Maximize your office space

How real-time insight into space occupancy enables optimisation of space

On your journey to optimised space management, a prerequisite is that you have identified your space ID, as discussed in my previous blog. However, relating your space data back to your space ID is only the start. You also need to take key elements into account. With these key elements in mind you can evaluate whether you have covered the most important aspects to help you formulate a sound space management strategy, ultimately optimising the workplace experience. In this blog, I will elaborate on one of these key elements: space occupancy vs space utilisation

What is space occupancy?

When people talk about space occupancy, they usually mean the amount of space in a space portfolio that is allocated to specific departments compared to its capacity. For instance, if a space portfolio has a capacity of 900 workspaces, and 720 are occupied through allocation, a quick calculation identifies that the space occupancy rate is 80%.

However, this simple metric of measuring workspaces does not tell you anything about your actual space capacity, as you lack insight into whether your space is really being used. In reality, spaces are hardly ever occupied for the entire day, so in the end, space occupancy based on space allocation alone does not give you the information you need to execute your space management strategy.

What is space utilisation?

Space utilisation refers to how often and for how long a space is actually used. Under-utilisation of space remains a real problem for many organisations. Study after study, including JLL’s 2017 ‘Occupancy Benchmarking Guide’, has shown that office space is typically used between 60% and 70% of the time. This means that most organisations are spending money on services, cleaning, heating, and cooling for spaces that are empty 40% of the time.

Under-utilisation is not the only problem - utilising space for a different purpose to what was intended is also an issue. Think, for example, of two people occupying a large meeting room for a quick conversation to discuss tasks, while a large department is forced to use a smaller room that lacks the required number of chairs for a team meeting. Having detailed information available about not only how often and for how long a space is used, but also by how many people and for what purpose helps Facility and Space Managers to address the true need for space.

Space occupancy and space utilisation combined

Space occupancy and space utilisation are sets of data that need to be looked at together, to provide Facility and Space Managers with an overall picture. You can get more valid insight into the actual optimisation of your space by measuring real-time space occupancy. This is space occupancy, not only based on space allocation, but also based on actual utilisation of space, giving you insight into how much space is available at every moment of every day. A successful way of doing this is using sensors that measure whether a workspace or meeting room is occupied by people or not.

This becomes especially relevant when you have a reservation system in place for your employees to book their workplaces and meeting rooms. If a meeting room is booked by someone, that does not necessarily mean it actually ends up being used. If you have sensors in place to detect whether the space remains unoccupied even after it was booked, you could decide to automatically release it after a certain time period to increase space utilisation.

This data helps Facility and Space Managers to make better decisions on how to improve the working experience and save costs at the same time. On one hand, it helps employees to make more efficient use of existing space. On the other hand, it provides you with insight into whether your available spaces still meet your organisation’s needs.

If you have noticed a specific workspace or meeting room is hardly ever used or used by less people than it is meant for, you could question whether this floor area could be used in a different way. Maybe it does mean you lack certain types of space, whereas other sorts of space could be redesigned for different purposes. Space data could be that trigger for you to ask these types of questions.

Geert-Jan Blom, Solution Marketing Director at Planon with experience in IT and services industry.

Geert-Jan Blom

Solution Marketing Director

Geert-Jan Blom started his career in facilities management, solution design and software implementation with Planon in the early 2000s as Pre-Sales Consultant. He progressed within the company to the role of Senior Business Consultant and currently works as Solution Marketing Director.

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