The Algorithm That Could Get You Back in the Office

Companies are wrestling with how to bring staff back to the office in a safe and fair manner. One US firm has created an algorithm to try and solve the puzzle.

▪ Due to the health and safety requirements imposed by the pandemic, office space has become a scarce resource that needs to be allocated wisely. Many companies are adopting a ’hybrid’ model of office use, with employees dividing their time between remote work and in-person office time.

▪ New York City-based start-up SquareFoot, whose business is building digital tools to help clients find office space in cities around the world, has come up with an algorithm that helps allocating access to office resources in a way that best accommodates the needs of individuals, departments and the business as a whole.

▪ Built after gathering data about the company needs in several key areas, the AI tool determines SquareFoot’s office schedule after evaluating employees’ requests for office time, in particular when demand for office use exceeds supply.

Alex Alonso, an organisational psychologist and chief knowledge officer at the Virginia-based Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), said that the right solution to the office space issue is going to look different for every company, and that innovation is key. “If the intent is to reinstitute what you had, you’re going to find that that’s fool’s gold, because it doesn’t exist,” he added.

▪ Companies grappling with how to assign limited office space should be sure that any system they come up with has input from all employee groups it might affect, says Karen Mangia, vice-president for customer and market insights at Salesforce. Re-evaluating policies every quarter will help make them more limber.



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