Nowadays, virtually every process in a company is wired to ‘business intelligence’ software, providing dashboards of information that can help executives make critical operational decisions about cash flow, manufacturing, supply chain and financial reporting. While it might seem intangible at times, the way that people work in the office can be just as measurable.

Measuring the workplace

Workplace Analytics (also known as Workforce Analytics) combines software and methodology to measure worker-related data. Statistical models are applied to this data, allowing business owners to optimise their HR by identifying;

  • The need to add or reassign departments and positions.
  • Any physical risks to employees.
  • The factors influencing job satisfaction.
  • Current and future technological needs.
  • The responsibilities for tasks and goals.
  • Future leaders and encouraging their progression.

It’s essentially where science meets business, and the increasing use of it is having a real impact on office design.

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People, not numbers

Workplace analytics needn’t be solely about improving efficiency through reductions in headcount or downsizing processes. It can be used to make your workplace a better place, measuring how your staff spend their time and who they spend it with.

Rather than treating people like ‘widgets’, the best use of workplace analytics recognises that your workforce is made up of human beings and attempts to understand their engagement levels. Organisations that get the best out of the insights they gain do so by devising strategies that recognise the way the office space is being used and how colleagues are interacting within it.

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Finding time to measure your scarcest resource

According to Harvard Business Review, on average, an IT manager will spend 35 hours a week in meetings, sending emails in 85% of those meetings, and interacting with around eight different teams each day. Access to this kind of information, relevant to your own business, could prove very useful.

Since time is the scarcest resource for many business people, the way that staff manage their time is a vital piece of data to have. It’s important to collect this without invading your employees’ privacy, but you also need to ensure that they are open and honest about their work habits.

Once you have the relevant information, it’s important to know what to do with it. Something as simple as reducing the amount and length of meetings, as well as streamlining processes and adopting systems to improve collaboration, will garner results. But it can also have implications on the physical layout of the office.

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How does this impact on Office Design?

It’s a recognised fact that technology and the technology sector are shaping the way that businesses approach office design. While the bean bags, ping pong tables and slides of Google, Facebook and Apple are the pinnacle of creative workplaces, the extremes of their new headquarters simply aren’t attainable for the average business.

Encouraging interaction is always going to be an important part of office design, counterbalanced with areas where people can get away from it all. Using the data collected from workplace analytics, you can establish precisely which teams and individuals will benefit most from having access to these areas.

The future of workplace analytics

With the emergence of the Internet of Things and wearable technology, epitomised by Apple’s new iWatch, the opportunities for recording data could reach new levels. With the concept of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) already widely accepted in some industries, the next step of having staff accessing their work through wearable tech isn’t that far-fetched. When combined with data analysing tools and apps, the ability to measure how your staff interact becomes even easier.

If this Big Brother approach makes you feel a little uncomfortable, the current form of workplace analytics is a lot less Orwellian but certainly a vital tool when it comes to improving the efficiency, productivity, engagement and general happiness of your staff. Which can only be a good thing.

Written by Helen Bartlett, Design Manager.