How To Manage Office Space Occupancy With Sensors

by Hai Falor on May 27, 2021
How to Use IoT Sensors To Make Your Workplace Smarter

As you prepare to return to the workplace following the COVID-19 pandemic, you have likely implemented some changes already. But once you reopen, you’ll need to proactively manage office space occupancy to reduce the number of employees and practice social distancing.

While there are a few methods you can use, some options are better than others.

Using security badge swipes only tells you the number of people entering and leaving; it doesn’t give you insight into how they are using your space. You could also track occupants by monitoring the number of mobile devices on the company Wi-Fi network, but this could create privacy concerns.

Ultimately, the most effective and least obtrusive way to track office space occupancy is to use Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled occupancy sensors.

Here’s a closer look at the benefits of using sensors to measure occupancy and how to implement them.

What are occupancy sensors?

Occupancy sensors are devices that detect the presence of a person within a space. You can use them to monitor any occupied spaces, including floors, conference rooms, and even individual desks.

There are several different types of occupancy sensors, but two of the most common are passive infrared (PIR) and ultrasonic. PIR sensors detect occupancy by sensing the infrared heat emitted by a person as they pass through the sensor’s field of view. Ultrasonic sensors emit a high-frequency sound wave throughout a space, measure the time it takes for the sound waves to return, and interpret frequency changes as movement.

Modern occupancy sensors are usually connected to the IoT and can transmit data using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, or via a cellular or LTE network. They can also be integrated into your company’s internal network. Depending on which sensor provider you choose, you can also connect sensors directly to the software solutions you use to manage the workplace.

How can sensors help you manage office space occupancy?

Occupancy sensors enable you to collect accurate, objective data that reveals how employees are interacting with your new office environment. Because they continuously capture data, you have visibility into the real-time office space occupancy and utilization throughout the day,

You can track crucial office space occupancy metrics, such as:

Peak utilization is the maximum number of employees occupying a particular part of the office, such as a meeting room. Peak frequency is a measurement of how often a space achieves maximum utilization in a given period.

Monitoring peak utilization and peak frequency can help you identify office space occupancy patterns. You can see when your office is most populated and make sure you have the space required to support your needs.

The biggest advantage of using occupancy sensors is that you can integrate them with your workplace management solutions to make your data analytics capabilities even more robust.

The benefits of using occupancy sensors with workplace software

Analyzing occupancy and utilization data with a workplace management system like iOFFICE allows you to recognize trends and act on them quickly.

If you use space management software, you can see office space occupancy right within your floor plans and easily make adjustments as needed.

If you notice that almost every desk is occupied every day but there are private offices that are consistently vacant, you can reconfigure those spaces.

Or if your dashboards show the office has consistently higher occupancy levels on certain days, you can make policy changes. You might consider requiring employees to make reservations using desk booking or visitor management software for the days they plan to be in the office. You could also set up alternating shifts to avoid overcrowding.

You can even connect daily occupancy data with your facilities maintenance software to clean your office more efficiently. Instead of having your team clean every surface daily, you can focus on the areas that were actually used each day.

Using occupancy sensors and workplace management solutions together empowers you to make more informed decisions about how to make the work environment safer and more comfortable.

By combining data from multiple sources into a single platform, you can layer and compare various data sets to create a more complete picture.

How to use VergeSense to manage office space occupancy

iOFFICE recently introduced a new integration with VergeSense, a provider of AI-powered workplace sensors.

The VergeSense platform helps create intelligent spaces that are both flexible and safe. It takes real-time anonymized data and turns it into curated insights for workplaces to take transformative action.

A single sensor can track the occupancy of six to eight desks or detect motion in a room up to 300 square feet. It can also detect major motion up to 1,100 square feet.

VergeSense Signs of Life™ detects occupancy just like a human, providing the most accurate low-resolution data which is instantly processed through its enterprise-grade mesh network and converted to 100% anonymous people count data before being transferred securely to the VergeSense Cloud.

Get instant visibility into office space occupancy

This real-time data is accessible via the VergeSense API and can be sent directly to modules within iOFFICE, including Space and Reservations. It can also be shared with the iOFFICE Hummingbird mobile app. This displays real-time utilization data to space and facilities managers while also helping employees find the right workspace at the right time. Having this information at their fingertips allows them to collaborate safely and efficiently so they can be as productive as possible.

Measure office space engagement

Space engagement is the best indicator of how well your office space is used. Ideally, spaces should be used at regular intervals throughout the workday. Space engagement is the time a space is active, averaged across the days in the selected date range where that space had activity for at least five hours. This metric shows how long any given space was used during a full workday and how often it was used for a full day.

Make data-driven office design decisions

You can also use VergeSense occupancy sensors with our Space-Right space planning tool, which makes it easier to identify unsafe areas and instantly update your design.

For instance, you can see how employees are moving through the workplace and determine the best way to manage the flow of foot traffic. Then you can display these routes on digital kiosks or within the Hummingbird app. You can also visualize different scenarios for each part of the office and get recommendations for controlling capacity based on your specific safety requirements.

VergeSense sensors last up to two years and can be installed in as little as a day. That means you can start gathering office space occupancy and utilization data as soon as employees start returning. You can also generate granular insights, such as which days various spaces within the office are in use and how often they are occupied. After a few weeks, you’ll have a better idea of whether or not the updates have been effective at reducing close contact between employees or if you need to make adjustments.

Managing office space occupancy will likely be a long-term requirement for keeping employees safe. Fortunately, with the right occupancy sensors, it’s much easier. Learn more.


Hai Falor

Hai worked in the corporate real estate division of BB&T for 10 years focusing on facilities management, vendor management, and IT systems before coming to work for iOFFICE. With extensive experience in the IWMS software industry, where he served many years in sales and as a solutions engineer, Hai knows his facilities management stuff.

Capterra Ratings: ★★★★★ 4.5/5