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Measure the impacts of flex work

2/16/18 11:55 AM

This is the third part in a series of blogs called “Mobilize!” In the first installment, I discussed the concept of flexible work in general, and in the second, I got started on the topic of making a case for flexible working. In this post, I continue on the subject of making a business case, setting up KPI’s, measuring impact for improving the working environment.

Set goals for your flex work program, then measure on a regular basis to understand what is happening in the work environment.

When you are starting a flex work program, you are likely to have a set of end goals in mind. It's good to establish many of these as goals from the start, so you can follow how they develop over time. For instance, as mobility of the workforce grows at a workplace, it can be tricky for property managers (and HR professionals) to get a full picture of just how much time people spend outside the office during work hours and how much potential waste lies in under-utilized desks and spaces. It can also be challenging to understand how spaces could better support flexible working inside and outside the office.

One way to find out is to conduct an observational space utilization study over a period of time, which also enables you to log the typical activities and modes of work in various work settings around the office.

Another supplementary method is to conduct yearly workplace performance surveys, which can provide valuable information and feedback on ways of working, workplace satisfaction, office usability, impacts on desired outcomes and suggestions on how to improve the working environment. Of course, you should naturally also follow up if the desired benefits of reduced travel time and commuting costs, lowered energy consumption, and decreased CO2 emissions and pollution are being realized.

Analyzing mobility and the waste of space

Flexibility of time and place essentially translates into mobility. By definition, external mobility is the average share of all employees who are outside the office during typical workhours. You can calculate this by measuring the occupied and reserved seats at the office and weighing the utilization rate against the number of staff who potentially could use them. 

Another interesting metric for management is the amount of internal mobility within the building itself, as this can be an indicator of the “water cooler effect” and how much collaboration is taking place inside the office. According to HOK, internal mobility is a metric calculated by dividing the number of temporarily unoccupied seats by the sum of occupied and temporarily unoccupied seats [HOK benchmarking report, Vol. 1, Financial services, 2014].

With an online tool such as Optimaze Measure, that allows you to observe, log and report reserved (temporarily unoccupied) seating in addition to occupied seating and empty seating, it is easy to produce metrics like these. For example, Rapal’s international study of offices around the world found that on average 46 percent of workstations are empty, and that there are typically 30 percent free seats even at peak use. Internal mobility was on average 31.5 percent for all office types; however, the use of meeting spaces and consequently the number of temporarily unoccupied work seats was highest in activity-based offices.

With this in mind, leading real estate professionals have begun to do regular checks on how much money is being wasted on empty spaces, and how a company’s smaller carbon foot print could be achieved by having less spaces to heat, cool and light up. Both the environmental and financial impact can be huge as a consequence from increased flexibility.

Employee experience matters

Top managers also collect user feedback with yearly surveys on workplace satisfaction, office usability, and the impacts on desired outcomes such as productivity, well-being, morale and a sense of belonging. Surveys can even help Human Resources determine how well your office environment contributes to attracting and retaining talent, so that the workplace can be improved to match and even supersede your competitor’s.

To make a long story short: make sure you set up some key metrics for leading the workplace, and lead with real data to make your long term business case materialize.

Mobilize! Set up your own flex work program!

Are you considering flexible work arrangements for your company, or perhaps re-evaluating your flex work policy? Read on! In this four part blog series, Pontus Kihlman, Executive Consultant at Rapal Oy, delves a little deeper into the concept of flexible work in "Flexible work - what it is (not)" as well as its pros and cons in "Making a case for flexible work" and shares tips on how to develop your own flex work program. This post is the third part in the series. Be sure to read the previous and next posts, too. 

Pontus Kihlman

Written by Pontus Kihlman

Head of Business Development & Executive Consultant, Workplace Insights, Optimaze | Rapal