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Why Space Occupancy & Space Utilization Are Even More Important Today

by Adrian Miller on September 14, 2021
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Space occupancy and space utilization have always been important metrics to measure in your workplace, but in the hybrid environment, they're even more critical. 

The average space utilization rate for enterprises worldwide was only about 60% before the pandemic, according to a JLL benchmarking report.   Now, with more employees continuing to work remotely, that could drop significantly. Over time, poor space utilization not only leads to substantial waste; it also contributes to a poor employee experience. When employees choose to come to the office and find it's either overcrowded or abandoned, they'll be more likely to stay home in the future. 

This diminishes the role of the office as a hub for collaboration and innovation. 

If you aren't measuring space occupancy and space utilization already, you should be. Here's how to get started and what metrics to measure. 

Discover how to use workplace data to maximize space utilization in this whitepaper. 

How to measure office space occupancy

Space occupancy refers to the number of people in your office during a given period of time. Knowing this metric is important because it will determine how much space your company actually needs to support its employees. Aside from the cost of employing your workforce, office space is likely one of your organization’s largest investments. It also tends to be the most difficult to manage. Calculating space occupancy used to be a matter of looking at seat assignments to see the percentage of occupied workspaces compared to the percentage of vacant spaces, but it's not that simple anymore. 

First, you need to determine what the ideal occupancy should be for each office space. That will depend on the types of spaces you have, how employees need to use them, and what safety considerations you may need to have in place. 

With coronavirus concerns still lingering, an office that was built with a maximum occupancy of 100 people may now only be able to accommodate 50. 

Assuming your workplace has moved away from assigned seats, there are several ways to measure office space occupancy, including: 

  • Using employee badge swipe data to keep track of the number of people in the office
  • Using a desk hoteling system  that requires employees to reserve workspaces each day and exporting reservation data 
  • Using a visitor management system where employees sign in each day but are free to sit anywhere
  • Using sensors to monitor real-time occupancy

Monitoring space occupancy gives you greater insight into how much space is in use and how much is available for future growth. 

Office space occupancy metrics

Generally speaking, each employee should have anywhere from 125 to 225 square feet of usable office space. That doesn't mean every workspace needs to be this size. Common areas and conference rooms are part of this equation too — and with the size of the average workspace shrinking, they're becoming even more important. 

It sounds simple, but facilities managers can’t accurately reach square footage per employee without first knowing the true occupancy of their facility.

To determine occupancy, you need to know: 

  • The total building capacity
  • The square footage of usable workspace (minus closets, restrooms, and common areas) 
  • The total number of employees

You can then set target occupancy rates and monitor occupancy in your offices. Although a 60% occupancy rate was average before the pandemic, you may need to adjust your target to account for safety considerations and the fact that more employees are working remotely. 

How to measure space utilization

While office space occupancy is important, space utilization data measures how often a space is used, who uses it, and why it’s being used. With this insight, workplace managers can determine whether space is being efficiently used to serve current and future business goals.

Here are a few key questions that will help you evaluate and measure space utilization metrics: 

  • How big is your average workstation? (The average workstation today is 40-50 square feet, according to JLL's Office Outlook.)
  • What is the ratio of employees to workstations?
  • Is it possible for some employees to share desks if they aren't in the office every day? 
  • How often are conference rooms being used? (According to HOK's 2014 Benchmarking Report, the average conference room utilization is only 23 percent.) 

With occupancy sensors, you can see which spaces are in use at any given time and identify patterns to help you plan for the future.  

space management software

Space utilization metrics

The space utilization metrics that are most important to you will depend on your goals for tracking them.  Here are a few of the most common metrics

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. 

Knowing your average room utilization and desk occupancy helps you adjust the layout of your office space to meet demand. If your rooms are frequently underutilized but your desks are nearly always occupied, you might consider converting some meeting room space into reservable desks. 

How space management software makes utilization data actionable

While there are several ways to track office space occupancy and space utilization,  space management software allows you to act immediately on what you learn and plan for the future.

You can see which spaces are reserved or occupied in real time. You can gather historical space utilization trends and see sensor data directly overlaid on your digital floor plans for the most accurate insights. 

As you draw conclusions, you can easily update your floor plans, create new move scenarios, and more. 

Rather than having to survey each space, space management software allows you to visualize your space and provides you with the ability to report on your actual space utilization.

That way, you can see the big-picture information in addition to specific details, like total area, location, buildings' floor-by-floor, and space-by-space utilization metrics. 

This, coupled with sensor data, allows you to track activity and generate a far more detailed report about how many occupants your facility supports throughout the day, where they spend the most time, and how they use different spaces.

From these reports, you can maximize your space utilization and minimize costs. You can determine if space is being utilized efficiently, if employee needs are being met by their environment, and if there is an opportunity to upgrade or downsize to increase productivity or decrease cost.

The more you know about the way your space is currently used, the better you can plan for the future. To optimize your workplace and improve workplace experience, you need to understand how space is being used and know how things are changing.

And at a time when budgets are tight, you also have to make sure you're paying attention to operating costs and maximizing the use of the real estate you do have.

Take time to better understand both your space occupancy and space utilization metrics, and you can improve your bottom line. 

iOFFICE combines intelligent space management, strategic planning, and forecasting in a single platform. You can easily manage seating arrangements, integrate with reservation software for flexible seating, and update your floor plans with drag-and-drop functionality. 

And with our intelligent space planning feature, Space-Right™, you can reconfigure floor plans instantly to maintain a greater distance between workspaces.

You can limit capacity in meeting rooms and common areas to prevent overcrowding so employees feel more comfortable and less stressed in your office. Within a single screen, you can see how new office layouts would impact your growing workforce and your costs. 

Take a tour today to see how it works.

Capterra Ratings: ★★★★★ 4.5/5

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