adequately anonymized, these issues should not preclude collecting the information discussed here.
Space type and place
Space classification is a large topic. Rather than put forward another classification method, it is recommended that an existing standard is adopted, such as the OSCRE Space Classification Code List.
Whatever method is used, it is important that each Space can be classified in a way that will be meaningful to the business and workplace teams who will be consuming any analysis. The space classification can then be used to group and aggregate occupancy information – for example by considering conference rooms separately from workstations.
Care should be taken when applying any Space Classification to ensure that adaptable spaces (those whose space classification can be changed on demand) are property accommodated. For example, an increasingly common practice is to design single person assigned enclosed offices in such a way that they can be used as four-person meeting rooms when the assignee is absent. Accommodating this change in use – and implied change in Space type – may mean understanding that the inventory is not fixed. In this case, the Resource Count of enclosed offices and the Resource Count of meeting rooms are variables determined by the kind of reservation that is present for each Space. To put this another way, Space type may be a function of time.
Spaces represent the most granular decomposition of the physical environment being analysed. It is also helpful to look at Space in a wider scale sense – rolling Spaces up to floors, buildings, campuses, cities, countries etc. This roll-up is often referred to as the Spatial Hierarchy:
A series of defined levels of containment of planar physical space where children are contained entirely within parents. Most Spatial Hierarchies include the following levels:
Other interstitial levels may be added depending on specific needs, including:
Region – a collection of countries representing either recognized geopolitical groupings, continents organizational structures
Country Subentity – the decomposition of a country into parts, including US States, UK Countries, Swiss Cantons etc. The United Nations define a standard set of global Country Subentities.
UN Location Code – a business district defined by the United Nations
Activity and interaction
At the heart of “Activity Based Workplaces” is the idea that the Activity will drive the selection of the most appropriate work setting. To better understand behaviours, it is therefore helpful to understand the Activity that is taking place.
Something that an individual or group does.
An Activity may be solitary or involve interactions with others, either in person or virtually. It typically is continuous for a Period (although may be interrupted, for example for comfort breaks).
Activities also usually take place with a fixed group of people and in one or more fixed Spaces for the entire Period – for example a meeting with five people taking place in a specific meeting room. However, these is not always the case: a mail room staff member might be undertaking a “deliver mail” Activity, which involves visiting a number of locations (aka Spaces); or a small group may be interviewing numerous candidates for a position, and whilst all the interviews may take place in the same room (Space), the candidates would come and go through the day (i.e. the Activity does not involve a fixed group of people for the whole Period).
Activities can helpfully be classified into those that are solitary and those that are undertaken in groups. Group activities are often referred to as interactions, and these are often very interesting in workplace strategy as arguably many aspects of productivity arise during such activities: for example, significant decisions or approvals are often established in a meeting, and innovation is often fuelled by serendipitous discussions.
The following definitions provide a useful classification of interactions:
One person or a minority of people in a group are conveying information to the remainder (majority) of the group.
A balanced dialog that is primarily work-related and that is taking place in an informal setting or context, typically without a written agenda.
A formal dialog that is primarily work-related and that typically will have a written agenda and take place in a more formal context like an enclosed meeting room.
An informal dialog that is primarily not work-related.
The interactions may be pre-arranged (and potentially include a Space reservation), or may occur in an unplanned, serendipitous fashion. Such serendipitous interactions are often perceived as highly desirable, particularly when workplace objectives include a desire to foster innovation.
Whereas interactions necessarily take place in a setting that is mutually agreed, individual activities can take place in work settings reflecting personal preferences.
These individual activities can still be classified in common ways:
VIRTUAL MEETING/ SPEAKING
Active engagement in a conversation with some remote participant(s) involving speaking. These activities create potentially distracting or disturbing noise for co-workers nearby.
Activities that require either acoustic or visual privacy to maintain confidentiality. For example, acoustic privacy may be required for a private phone call, and visual privacy might be required when handling sensitive documents (even if on screen).
Activities enabling prolonged concentration. These require an absence of distractions. This would usually imply a quiet environment, although some people prefer to undertake concentrative activities with background noise.
Activities that are thought-based, rather than action based. These maybe also be concentrative but could equally be relaxing.
Productivity – the value created per hour of labour – remains a very difficult measure to attribute to workplace. Even where productivity can be measure sufficiently granularly, the workplace is unlikely to be the most significant factor. However, it can nonetheless play a contributory role in optimising performance, and as people typically cost around eight times that of the workplace there is potential for a significant return on workplace investment.
Where granular productivity information is available, this can be used to compare similar activities in different locations and work settings. For example, comparing a defined, personal work output for two teams, one in an assigned desk office and the other with unassigned seating. Even though these comparisons may not be directly attributable to the workplace, there may be useful findings nonetheless – for example demonstrating that the productivity is at least not reduced.
Where productivity measurement is not possible, it may be necessary to rely on proxies instead. This is discussed later in the section on Measurement.