Panel: Why Facebook and co-working spaces see data as critical to workplace design

Improving workplace experience should be a primary goal for all organizations today. At Density, this is our passion. And we believe data is central to that mission.

To learn more about how other companies are working on this challenge, we recently got the chance to sit down with several industry leaders in this area at the WorkTech19 conference in Los Angeles.

Ari Kepnes, Director of Market Research at Density, moderated a panel on the topic, “Reimagining the Workplace Experience with Data,” featuring the following participants: 

  • Terry Raby, Global Workplace Design Director at Facebook
  • Kieran Hannon, CMO at Openpath
  • Scott Anderson, Senior Director of Operations at CommonGrounds Workspace

Each panelist offered fascinating perspectives on the past, present, and future of work — and how data plays such a critical component in their decision making.

Planning for growth 

Raby recounted her early days at Facebook. After joining the team eight years ago, she spent the first six months building out a database that houses information about how people use the  global social network giant’s offices. It started out as largely isolated data project but has since grown to sync together with more than 40 different systems across the enterprise.

The platform blends together metrics from a proprietary meeting room calendar system, sensors, and an observation study. By layering all these utilization-measuring tools together, Raby was able to provide Facebook with a ratio that dictated the number of meetings rooms the company would need as it prepared for massive growth.

“We use all this meaningful data in order for us to do the right planning so that we can deliver spaces for Facebook in a very expedient manner,” said Raby.

Terry Raby, Global Workplace Design Director at Facebook

Validating design

Anderson of CommonGrounds Workspace, which operates flexible co-working spaces in a dozen U.S. cities, also stressed how much his company relies on business intelligence to optimize its offerings. “We really focus on data to understand how people are using the space,” he said.

One utilization hypothesis he has been trying to test by using Density’s solution is whether different sized groups use amenities differently. To him, it seems as though co-working teams of three or four people venture outside their office often to get coffee, grab a kombucha, or just socialize with others. 

Larger groups of 12 to 20, however, seem to stay in their own area. They are always surrounded by a large social team anyway, and they even have their own refrigerator inside their space. So perhaps such factors lead them to stick to themselves a bit more.

For now, it’s just an observation. Gathering the data will help determine whether or not this is really the case and if any design changes might be warranted. “When we build our next location and we have a 20-person office, we might put that closer to the back — maybe closer to a secondary entrance — because they’re not really interested in the communal aspect,” said Anderson.

Across the board, the panelists from Facebook, Openpath and CommonGrounds offered many practical perspectives and real-world examples. And in so many of these cases, it is clear that they are continuing to find new ways to use utilization data to reimagine the workplace.