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WorkSpace Wednesday: Modeling Your Office Return


Image illustrating modeling, data, algorithms
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“People are going to come back to their senses.”
Such was the (hopeful) message I took away from a recent conversation with Michael Colacino, president of SquareFoot, a tech-based commercial real estate brokerage. SquareFoot caught my eye for its development of a model for use in figuring out how best to allocate office space for employees coming back to the corporate workplace, and I wanted to learn more for our sister site, WorkSpace Connect.
As I explained in a recent WorkSpace Connect post about SquareFoot’s algorithm, what Colacino meant in stating that people are going to “come back to their senses” is that at some point the primary focus around employee experience will shift from health and safety today, back to facilitating communications and collaboration.
He put it this way: “A lot of people have kind of lost sight that what we thought was important in September of last year is still really important today, in spite of everything that we’ve seen with COVID.”
And what we thought was important in September 2019 was building connected, collaborative workspaces (the very reason we launched our WorkSpace Connect community site). Six months in, and especially with kids across the country attending school virtually, the shiny veneer of WFH is wearing thin — and that means companies have to get smarter about what they do with their offices.
Initially for its own purposes but also with an eye on client use, SquareFoot found the answer in an internally developed algorithm that it uses as the basis for determining who works in the office and when. SquareFoot asked team leaders to rate the importance of four factors on a scale of zero to three, with zero being of no importance to three being of critical importance in getting the job done. The factors are:
  1. Amenities, including conference rooms and shared software licenses
  2. Commutation and transportation to the office
  3. Collaboration — meaning, how much in-person face-to-face communication an individual requires to do their job vs. how much they can do remotely
  4. Professional development, or onboarding, training, and accountability
The algorithm spit out a weighted average matrix, which provides guidance on which teams most need office access and how often. Employees must request time in an office via a scheduling system that allots space based on that data, biasing in favor of those who rate highest in need. They get first dibs, so to speak.
SquareFoot has put other measures in place, too, like requiring employees to work through a COVID-19 checker and verify health status before being allowed to schedule time in the office. And, because this is an algorithm, SquareFoot can tune the parameters over time, adding in factors like productivity, Colacino said. But for now, it’s a workable solution to a difficult problem of trying to find a fair way to allow employees back into newly limited-capacity offices.
The algorithm works because it takes the personal decision out of the situation, he added. “It’s just a tool.”
Visit WorkSpace Connect for more details on how SquareFoot’s algorithm works, plus additional ideas about returning to our connected, collaborative workspaces. Suggested reading: