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Anywhere Can Be a Coworking Space if You Try Hard Enough…

Using the data your technology is collecting to create better functioning spaces for your customers.

Some thoughts as I sit here on my laptop, working from an East London A&E…in a world where many of us can work from literally anywhere, how can we best ensure our flex offices are attracting people away from their homes / a café / a park and into our spaces?

Having been overseas for a relaxing long weekend, I somehow spent my first morning back at work in A&E after a small run-in with a very sharp knife. Not ideal to say the least but I had my laptop and managed to get a good bit of work done (one-handed) – partly fuelled by my guilt at being so careless, as well as the quietness of the waiting room and lack of external stimuli to distract me. Not to be one of those people on LinkedIn that somehow drags a life lesson out of every small misfortune that befalls them, but it did give me time to think about what I had planned to write this blog about..

I’ve spoken previously about the data skills gap and on how flex space supply and demand continue to be ‘on the up’, so to tie it together I wanted to discuss how the best operators are actioning the data they collect in order to level-up their spaces, and place them well ahead of the competition. There could be lessons here for operators as well as the wider commercial real estate world.

When I arrived the NHS staff at reception took down my name, date of birth, and my arrival time, as well as my ailment; they collected a standard set of data and assessed what I would need from my visit and when. In a similar way, when booking a desk, office or meeting room in any flex space in town, I am handing over data on who I am, information about my preferences, and the company I work for. When I arrive, either a QR code, my app or a visitor management system will register my arrival time, back-end systems will pick up when I connect and disconnect from the Wi-Fi, and much else about how I use the space can be picked up from the space management portal if I engage with it, e.g. do I always book a room with videoconferencing.

When anonymised and looked at across large numbers of people and assets, you start to get a pretty good idea of what people want and when. This is before even adding things like sensors into the equation – IoT got a lot of air time over the past few years but speaking from experience, it can be expensive, cumbersome and disruptive to install, and even trickier to support. So where am I going with all this…

Make the best use of the data you already have rather than fretting about the data you wish you had.

The last few years in the flex world has seen a lot of talk about occupancy rates, best ways of maximising space, monetising rooms, upselling services, improving the occupier experience, podcast rooms and biophilia…

So many sensible questions can be answered by looking at the data flex operators are already collecting by way of simply operating – bookings, Wi-Fi utilisation, access control and more:

  • Which days and times are members using the space most? Are there any seasonalities? What can be offered to entice people in on less busy days? I recall Uncommon used to do an amazing breakfast on Fridays which brought quite a few of my colleagues in from home.
  • When is the most common arrival time? Can we offer coffees at these times to boost the user experience of our members.
  • How often are people overstaying their bookings, leading to revenue leakage?
  • Which facilities are booked the most, and could possibly have a premium attached? E.g. Video conferencing in meeting rooms.
  • Which facilities are underutilised, and therefore may need some more thought e.g. How-To-Guides in podcast rooms.
  • Are there more crowded areas in your space leading to Wi-Fi congestion? Do other areas need more plants, lights, amenities to spread people out more evenly?

The list goes on. None of this is rocket science, but it is to say that much of the data you need exists already so don’t waste it – it’s just a matter of knowing where to look and drawing some sensible conclusions about how your members use it, what they want more of, and what they want less of. Act on the data you have, before your customers action it in their own way by raising tickets, giving feedback or simply moving on.

A final big thank you to the NHS for treating me and my thumb on Tuesday. I had a great ‘user experience’ with a wait time so short I had to finish off this post at home, though I’m hoping I won’t be booking a permanent seat there anytime soon...

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