Occupancy or activities: what to measure as a workplace manager?
The short answer is: it depends. For the longer – and more interesting – answer, please keep reading.
Office space occupancy
Occupancy refers to whether available spaces are in use (occupied) or empty at different points in time. Obviously, insight into occupancy is critical to determine how much space your office really needs to support its staff. This metric, in fact, provides an understanding of the use of space:
- Compared to availability (e.g. room is 60% occupied, 40% empty)
- Compared to capacity (e.g. only 2 or 3 people in a meeting room that holds 10)
- At peak periods compared to average usage
- Per type of space (e.g. workstations, large meeting rooms, huddle rooms and collaboration spaces, cockpits, bubbles or concentration rooms, breakout spaces and areas for socializing)
By deploying sensors that capture occupancy on a continuous basis, you can monitor trends and evolutions. This data enables you to validate your current workspace use and space effectiveness.
Data visualization can show you, for example, which spaces are under-utilized and which are in short supply. Let’s say the data shows a lack of small meeting rooms. As a quick fix, you could divide a large room in two with a partition wall; or investigate whether underutilization can be correlated to comfort factors such as air quality, acoustic performance or thermal comfort. In an activity-based office, occupancy data can also help you establish or validate the optimal desk-to-employee ratio.
Objectively measuring occupancy can reveal opportunities to upgrade or downsize, enabling you to reduce costs or improve productivity. However – and whatever you might be told – occupancy data is not sufficient to inform a new workplace concept.
To develop an optimal workplace concept, you will, in fact, need a complete understanding of how your people work. This requires data-driven insights into workplace activities and interactions – not just occupancy.
If you are thinking of hiring a new space or transforming your existing workplace, it is, therefore, essential to go beyond measuring occupancy and to understand how people use the workplace, who they interact with, what type of activities they perform, and how the workplace supports or hinders these activities. You will need to gain insight into things like: How does noise impact employees’ ability to do focused work? What are the collaboration patterns within and between teams? How mobile is the workforce? How do workers use technology? Are there any team-specific needs?
Only when you have sufficiently detailed answers to these questions, will you be able to brief a designer or architect to design a physical workplace that is not just aesthetically pleasing, but also effective.
A company like MCS Solutions uses human data collection (ABOOT™ methodology) in combination with sensor data, and space management software to:
- measure occupancy, activities, interactions and noise levels
- visualize this data on floor plans and dashboards and benchmark space and occupancy ratios
- calculate space needs, define the required space types, and determine their optimal mix
Combined with interviews/workshops and employee surveys, this provides the building blocks for creating an agile, effective, and enjoyable workplace.
In a next article, we will discuss how occupant feedback can be paired with micro-level measurement data to underpin decision-making and ensure a good workplace fit.
Do you have questions or comments? Please reach out to us.