The human app fusion: creating data that counts

How much data is too much data? Lendlease’s workplace app, X Ray, fuses human observations with mobile technology to create data which can give accurate, holistic and transparent outcomes for new workplace strategies

Workplace data has transformed the way our offices are designed, the way employees interact with their environment, and the way facility managers understand workspace. It has become the quantifiable pillar in which to build a strong business case for change in the workplace. Yet while many organisations believe the most effective way to collect robust datasets is through the deployment of thousands of sensors and beacons throughout the workplace, Lendlease have developed an app – X Ray – which combines the accuracy of human observation and the clever analytical capabilities of technology.

Using data effectively

Utilisation data is typically collected using strategically placed sensors throughout the office which continuously monitor the performance of workspace and yield millions of data points in a day. Yet, according to Forrester, organisations only analyse 12 per cent of the data they collect, leaving 88 per cent of data unused. Organisations focus on the data that will most effectively impact their employees and workplace, while the rest of the data is left as redundant surplus.

The X Ray app is intended to be used over a short period to collect data which is relevant to build a business case for better workplaces. Instead of allowing technology to continuously measure space, the app works in tandem with human observation. Measuring only the times which are necessary, the app is used as a platform to input data from human observation and create tangible analytical outcomes. This means it is not only space utilisation which is measured, but also collaboration and types of technology used.

The validity of short term studies has often been called into question, particularly when conducted in environments which are as versatile at the workplace. So Lendlease have repeated studies over multiple weeks to eliminate anonymous findings such as days where big one-off meetings have occurred to help validate the data and reduce the risk of human error. Yet the results often come back very similar throughout the duration of the study, within one to two per cent of the initial study results.

Do we collaborate as much as we think?

Despite not continuously collecting workplace data on a permanent basis, the X Ray app has been used in over two million unique observations across a number of different workplaces. This gives a broad dataset to observe patterns occurring throughout the workplace. Lendlease have discovered that collaborative work, on average, is only 11 per cent, and of that 88 per cent of employees are collaborating in groups of four or less. Although these statistics cannot be deployed as blanket solution to design in all workplaces, it gives a quantifiable certification that workplaces should not be designed for the sole purpose of collaboration and individual concentrated work is still a popular method of working.

The data also shows that on average more than one third of employees are highly mobile spending less than 30 per cent of their working week at their primary workstation. This indicates that workplaces should design for mobility and variety. Each workplace has a unique focus point, but these typical statistics help navigate the norm.

The demise of paper and desk phones

The X Ray app also monitors what most sensors cannot – what type of technology is being used throughout the workplace. Currently the data shows that a computer is the most common technology used in the workplace at 79 per cent, but it also shows a significant growth in the used of mobile phones and video conferencing software. This can help give an indication of how new ways of working are enabling a digitally driven office, as paper and desk phones are set to take a down turn.

Lendlease have created a synergy between accurate human observation and technology through its app and in the process have exploited sensor technologies limitations. Instead of collecting millions of data points a day, X Ray focuses on the data that will support and strengthen the case for more flexible and agile work environments based on how the current office is being used in terms of space, technology and social interaction.

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