Heatmaps: Improve your spaces by seeing how people vote with their feet

March 3, 2022
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In place of the predictable office schedules and 1:1 desk ratios the workplace was once designed for, we now have a need for flexible office spaces. This change brings up many new challenges and opportunities.

What’s the best desk ratio for your hybrid office? Are there unused rooms you can repurpose? Can you downsize your square footage without sacrificing workplace performance?

You don’t have to guess the right answers. People vote with their feet. Every time a person walks into a conference room or goes to the kitchen for a coffee break, they’re casting a vote for that space. Density’s utilization heatmaps turn those votes into  visual insights that help you decide how to allocate space effectively.

Density’s Head of Product, Emre Sonmez, and Product Marketing Director, Chris Bachler, showcase the ways heatmaps data can help you make cost-effective decisions, improve employee performance, and improve your workplace utilization. Explore their discussion below, or watch the full webinar below:

The supply and demand of space

Workplace performance is about understanding the cycle of supply and demand that happens every day in the office. If you have designated spaces for focused work but people struggle to find spaces for team collaboration, your supply isn’t meeting demand. You have to get the right mix of collaborative and independent spaces. “My colleague earlier today referred to this as the 'Goldilocks ratio',” Chris says. 

When you hit the Goldilocks ratio, you improve the workplace and the employee experience. "So much of measuring space ties to being able to improve it around the actual humans that are in the space,” Emre says. Designing better workspaces for the people using them requires utilization data, A/B testing, and iteration. 

"You can improve every space with the right types of furniture, equipment, and technology based on A/B tests,” Chris says. “We see a lot of people who are looking to A/B test if changes that they make to these spaces are actually making a difference in the utilization. A really good way to do this, before you…decide to roll out new furniture or equipment or technology across your portfolio, is to start small, test it, and see if the actual utilization is increasing in those spaces."

"[Companies] really want to use data to validate their decisions and their hypotheses about how people are going to use the workplace. They also want to set baselines about utilization and benchmarks to strive for,” Chris says. Heatmaps make this process easier by presenting data in a digestible, visual way. See the spaces people are using in a building, a floor, or a room and make data-backed decisions to increase workplace performance. 

How space impacts portfolio performance

Underutilized space is a waste of resources, so it’s essential to understand your building occupancy. Heatmaps can help you forecast how much space you’re likely to need in the future, determine whether you should roll out technology or design updates across your portfolio, and identify underused areas to repurpose, consolidate, or sublet. In other words, heatmap utilization data can help you minimize costs and maximize profits.

Let’s look at two examples of heatmaps data supporting portfolio performance.

Can your current space accommodate growth?

Your customer success team requests additional desks because they plan to hire 100 new people within the next year. It may seem logical that more people require more desks, but that isn’t a given with a hybrid work model.

"I think the question to ask yourself now is how do you make those decisions today? You know, what kind of insights do you have to actually know if you need to provide more desks to a certain department or not?” Chris says. “With Density [heatmaps], this is going to at least show you…what the utilization is of that customer success team.”

When you review the heatmap of the customer success department, you see that the team never uses more than 10% of their current desk space at any given time. You can confidently forecast that the area will accommodate the new hires without needing additional desks, and you may even be able to reallocate some of the customer success team’s desks to other groups that show a need for them. 

Will a conference room update increase utilization across your portfolio?

You notice a trend in the heatmaps of your San Francisco office. Everyone favors one particular conference room, and people only use the others when the popular one isn’t available. Understanding why could help you increase the utilization of the other conference rooms in the San Francisco office as well as ones across your global portfolio. 

"Data is only as valuable as the context that's around it,” Emre says, and context is essential in this scenario. The labeling feature in Density allows you to identify the key features of the popular conference room. It has a rectangular table, seating for large groups, a digital whiteboard, and a snack table. The digital whiteboard is the one feature that’s unique to this conference room. 

To see if this is why people vote for this space, you add a digital whiteboard to the other conference rooms in the San Francisco office and monitor the utilization data for changes. 

If the utilization rate of the updated rooms increases, you can “roll this [data] up across a bunch of different conference rooms of similar sizes, whether it's in San Francisco or in the US or globally. You can start to understand performance relative to other similar types of spaces and then translate that into adjustments you make across the portfolio," Emre says. 

Test and expand

Improving the performance of your physical spaces can have a significant impact on your bottom line.

You can “start small. Test out a floor, expand to a building, expand over time to your whole portfolio," Emre says. "Our whole idea is [that] the larger your data set gets, the more conviction you can have in applying those insights across the board."

written by
RC Victorino