Why do managers, facility and property professionals, designers and workplace consultants choose to conduct a space utilization study? In this blog Maija Patjas, director of Rapal’s Workplace Solutions, outlines eleven reasons that various companies, schools and other organizations have identified as their motivation for measuring the space utilization rates of their premises.
My team and I work with customers across a wide range of industries. Differing in size, representing a variety of cultures and located around the world, they all have at least one thing in common – they measure and monitor their space utilization, work activities, meeting sizes and much more. In other words, all these organizations share the understanding that you need good, solid data to back up your business decisions – also when it comes to managing office space.
The reasons why customers measure their office space utilization varies, of course. Below, you will find the top eleven reasons for conducting a space utilization measurement.
Measuring office space utilization will become ever more important as organization’s start returning to offices post Pandemic (Covid-19). The use of office space is expected to dramatically change, as the global remote work experience has widely made companies improve flexible working options for their employees.
1. Reducing costs
For almost every organization working in an office environment, premises are the second largest cost after personnel. Office space utilization measurements help you confirm whether you have the right kind of premises and whether you really need all the square meters you are currently using.
Work is becoming more mobile and people are spending less time at their workstations. According to our global Optimaze Workplace Review 2020 (published March 2020), on average 54 % of workstations are utilized or temporarily unoccupied. When moving or renovating your work environment, it’s often possible to make more efficient use of space as well.
Measurements can help you achieve tens of percent more savings than a personnel survey alone. In personnel surveys, workers typically estimate spending 70-80 percent of their time at their workstation when the real figure is often closer to 50 percent. Measurements give you precise data on space utilization and help you scale your premises correctly.
The average workstation utilization rate is a key figure when evaluating and monitoring the efficiency of the work spaces. (Source: Rapal’s Optimaze Workplace Review 2020 benchmark report)
2. Supporting workplace change management
Studies show that the most important factor in a successful work environment change process is securing the commitment and involvement of the personnel. Communicating with your organization and making people feel involved is vital when you are asking your organization to move premises or adapt to a redesigned work environment. The information gained from space utilization measurements, activity observation and employee surveys will help you justify the changes, and promote discussion between management and personnel.
3. Understanding work patterns
Work patterns today are typically divided according to personnel mobility: fixed, campus mobile, and mobile. The terms themselves vary, but they indicate how much time a person spends in the office and how much of that time they spent at their own workstation. Identifying these patterns will make it easier to see what kinds of workstations are required. Often the profiles are also used to support space dimensioning plans, and when considering IT requirements and remote working practices. The best way to identify work patterns is to analyze your space utilization and conduct a personnel survey.
Different activities require different kinds of spaces.
4. Determining space requirements
When your company first begins to consider future space solutions, such as conducting a refurbishment of office space or looking for new premises, a space utilization measurement is the fastest and most cost-effective way of evaluating space requirements. Conducting an activity observation simultaneously allows you to see how fit for purpose your workspace actually are, and what changes you need to make to better support daily work.
5. Evaluating the success of work environment changes
Measurements enable you to analyze whether you achieved the targets set for your working environment change project. Two examples of such targets could be cost savings or premises that suit your personnel’s working habits better. The results will show how efficiently you are using your space and whether you have the right number of fit for purpose workstations.
Space utilization measurements can also be used to further develop premises. Software development, for example, involves many iterations before a product is launched, with further developments made based on customer feedback. Adopting such an approach for workplace development could be very beneficial, too.
6. Assessing the functionality of an Activity Based Working office
The majority of modern offices are Activity Based Working (ABW) offices, continually growing in number. ABW offices are divided into different types of areas, such as quiet spaces, shared workstations, break rooms and conference rooms that employees can choose according to their needs, maybe using a number of different spaces during the day. When workspaces are properly designed, they will support different tasks and ways of working.
It is a good idea to measure space utilization in ABW offices continuously. Particularly in organizations that are introducing ABW and/or shared workstations for the first time, more changes may be needed as personnel adopt new practices. Measurements will help you to identify where there is a need for improvement (such as adding small ad-hoc meeting spaces) and enable you to make corrections, so there will be no fall in productivity due to, for example, a lack of quiet spaces.
Implementing a smart office solution (such as Optimaze Worksense) with occupancy sensors will feed you with accurate and good space utilization data for better decision making.
7. Conserving energy
Continual space utilization measurements will provide you with information on trends that can help you save energy. For example, during the holiday season, workers can be directed to work on only four floors rather than five floors. As remote working becomes increasingly popular, it is common for only about half of personnel to be present on Fridays. They could then use only a certain section of the available space. Modern building automation enables you for example to turn out the lights and turn down the air conditioning in unused spaces. This will save energy.
8. Optimizing services
Utilization rate trends will also enable you to scale your services correctly. For example, you can estimate how much food to reserve for your canteen on various days, or order a more intensive level of cleaning on days when more workers are present. This will also generate savings by reducing food wastage, and a higher standard of cleaning will increase comfort levels in the workplace.
Optical sensors can be also used to measure waiting times in campus restaurants.
9. Improving strategic workplace management
Organizations that have a systematic, continuous process of measuring and improving their workplace performance are able to create flexible and future-proof workplace solutions.
10. Supporting business decision
Conducting a workplace analysis, which combines data collected through a space utilization study with information on work patterns, user preferences and employee communication methods, will give you company-specific facts you can use to build a business case or make strategic decisions related to the working environment.
You can turn your office into a digitally enabled, socially connected work environment with the IoT-based Optimaze Worksense platform.
+1: Enriching sensor based data
Organizations that are using occupancy sensors to help employees find free workseats, can integrate the utilization data with observation data on work activities. This enriched information assists in improving the working environment.
Are you ready to measure your space utilization?
Want to know more about the subject? Give us thirty minutes and we'll help you find the perfect measurement tool for your organization. Our methods range from the simple, yet highly informative space utilization studies to state-of-the-art IoT based sensor technology.
This blog was originally published in April 2018 on the Management Events website. It has been updated January 19, 2021.