A single empty conference room may not seem like a big deal. But the reality is, that lone meeting room probably isn’t the only vacancy. And the expenses associated with poor space utilization can add up fast.
Here’s how to determine how much your company is wasting on empty conference rooms and how to make better use of your space.
How Much Does One Empty Conference Room Cost?
If you want to calculate the cost of empty conference rooms in your organization, you’ll need to gather the following information:
- Conference room dimensions
- Annual lease rate per square foot
- Annual cost of utilities per square foot
- Average room utilization/vacancy rate
Once you have these numbers, plug them into this formula:
([Lease Rate + Cost of Utilities] x Room Dimensions)
The result is the total annual cost of one meeting room. To determine how much one empty conference room costs, multiply the result by the average vacancy rate.
Here’s an example:
- Average annual lease rate in 2018: $34/sq. ft.
- Average annual cost of utilities: $3.40/sq. ft.
- Average size of a large meeting room: 420 sq. ft.
Using these figures, the total annual cost of one conference room is $15,708. Assuming the space has a utilization rate of 25 percent (which is the average for most organizations), a single empty conference room can cost your business $11,781 per year.
Now, take into account that the rule of thumb is one meeting room for every 10-20 employees. That means a mid-sized company with 250 employees can expect to waste nearly $300,000 on empty conference rooms every year.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make better use of your conference rooms.
4 Ways to Improve Conference Room Utilization
1. Don’t Use Microsoft Outlook For Room Reservation
While Outlook is a fine email platform, it doesn’t work well for room reservation.
Outlook doesn’t allow employees to see the dimensions of a space, number of chairs or the available assets like a projector or video conferencing equipment. As a result, an employee may reserve a room and not discover until meeting time that the space doesn’t meet their needs and they have to reschedule. Unfortunately, unless they remember to cancel the reservation, the space will likely sit vacant until the next scheduled meeting.
2. Offer The Right Mix Of Conference Rooms
One of the primary reasons a company experiences poor meeting room utilization is due to the disconnect between what the workforce needs and what the employer provides. While most conference rooms are designed to accommodate six or more employees, about three-fourths of meetings have only two to four attendees, according to a benchmarking report by architecture-engineering firm HOK.
Employees will be hesitant to book such a large space for smaller meetings, resulting in an empty conference room. To reduce the number of empty meeting rooms, make sure your workplace provides an appropriate mix of spaces. In addition to large conference rooms, you also need smaller conference rooms, quiet spaces and less formal huddle areas.
3. Provide User-Friendly Meeting Room Technology
If there are a handful of meeting rooms that are consistently unoccupied, they probably have something in common: absent or malfunctioning technology.
An old phone that constantly drops calls, an outdated monitor that doesn’t support screen-sharing or a Wi-Fi signal that’s so weak it’s almost nonexistent are all understandable reasons employees will avoid otherwise fine conference rooms. Make sure every meeting room is furnished with technology that supports productive collaboration.
4. Invest In Room Reservation Software And IoT Sensors
Room reservation software gives employees instant access to the status of every bookable space in the workplace from their computer, mobile device or room scheduling panels. They can see the size of the space, seating capacity and the available equipment and reserve a room in seconds.
Room reservation software integrates with calendar tools like Outlook, iCal and Google Calendar so employees can compare their coworkers’ schedules to room availability. In addition, you can use IoT sensors to automatically update the status of rooms based on occupancy. For example, if the sensor detects a room is unoccupied 15 minutes after the scheduled meeting time, it will update the room status to “Free” so other employees can book it.
An empty conference room can be a major source of wasted space in the workplace. But if you use the right software and technology and ensure employees have access to a variety of meeting spaces, you can significantly improve conference room utilization.