As companies are opening their offices with a focus on mental health, increased wages, and connectivity in a hybrid setting, they must also focus on utilizing their spaces to meet their employees' needs.
Some have implemented space utilization software to gather data on how spaces are being used. With privacy being the biggest concern among employees with smart offices, how can companies ensure they collect accurate data while keeping their employees protected?
Technology doesn’t have to be a babysitter
Stigmas of babysitting surround workplace technology — tracking movement and productivity with the scroll of a mouse or time at a seat. And with the number of employers using tools to track their employees doubling to 60% since the start of the pandemic — and expectations to rise up to 70% by 2025 — this stigma may be staying put. Employees fear their work will be graded by occupancy over output. It also raises their fears about employers unknowingly gathering their digital and physical data.
Antiquated technology like badge data gathers personally identifiable information each time someone swipes their badge. When reports are generated to analyze building space usage, that information needs to be scrubbed before it’s passed off. This process leaves room for information leaking and human error.
Some camera systems come equipped with facial recognition. This type of technology often runs a continuous video stream, vulnerable to hacking. Facial recognition information can be stored, giving hackers access to personally identifiable information.
As privacy hacks increase around the world, employees are wary of when and how their data will be used. It’s important for companies to recognize these fears and combat them with communication. “Really the question that every company should ask themselves is this — 'What do I need this data for, and does the identity of the individuals weigh into the data that will inform impactful change to what we do, how we do it, and why we do it?'” says Devorah Rosner of Twilio.
But not all technology is created equally. Workplace leaders can implement programs that gather data on how space is used without tracking their employee's productivity. This technology focuses on how spaces are being used, not the amount of work being completed. This type of data doesn’t need a face, only a vote of the feet.
Tracking without invading privacy
While this type of technology tracks movement, it doesn't invade privacy or collect personal identification. Instead of invasive cameras, a heatmapping system can track movement and usage without identification. Instead of face recognition devices, radar sensors can measure meeting room capacity in real-time.
With 68% of employees preferring to work remotely, it’s important to create a welcoming workplace environment, one which cameras are often not viewed as a part of. Implementing ways to measure space without invading privacy can help to create the safe and welcoming environment many employees are seeking.
Above is an example of two employees working in a space, measured by our Open Area technology. Their presence is represented anonymously, keeping their privacy intact while measuring how a particular space is being used.
Companies have moved to implementing this technology to get them the answers they need without sacrificing employee experience. "It was important for us when we were putting in space sensors that they did not identify people. We have to be protective of our business, but we also have to be protective of our employees' information and data. And that's important to me,” says Larry Charlip of Take-Two. Taking this approach of giving equal weight to the business and the employees that work there is what will help to give employees the trust factor they are looking for.
Employees’ voices are loud and clear
As hybrid work continues to alter our work, change is met with questions and uncertainty. Employees are more empowered than ever to voice their needs for the workplace. This is a time to listen to employees and their desires and then implement space utilization technology to determine how their needs can be met with better workplace designs.
We're all learning how to cope with new hybrid workflows, but it will take a human-centric approach to make it happen. Leveraging workplace data to create valuable and informative decisions and understand how our employees think and feel about our workplaces while ensuring their privacy stays intact will be the drivers of a successful future of work.