Maximize your office space

How facility and space managers can use real-time occupancy to optimize space strategy

As discussed in my previous blog post, one of the first steps to optimized space management is identifying your “space ID.” Once you have determined your space ID, you must also work formulate a solid space management strategy. In this blog, I will elaborate on one of the key elements needed to build a winning strategy: understanding the difference between space occupancy vs. space utilization.

What is space occupancy?

When people talk about space occupancy, they usually point to 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 it doesn’t take into account whether that workspace is actually used. This means you can’t execute a truly efficient space management strategy based on space occupancy alone.

What is space utilization?

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

However, underutilization of spaces is not the only problem. Many organizations are also struggling with outfitting offices with the right type of working space for the tasks their employees need to complete. This means many offices also struggle with available space being used the way it’s intended to be used. For example, think of a situation where only two people are occupying a large meeting room for a quick conversation, while a large department is forced to use a smaller room that lacks the required number of chairs for a team meeting. Providing detailed information about not only how often and how long a space is used, but also by how many people and for what purpose can ultimate help Facility and Space Managers identify and address the true needs for space in their overall strategy.

Space occupancy and space utilization combined

Space occupancy and space utilization must both be looked at together, to provide Facility and Space Managers with a full picture. By measuring real-time space occupancy, and not just relying on space allocation, facility and space teams can create a better space management strategy. This becomes especially important for organizations that use a reservation system for meeting space. Real-time space occupancy can help ensure your meeting space is always being used. If there is a no-show, your reservation can automatically update that based on real-time data.

Ultimately, 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 you give employees the tools to make use of existing space more efficiently. And on the other hand, it provides you with insight into whether your existing available spaces still meet your organization’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 can make meaningful inquiries into whether or not that space should be renovated for another purpose. With this data, you’ll be able to identify underutilized space faster, and make the adjustments to your space that allow employees to use it most effectively.

About the author

Geert-Jan Blom | Solution Product Marketeer

Geert-Jan started his career in Facilities Management, Solution design and Software Implementation with Planon in the early 2000’s as a Pre-Sales Consultant. He progressed within the company to the role of Senior Business Consultant and currently works as a Solution Product Marketer. He is also a member of the “Technology Expert Group” of the Dutch Management Association and a Global Ambassador of IFMA’s Workplace Evolutionary community. In addition, he is a regular guest lecturer at business schools, presenting topics on Integrated Workplace Management Solutions (IWMS) selection, implementation and innovation. Geert-Jan has a degree in Business Economics (B Ec.) and in Business Administration (MSc.). In both, he specialized in Organizational Design and Change.

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