What Space Utilization Strategy Is Right For Your Company?

by James McDonald on July 24, 2019

Poor space utilization adds up to a lot of wasted corporate real estate dollars — as much as $30 billion a year, according to real estate services provider JLL.

That’s why it’s important to have a solid space utilization strategy, said Todd Hutton, executive director of Digital Solutions for JLL, at our recent Big Easy Workplace Summit.

But exactly what that entails looks a bit different for each company, depending on its goals. Here’s a closer look at four space utilization strategy options and how to choose the right one for your organization.

Space Utilization Strategy: 4 Levels of Monitoring

Using IoT sensors and other technologies can be a highly effective way to collect space utilization data, but not every company is ready to make that leap. That’s why it’s a good idea to consider what you actually need, first.

Level 1: Measuring

This space utilization strategy involves using observation to assess occupancy and vacancy. It’s ideal for organizations with one seat assigned to each person and a more traditional office layout.

Level 2: Monitoring

This is an intermediate space utilization strategy, ideal for companies with a more traditional office layout but some level of desk sharing. Some workplace leaders use desk sensors (that can be dedicated or rotated throughout the portfolio), WiFi triangulation and employee ID badge data to identify which spaces are used most often.

Level 3: Passive Manipulation

This space utilization strategy works best for companies with some level of building intelligence. It involves using advanced building management systems, beacons, lighting sensors and close collaboration with IT.

Level 4: Active Manipulation

This is the most advanced space utilization strategy. It’s best for companies with connected, dynamic offices and employees who work both within and outside the office. Active manipulation involves using real-time location and social network data in addition to the methods mentioned above. 

Choosing The Best Strategy: 5 Questions to Ask

So how do you know which space utilization strategy is right for you? Hutton recommends asking these five questions:

1. What Are Your Goals?

There are plenty of reasons to improve space utilization, but chances are, there’s one main driver that stands out above the others.

Do you want to…

  • Optimize your real estate portfolio?
  • Improve collaboration and employee engagement?
  • Improve productivity?
  • Improve operations?

Understanding your goals will help you determine what type of space utilization data you need.

2. What’s The Scope of The Project?

Is this a one-time project, or an ongoing initiative?

Perhaps you are trying to present a business case for expanding into a new building or consolidating two buildings within the next six months. If you have a specific timeframe, it might be more cost-effective to lease sensors rather than buying them.

3. Do You Need Real-Time Space Utilization Data?

This will also depend on the scope of the project and how you plan to use the data you collect.

If you plan to use sensor data along with an integrated workplace management system (IWMS), you’ll most likely need real-time data. This will allow you to respond to changing conditions as they happen—for instance, allowing a reserved room to be made available again if it’s vacant for more than 15 minutes.

If your monitoring needs are more general (such as determining how often individuals use conference rooms during the week), it might be sufficient to use badge data or data that’s processed in batches rather than in real-time.

4. Are There Legal or Security Concerns?

While IoT technologies, including sensors in the workplace, offer clear benefits, there are also security and privacy concerns to consider.

Employees may be concerned that sensor data could be used against them—for instance, if they feel they are being monitored every moment of the day. (And it only takes one viral social media post to create widespread backlash.) If you do use sensors in the workplace, it’s important to be transparent about your intentions throughout the entire process and assure employees they have no reason to fear. Remind them that workplace sensors that workplace are anonymous and are unable to detect individual faces or people— only detect motion or occupancy.

Any space utilization strategy involves change management, which is easier when you have a partner to help you develop it. 

5. How ‘Smart’ Is Your Workplace?

To implement sensors and share the data they accumulate, you’ll need a wireless or wired network. There are several options, including Bluetooth, cellular, LTE and WiFi. To choose the right network technology, you’ll need to determine your requirements in terms of transfer speed, bandwidth, communications distance and power consumption.

Before moving forward, consider how well your infrastructure (and budget) is capable of supporting sensors.

Implementing and Optimizing Your Space Utilization Strategy

Considering the average organization only uses about 60 percent of its real estate at any given time, a good space utilization strategy can go a long way to improve profitability.

It shouldn’t be a “set it and forget it” plan, but an ongoing initiative you improve upon over time.

As a leading commercial real estate services firm and an iOFFICE channel partner, JLL can help you create and optimize your organization’s space utilization strategy. Visit their website to learn more.


James McDonald

James McDonald is a sports enthusiast, brother in Christ and once swam in a tank with the infamous TV sharks.

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