News | 21 October 2019

Politics vs data when making workplace decisions

When talking politics, we often mean increasing power through emotions. It is assumed, on the other hand, that data represents fact. Therefore, the discussion around politics vs data could be presented as what people feel is right vs what is actually known. But how far is that borne out in practice? That was the basis for part of our roundtable with technology provider Ricoh.

"Data speaks to those who like data" was the statement made by a senior consultant to open this part of the discussion. They added: "Data is more often used upfront to inform the brief, not to evaluate it. It supports an idea. People who prefer agile working and open plan do not like hot desking. People prefer what they know. So, how do you get them to understand what they don't know?"

A facilities professional from a household brand used his organisation as a case study; he said that while a senior cohort resisted workspace change, it remained a necessity as the organisation physically couldn’t take on any more actual space.

The overarching view of the experts in the room was one of "a resistance to office as a status symbol" and that we, in general, have forgotten how to listen. One added: "We are using data to support what we want, which has a very strong push but a very weak pull. We are ignoring the pain points and we will come a cropper if we continue ignore them. If we listened, we’d have hybrid solutions that acknowledge that both data and tech can help us. We need to flip the conversation towards finding solutions.”

It so it was here that the conversation in the room flipped from whether what we were talking about was really politics vs data or politics plus data.

Most likely, we can make better informed decisions by looking at what we know on paper and making decisions based on how the people using the space interpret those facts; a view shared by the room: "When we do have data we still need a human being."

Another facilities leader gave another in-practice example to the discussion: “When looking at our workplace, we got the technology wrong. It tethered a system to the floor. We could have installed excellent wireless tech but didn't, so flexibility, in practice, was ignored.” On reflection, if there had been a discussion with those using the space day-to-day, to find out what they really wanted, this would have been identified early on and decisions made accordingly. The workplace would have been people focused.

Now, we need to focus on what is meant by the term ‘people-focused’; we need to ask what it actually means for our workplaces and how we need to take action and improve.

How people-focused is your workplace? Share your thoughts on Twitter @IWFM_UK or email

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