In the past, we have focused on improving the efficiency of existing spaces. But with the rise of hybrid work models, flexible office layouts, and remote teams, there is a need for a new approach that focuses on optimizing the overall experience of an entire workspace.
In our new hybrid work environments, space occupancy and utilization are more important than ever – but they can also be tricky to measure.
For instance, on Tuesdays, your office could feel overcrowded only to look nearly abandoned by Friday, which can affect everything from employee morale to energy efficiency. This predates the pandemic — from 2005 to 2017 companies had already seen a 159% increase in remote working hours.
It’s important to get a sense of these space utilization metrics so you can manage your facilities effectively.
What is space utilization and why is it important?
At its most basic, space utilization is a metric that tells you how a space is being used: who uses it, how often, and for what purpose?
You’ll want to look at:
- The ratio of employees to workstations
- The average size of workstations
- The size of conference rooms and collaborative spaces and how often they are utilized
- Total building capacity and the square footage of useable workspace
- Your total number of employees
A 2018 report showed that the average space utilization rate of organizations is 60-70%. Globally, about 42% of commercial office space sits underutilized. Understanding average utilization rates of workspaces can help you adjust your office layout and convert unused space into something useful.
How do you calculate space utilization?
The space utilization metrics that are most important to you will depend on your goals for tracking them. In other words, how you do plan to maximize your space? For example, do you want to plan for more common areas, or do you need to arrange for more individual workspace?
All of this information can help you with the calculations that matter:
- The average utilization rate of workspaces and conference areas
- The capacity utilization rate, or cost per person of a workspace
- Peak utilization times / Peak Days
- Peak frequency (which is how often a space reaches its maximum utilization)
- The optimal billing rate
- The ideal utilization rate
Without this data, it’s difficult to identify patterns and ensure you have the space you need.
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How do you measure space occupancy?
Space occupancy is the number of people in your office space at a given time, but this number is far more useful in context. Facilities managers should know the square footage per employee of useable workspace (this means excluding closets, restrooms, conference rooms, and other common areas).
Safety, energy, and productivity considerations all go into determining an optimal occupancy rate.
As for how to measure it, eyeballing just won’t do when people are coming and going and rearranging work schedules. Hiring someone to count employees throughout the day isn’t feasible (or cost-effective). That’s why it’s important to rely on technology to give you an accurate number.
Depending on your building space, you might employ any of the following to get a real-time occupancy rate:
- Smart occupancy sensors (to get a rough headcount as well as some location data)
- Employee badge swiping (which can let you know which teams are using conference rooms, for example)
- A reservation/desk booking system for workspaces
- A visitor management system
Benefits and savings of effective space and occupancy utilization
By calculating space occupancy and utilization, you can get a bigger picture of your current in order to make informed decisions about the future. Ideally, your space utilization software should give you the ability to view historical and real-time space metrics, as well as the ability to forecast how space allocations will be used in the future based on previous usage trends.
Of course, there’s energy efficiency to consider as well – HVAC systems and lighting can be adjusted according to occupancy trends, saving money in the long term. You may even find your real estate needs changing, and this data can help you decide what space is necessary and what is not.
Another big benefit of effective space and occupancy utilization is compliance. For example, real-time space and occupancy metrics limit overcrowding in the short term, as social distancing measures due to COVID-19 change.
How Sine can help you manage space utilization
By now it’s probably clear how building management systems like Sine are crucial for facility managers and business leaders who want to improve workspace and people flow.
Sine’s visitor management system not only captures a variety of attendance, movement, and usage data, but it can convert the information into actionable insights with our daily reports available from one intuitive interface. Our APIs (or Application Programming Interfaces) help you streamline your workplace by capturing people flow metrics as well as track compliance documentation needed for access to your space, whether it’s COVID vaccination status or a work order.