A number of organizations are looking at how they can improve the utilization of their physical environments while at the same time improving employee productivity. Many of these organizations have started to look towards open workspaces.

When it comes to open workspaces, organizations are already reaping the benefits. According to the Wall Street Journal GlaxoSmithKline is seeing that people are communicating more effectively in an open workspace. Their email traffic has gone down by 50% while at the same time decision-making has accelerated by 25%.

To truly adopt an open workspace, there is more pressure on the wireless network to not only use high-performance Wi-Fi, but more intelligent wireless connectivity. By its nature, open workspaces employ open floor plans which leave less areas for cable drops, making Wi-Fi the primary means of access. Employees are using more collaborating video from large systems—even on their mobile devices—and new, non-user devices are all increasingly attaching to the wireless network.


Here are some considerations you should think about when moving to an open workspace:

Consideration 1: Wi-Fi has to reach everywhere, not just where workstations are.

With the open workspace environment organizations are allowing employees to do their jobs anywhere. That means that any spaces from shared desks to common areas to the cafeteria can be considered a workspace . This new approach means that not only does the Wi-Fi have to have vast coverage there can be no dead spots.

In open workspaces it is also common for workers to spontaneously gather in groups, not necessarily in meeting or conference rooms, but in common areas to have impromptu discussions. These flash crowds can impact the experience of the users in a given physical footprint. To counteract the increased bandwidth usage, Wi-Fi should be able to identify the increase in devices and demand in a given area and automatically adapt to better suit the types of devices. This will improve the capacity of the network for the time the flash crowd is there. Using technologies such as Flexible Radio Assignment found in the Cisco Aironet 2800 and 3800 Access Points.

Consideration 2: Securing access to protect assets and the business

The open workspace allows employees, contractors and guests to access the network using the device of their choice. These devices add to the number of devices or “things” not associated with a users such as sensors and video cameras—basically the Internet of Things (IoT). It is becoming less manageable to physically segment this traffic using VLANs and organizations are looking to ways to secure the network using deep context, by understanding:

• Who the user is—or in some cases that there isn’t a user,
• Which device is connecting to the network
• Where the device is located
• How the device is connecting (on the wireless network, VPN or wired network)
• When the device is connecting

This allows for the best decision to be made about what the device can and cannot access based on an established context. Technology found in solutions like Cisco Identity Service Engine can build centralized polices that take into account granular context.

Some real-life organizations are already using Cisco products to reshape their work environments. Read all about it here.

Consideration 3: Can the organization use the wireless network to make the environment more efficient?

With the Wi-Fi network extending everywhere, organizations can leverage location-based analytics to better understand where employees spend the most time. From this data they can take a look at areas of the physical environment to identify low-utilized areas and adapt the physical environment to be more cost effective. Technology like Cisco Connected Mobile Experience can help provide these types of insight.

As an example based on a real world scenario: an organization was showing phenomenal employee growth and soon it would require the company to build a new facility. By examining their existing facility it was determined that there was an average occupancy rate of 77% for the 1507 employees, Using this data, it was determined that the company could support this growth by moving to an open workspace instead of building a new facility. Furthermore, many employees do not go to the current facility everyday, but still have assigned workstations.

If you estimate the cost per workstation it equates to about $7,800 per year and the estimated cost per employees is $10,000 per year. The organization calculated utilization over the last 6 months by deriving insight from the wireless network. In this example, utilization is 31% on average, 38% at peak and 51% maximum. With these numbers the organization identified an opportunity to increase occupancy to 90%, which would increase peak utilization from 38% to 75% and allow them to support an additional 3,547 employees in the current building.

The key to this finding was examining when employees come to the facility. The findings showed 46.5% of employees come in five days a week, 47.2% of employees come in one-to-three-and-a-half times a week and 6.4% come in one-to-five times a month. So 50+% of employees are in the office less than 3.5 days a week. The company calculated that they could use desk sharing with a 3:2 ratio for the mobile employees. This reduced the cost per employee from $10,000 to about $3,200 by increasing the number of employees they can support within a single location. This was more than a 66% cost reduction per capita and resulted in them avoiding $24 million in costs.

What considerations are you looking into when moving to an open workspace? Please comment and let us know.


Brian Robertson

Product Marketing Manager

CMO EMM Mobility Solutions