There are six core benefits to incorporating workplace utilization in your workplace strategy:
- Reduces costs — Facility managers and executives concerned about reducing square footage need to know what space is underutilized. Underutilized space can be repurposed to fit a new need or downsized to cut costs.
- Improves portfolio management — Workplace utilization tools (like Density) offer deep insight into portfolio management and how every square foot is used. Cost-saving changes such as moving to a hot-desking model can be tested in one office, and if successful, applied across the entire portfolio for additional savings.
- Simplifies space planning — Occupancy data can help you design more efficient office spaces and policies by tracking utilization trends and providing real-time information. You can make on-the-spot modifications to address a bottleneck, or you can use trends to guide future planning.
- Improves the workplace experience — Understanding your space allows you to make informed decisions about workstation ratios, the best amenities to offer, and when you need to expand your space. These all improve the workplace experience, which in turn can boost employee engagement and retention.
- Validates needs — Employees are always asking for things, but knowing how they use your space tells facilities managers what they actually need.
- Supports sustainability — Utilization data can help your workplace go green by identifying areas where you can cut utility usage or repurpose space instead of expanding your square footage. Eco-friendly practices like these are becoming increasingly important to workers, and they offer a strategic advantage for recruitment and retention.
This article will cover four important metrics to measure and highlight several examples of how teams use workplace utilization data to make data-driven space decisions.
4 space utilization metrics to measure — and how to improve them
The building utilization metrics below provide insight into how employees use your space and whether it performs as needed. You can apply these metrics at every scale — from an entire portfolio to a specific workstation — to make informed decisions that optimize your space planning.
Peak occupancy is an important metric that identifies the days and times your space is busiest. You can track peak occupancy for the building or individual areas. Understanding the peaks and valleys of your space occupancy means you can make changes as needed to ensure the work environment can meet the demand for dedicated desks, quiet rooms, and other office resources.
If demand exceeds supply, consider making schedule adjustments to level out occupancy throughout the week. This ensures better resource allocation and keeps the office operating smoothly.
For example, a hybrid office could designate particular days for each team to come in for collaborative work. Instead of sales, marketing, and design all converging in the office on Wednesdays, you could have sales on Tuesday, marketing on Wednesday, and design on Thursday. (Try not to assign Fridays as any team’s in-office day. Historically, Friday is the least productive workday.)
If you want to allow teams to maintain more flexibility while still balancing supply and demand, you can use scheduling software that allows them to see which days and times the office resources they need are available.
The average utilization rate of your office indicates the typical amount of time employees use the space you’re measuring. The higher the average utilization, the more value you get for that space.
To calculate average office space utilization, take the total number of employees present in the space, divide it by your office capacity, and average it across your given time frame.
Let’s say you want to find out which day of the week your office typically has the best utilization rate. Looking at every weekday in turn, calculate the utilization rate for each hour and average it across the entire workday. You’ll be able to see the average utilization for each day and pinpoint the days that see the most activity.
This metric is where the “efficiency versus experience” tension happens. You don’t want square footage and resources that are paid for to go unused, but you also have to consider the employee experience. Employees don’t want to feel crowded or have to fight for last-minute meeting room space. If you hit your average utilization benchmark, that’s a great time to do an employee feedback survey to find out how workers rate the experience.
When determining average utilization for your workplace, remember to compare the occupancy rate against the total usable space capacity. Including square footage that’s not usable office space, such as an elevator or electrical room, will give you an inaccurate picture of your utilization.
It’s important to know where your high-traffic areas are and when they see the highest number of people. These areas will need more frequent cleaning, maintenance, or inventory (depending on the type of space) to keep them hygienic and functioning as needed.
People vote with their feet for the areas they like or find useful, so high-traffic areas can also show you what spaces, resources, and amenities your employees value. These are the areas worth investing in. For example, if the kitchen sees nonstop traffic from employees in search of a snack or another cup of coffee, that’s clearly an amenity that workers value. Keeping the kitchen clean and well stocked will optimize this amenity for your teams.
Meeting room and desk utilization
For an optimal workplace experience, employees need reliable access to conference rooms, dedicated desks, and collaboration spaces. Monitoring utilization for these areas of the office will let you know if they’re underperforming (a sign that you need to make changes) or if there isn’t a satisfactory ratio of employees to workstations.
To determine utilization rates for specific workspaces in the office, take the total number of occupied meeting rooms or desks on a given day and divide it by the total number of those particular spaces. Review this data to find out how each type of space is performing.
Many companies are seeing a trend of ghost or zombie meetings. Ghost meetings are those that are scheduled but no one attends. These ghost meetings turn into zombies when they’re set as recurring reservations that were later deemed unnecessary — but no one remembered to cancel them.
If your reservation software shows higher utilization than your occupancy data reveals, you’re dealing with these ghoulish non-meetings. This leads to valuable resources going to waste, not to mention frustrated employees who can’t book the meeting spaces they want. To remedy this, set a time limit for check-ins. If no one checks in within 10 minutes of the reservation time, the room or desk is automatically freed up for others to use.
Checking your meeting space utilization metrics can also help you identify the most popular rooms. Once you know this, you can begin extrapolating the “why” behind it with a quick game of “spot the difference.” Does it have newer technology than the other rooms? Are there more soft seating options? Is it closest to the snack bar? Use this information to improve the meeting rooms that are underperforming.
Additional tips to optimize your workplace utilization
- Let technology do the heavy lifting. Technologies such as occupancy sensors and space management software are a faster and more accurate way to see how your space is performing. They’re also the only way for facilities managers to get real-time data for a large area.
- A/B test your space. Not every change in office policies or floor plans is going to be a winner. Use A/B testing to find out which updates lead to increased utilization.
- Get feedback from employees. Space utilization is about more than reducing expenses and optimizing every square foot of real estate. You also have to consider the workplace experience for employees. Seeking their feedback provides valuable context to your data, and it shows workers that their office experience matters.
- Be mindful of trends. Use historical utilization data to see days when office occupancy has peaked in the past. This can help you project everything from inventory to staffing for those peak days.
- Offer amenities employees want. If your office occupancy is low, you’re not getting the value you need from your space. If downsizing isn’t an option, focus on enticing employees into the office with popular amenities such as commuter programs and free lunches.