Space Planning Pros Lack Necessary Data to Configure Post-Pandemic


About 90% of space planning professionals are struggling with managing work and learning spaces in more fluid, hybrid-use environments coming out of the pandemic, according to a survey of 255 professionals by Armored Things, a provider of AI software for space planning.

Richard Scannell, CEO, Armored Things, said in a prepared statement that getting a handle on the best use of physical space is more difficult in the current hybrid environment because a lot of the spatial intelligence available is point-in-time data that doesn’t provide space planners with the analytics and insights they need to make the best decisions about facilities.

A large majority of space planners have had to help manage day-to-day seating challenges; resolve disputes over space issues; and find that people are asking for more space than they need as they are “scrambling” to address their constituents’ changing needs, the company said in a release.

The survey featured 175 respondents from companies with at least 500 employees and 80 were from higher education institutions with at least 500 students.

AI-based space planning has helped close the data gap by providing, capturing and analyzing the occupancy data, Scannell said.

Qualitative Info Should Complement Tech Data

Rick Ybarra, principal, Avison Young Consulting Services, tells that companies he has engaged or spoken with agree that collecting quantitative information through technology sources of information has been a challenge based on lack of information or technology tools.

“As a result, there has been a significant push to implement workplace technology systems and tools to begin to capture occupancy information to enable the planning around the new workplace environment,” Ybarra said.

“There is a critical need to capture qualitative information to compliment the technology data. This additional information has been centered on understanding the work styles of employees and what places, spaces and technology they need to perform their individual work and when working with others.

“This combination of quantitative and qualitative information helps to fill gaps that may be lacking in one area to enable Avison Young’s clients to provide or enhance the right places and spaces for their employees.”

Hybrid Schedules Complicate Matters

Chris Congdon, director of global research communications at Steelcase, tells that her firm uses research and data to inform workplace design strategies for clients.

In its most recent global report, findings reveal 87% of people will spend at least some of their time working from the office, but 45% prefer working from home. This indicates organizations must create spaces that work better and offer more than remote work set ups, Congdon said.

“There is no one-size-fits-all answer,” she said. “The first step to designing a workplace that optimizes hybrid collaboration is listening to employees’ new needs. Organizations that understand what factors add value to employees’ day will create an office that earns their commute.

“Our report showed a shift from assigned to unassigned desks — pre-COVID, 88% of workers had a desk assigned to them, compared to the current 40%. However, workers are more likely to work from the office if they have an assigned desk.”

Steelcase found that the percentage of floor space dedicated to collaboration has also increased by 7% – up from a pre-pandemic number of 46%.

Additionally, when asked what office features are more important to people now than before the pandemic, spaces for hybrid collaboration, single-person enclaves for hybrid meetings, general privacy and workspaces with full or partial enclosure were the top four results globally.

Study How Space is Used, Not Number of Occupants

Albert DePlazaola, Global Director, Strategy at Unispace, a global strategy, design and construction firm, tells that before COVID, utilization and occupancy metrics were extremely helpful for strategic planning and evaluating space requirements. However, in a post-pandemic environment, not so much.

“CRE leaders should be paying very careful attention to metrics that provide insight as to how space is being used, and not necessarily by how many,” DePlazaola said. “The frequency by which employees return to the office should be determined by a thoughtful RTO (return to work) strategy that is set by leadership and HR/People teams to best support the business and the employee experience.

“CRE leadership then needs to understand, and strategize, around how the work environment can support the RTO strategy, whether it’s a virtual-first strategy or a mix of hybrid.”

Data Must be Visualized

Kul Wadhwa, CEO and Founder of BeyondView, tells that data is top of mind, “however,

when data is visualized it is easier to interpret and see its potential impact. In order to understand space

and its potential uses, contextualizing data is essential.”

Lisa Stanley, CEO of OSCRE International, tells that corporate occupiers, as well as owners and investors in real estate, need reliable, timely and accessible data to guide decisions related to space in a hybrid work environment.

“While emerging technology platforms can collect large amounts of data, these platforms don’t often have the ability to communicate with each other,” Stanley said. “Standardizing data across platforms contributes to effective data governance and is key to fully utilizing the power of these new technologies.”