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Using space utilization data to optimize your workspace (with examples)

November 27, 2020
Author
RC Victorino

There's this weird tension in our industry between efficiency and experience.

On the one hand, there's the need to provide employees with a work environment that helps them feel supported (67% of workers left their last role because the workplace was not optimized for their needs).

On the other hand, you want to reduce office space and amenities that aren't used (40% of corporate real estate is empty but paid for, and nearly 90% of commercial real estate (CRE) executives are not happy with their current use of space).

The way to resolve these conflicting needs is by leveraging space utilization metrics.

Space utilization is the engine behind a data-driven workplace that delivers on both experience and efficiency.

Defining space utilization for this article

Space utilization tells you how many people are in a room compared to how many people it was designed for. It helps you understand if a space is being used in the way it was intended. It lets you use science to know what your employees need to succeed — and what they don't.

There are three core benefits to space utilization:

  • Reduces costs — Executives concerned about reducing square footage need to know what space is underutilized and unnecessary.
  • Simplifies space planning — Space utilization tools like Density offer deep insight into portfolio management.
  • Validates needs — Employees are always asking for things, but knowing how they use your space tells facilities managers what they actually need.

Below are several examples of how teams use Density's space utilization data to make data-driven space decisions.

Making smarter space management decisions with space utilization data

One of our Fortune 500 customers had recently converted a series of one-person office spaces into team spaces and allocated them to an emerging labs teams.

Even with this added space, the team said it needed more space. Our customer used Density's occupancy data to get an accurate, unbiased view of the issue and learn how they could solve it.

They noticed some spaces being primarily used as intended. The graphic below shows how one meeting room was used by 8+ people the majority of time:

using space utilization metrics to make smarter space management decisions
Some spaces were being used as intended.

But our customer noticed other spaces being severely underused. The graphic below shows how one meeting room space was used by just 1 person nearly half of the time.

Our customer's existing workspace floor plan wasn't working for them.

optimizing your workspace with space utilization data.
Other rooms were being severely underutilized.

Based on the data gathered from Density, our customer carved out additional rooms using their existing space. They didn't have to move teams around or explore additional space.

The office space everyone needed was there. It just hadn't been allocated properly.

In another example, one of our customers discovered desk areas on one floor were being underutilized — representing over $50,000 in potential savings, without impacting staff or employees.

With an average of 40 unused desks across three desk areas on one floor at $450 per desk, this company was spending an average of $54,450 on unused desks every month. What’s more? One team was responsible for the majority of the problem: sales.

It turns out, the sales executives were spending most of their time on the road. Even when they were around, they were spending more time hosting clients in a meeting room. The client switched to a 2:1 ratio of desks to salespeople and were able to adopt the policy across their portfolio for additional savings.

Managing space occupancy of high traffic areas

Editor's note: For COVID-19 specific space occupancy concerns, read Important space metrics to use to manage social distancing.

Historically, facilities managers would set static benchmarks for how many people would show up to high-traffic spaces (like cafes).

That approach delivers incomplete data, which results in food waste, overstaffing, and inefficient scheduling.

It also leads to a terrible employee experience.

A tech company that uses Density breaks up occupancy of their cafe by timeframe. This data alone can help our customer plan their food-service and cleaning needs accordingly.

However, Density also runs predictive algorithms against this historical data to to tell our customer what the cafe traffic will be like the following week (see the lefthand graphic in the image below). .

Knowing occupancy trends before they occur translates into serious cost savings in staffing and food service.

It also delivers a better employee experience. Density customers can share their utilization data with their teams. This gives employees a real-time headcount of any space, so they can choose when and where to travel (see the righthand graphic in the image below).

Density's occupancy sensors and dashboard tell customers what traffic will be like in the future.

Identify best and worst performing spaces

One of our clients was asked how to accommodate a 2x growth in engineering headcount at the company’s headquarters. With Density, our client was able to see exactly how many people entered each floor for any given timeframe. Our data revealed that the 1st Floor was visited more than the 2nd Floor. The one day with no visits? Thanksgiving.

Our client was able to prove that the 1st floor had four times more traffic than the 2nd floor. This insight made it clear that the 2nd floor had the capacity to accommodate the growing number of engineers for their upcoming hiring spree.

Modernizing the archaic way of calculating office space utilization

When you think about space utilization, what comes to mind is usually people walking around with clipboards measuring how each space is used (or not). A slight improvement from that is analyzing patterns in badge swipe data.

But neither of these methods suffice.

Density's occupancy sensors give facilities managers the flexibility to see how their space is used granularly (say, an individual room) and holistically (their entire real estate portfolio).

Our technology delivers real-time, historical, and predictive data — that's consumable and actionable — to help drive science-backed space management decisions.

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