How To Improve Space Utilization In 2022

by Ann DiPietro on November 2, 2021

While many organizations are still reeling from the financial impact of the pandemic, they’re also facing a new reality where most employees will use the office less frequently than they did before. 

That means they have to improve space utilization if they want to keep real estate costs in check while offering employees the flexibility they’ve come to expect. 

Prior to the pandemic, the average space utilization for a commercial real estate building was only 40-60%, according to JLLPoor space utilization can cost tens of thousands of dollars a year—and for large global companies with many locations, the problem can be even more expensive. It also makes employees less productive.

If one of your goals is to improve space utilization in the coming year, you’ve come to the right place. Follow these steps.  

How to improve space utilization 

1. Gather data on all your office spaces

Without the right space utilization data, it’s impossible to see the full picture of your company’s real estate. This is especially true if your organization has added new locations or inherited them through a merger or acquisition.  You will likely need to gather data from several different systems and consolidate it into a single place. Space classification standards by country or company, so you need to be sure everyone has the same understanding of important measurements, such as: 

  • Occupiable space
  • Non-occupiable space
  • Restricted space
  • Non-standard space
  • Offline space
  • Mobile space
  • Unassigned space
  • Requirements for executive areas
  • Requirements for secure areas

Defining these terms will make it easier for everyone to agree on how much usable space is actually available in each location. If you’re only relying on total square footage to make future planning decisions, you could be underestimating your needs. 

2. Assess the total costs of occupancy

To improve space utilization, you need to balance the needs of your workforce against the costs of maintaining your existing real estate or leasing new space. That means considering more than monthly rental rates. To understand the total costs of occupancy, you need to think about other factors, including technology, furniture, utilities, and facility maintenance costs. 

Before you can do that, you’ll need to determine where to find this data. It could be in several different systems, including your CAD system, space planning software, HR system, and the software you use to manage service requests or work orders. 

3. Use space management software for dynamic planning

Space management software brings all space data and static floor plans into one system where you can create dynamic scenarios and understand the impact of each.

Want to see how many employees you can accommodate by consolidating two underutilized floors into one? 

See how eliminating private offices or assigned seats would impact your costs? 

Understand how implementing or relaxing social distancing guidelines would impact your office layout? 

With space management software, you can understand the impact of office space restacking, renovations, or office relocations before you move a single piece of furniture. 

4. Implement office hoteling to get more use out of every workspace

In a recent CBRE Future of the Office survey, 66% of mid-sized companies and 80% of large enterprises described their future workplace policy as “hybrid guided flexibility,” meaning employees will divide their time between home and the office. 

Earlier CBRE research also showed that 90% of workplaces were adopting some form of unassigned seating to improve space utilization in the future. While traditional approaches to flexible seating like hot desking can significantly reduce costs, they tend to create a frustrating experience for employees who are left to fend for themselves to find available seats on a first come, first-served basis. 

Office hoteling reduces the uncertainty of hot desking by allowing employees to reserve space when they need it, whether they reserve it in advance or upon arrival. Companies that use this model have reported significant improvements when it comes to space utilization, too.

Ernst & Young reduced its real estate costs by $500,000 million by implementing desk hoteling. 

5. Use sensors to measure real-time space utilization

As you move away from assigned seats to a more flexible, hybrid workplace, the way employees use your space will change more frequently. With occupancy sensors, you can collect accurate, real-time space utilization data continuously.  

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 has the highest occupancy so you can make sure you have the space required to support your needs. 

Sensor data also helps employees make better use of your space. Sensors can integrate with room or desk booking solutions so everyone can see which spaces are truly occupied, rather than reserved. This significantly reduces common conference room scheduling problems like double bookings and unattended reservations. 

6. Track your progress on space utilization metrics

As you begin to collect more space utilization data, you can use it to track your progress on space utilization metrics. For instance, one of your goals might be to reduce per-employee costs of your space. With space management software, you can create customizable dashboards and reports that show your performance in that area.

You can compare that to industry benchmarks or establish a baseline for your own organization and measure your progress over a certain period of time. 

7. Use space chargebacks to hold departments accountable

Everyone at your organization plays a role in improving space utilization, and everyone should be held accountable for it. With space chargebacks, you can show each department how their efforts have contributed to improvements or unnecessary waste. One department with plans to expand may have lobbied for a dedicated floor at the beginning of the year, but halfway through, they may be falling short of their projected growth. If no one is pressuring them to make better use of their existing space, you’ll continue to spend more than you need on rent, utilities, and maintenance for that floor while taking on an additional lease for another department that could have occupied that floor. 

8. Repurpose underutilized space

When you see areas of your office that aren’t being used to their full potential, you have a few options. You can reconfigure that space to be more conducive to employees’ needs — such as turning a large, underutilized conference room into two smaller meeting rooms. You can repurpose it for something else — such as hosting networking events in your expansive lobby or common area after business hours. You could consider subletting it to another tenant or multiple tenants, as Vertex did when it transformed a portion of its large office building into an incubator for startups. 

You could also decide to sell the building or allow the lease to expire. If you see a steady decline in the number of employees using your office at a certain location, you could consider a shorter-term lease for a smaller area, such as a coworking space. These are all difficult decisions that may not be popular with everyone, but when you back it up with data, it becomes easier to understand. 

9.  Use space forecasting tools to plan for the future

Planning for your company’s future space needs at a time of uncertainty is still a challenge, but the right data and technology make it much easier. 

iOFFICE’s space forecasting feature makes it easy to see how growth in one department will impact your future space needs. 

You can see a breakdown of how much space each department or floor is currently using, enter the anticipated growth, and get immediate projections to help you create a plan.

Once you’ve developed a space forecast, you can use move management software to develop a plan and put it into action. 

Better space utilization is at your fingertips

When you can see all your real estate and space utilization data and act upon it in one place, you can regain a sense of control over your costs while continuing to deliver an exceptional experience for employees. 

iOFFICE + SpaceIQ have a full suite of solutions to help you visualize, plan, manage and measure your space utilization now and in the future. To see a closer look at how we can help, take a tour of our space management solutions.


Ann DiPietro

Ann DiPietro is an enterprise sales executive at iOFFICE.

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