If you’re a workplace leader, chances are that office real estate costs are at the top of your meeting agendas. Companies are navigating slimmer budgets, pushes for increased efficiency in the workplace, and the need for a long-term hybrid office strategy.
Did you know that the average office goes unused 55% of the time? Not only is this a waste of resources, but sitting in a mostly empty office also isn’t a great experience for the team members making the effort to come in. It also discourages them from doing so in the future.
Understanding workplace occupancy can help you maximize your space occupancy while providing a great employee experience. But what does “workplace occupancy” really even mean? And how do you measure it in an effective way?
What is workplace occupancy?
Workplace occupancy is data that gives you insight into how employees use their office space. From the number of available desks on the busiest days to the frequency with which the most popular meeting room is booked, workplace occupancy is a bird’s-eye view of how your space is used. The three key metrics to understand your workplace occupancy are:
- square footage of the space
- number of employees in the office every week
- number of visitors who enter the space every week
This information helps your workplace team understand your occupancy rate.
Occupancy rate is calculated by the total number of employees in the workplace at any given time against total capacity. For example, if your space can hold 1,000 employees and around 800 come in on a particular week, the occupancy rate for that week is 80%. Occupancy rate can be an important indicator of whether a workplace is too crowded or not crowded enough. This can impact staffing, the employee experience, resource planning, and more.
Why is workplace occupancy important?
Workplace occupancy rate is an important metric to track because it helps companies estimate how many resources they will need. Occupancy rate can be an essential metric for understanding if your office space is getting too crowded or is underutilized. When a workplace is overcrowded, it can be hard for employees to be productive, which worsens their experience onsite.
On the flip side, when an office is underutilized, it’s costly for businesses. According to Regus research, one unused desk costs a company around $27,000 a year. Does your office have desks sitting empty? That’s a lot of money wasted on unused space. But occupancy rate is just one piece of the picture. Here are four other ways to measure workplace occupancy to make the most of your space.
4 metrics to measure workplace occupancy
1. Employee-to-desk ratio
While workplaces have seen quite an evolution in the last few years (goodbye cubicles, hello lounge spaces), they all still need desks. There used to be a very easy way to calculate how many desks were needed in a workplace. It was a 1:1 ratio of employees to desks because each employee had their own permanent desk. With the widespread use of hot desking, the ratio can be trickier to calculate. With a hybrid workforce, you’ll want your ratio to be a bit closer to 1.5:1 or 2:1. This should depend on the policy you have. For example, do your employees come in once a week or three times a week?
The best way to find out what your ideal ratio should be is to look at how your desks are currently being used. In your desk booking software, look at the number of employees signing in for the day and the quantity of booked desks. If you don’t have tooling in place, start by manually monitoring your desk usage trends over 2-3 weeks. Walk around the office during prime work hours and take stock of how many empty desks there are.
2. Space utilization
A full office is a thriving office! However, there’s a difference between bustling and overcrowded. So it’s important to calculate space utilization to ensure accurate resource planning. Space utilization is the static measurement of the size of your space, with how and when they’re used. Let’s look at a few examples of what this means.
Let’s say you have space capacity for 200 people. That includes 150 hot desks, 6 conference rooms, and 3 phone booths. After pulling a weekly report on your desk usage, you notice that 110 employees are working from their desks on average per week. With a 73% utilization rate for those workstations, you’ll want to keep an eye on this trend and monitor if it goes up or down. If it increases by a lot, then you might need to invest in a few more desks. If the rate goes down below the benchmark, then maybe you need to remove a few desks or rethink your hybrid policy.
A few other factors to consider when looking at space utilization are:
- Total space capacity and the max capacity of your meeting rooms
- Number of individuals using a specific area at a certain time
- Number of hours a day meeting rooms are booked or occupied
- Areas with the highest foot traffic
Tracking space utilization will help with resource planning and staffing and give you better visibility into your workplace occupancy.
3. Meeting room utilization
Meeting room usage is another important metric to measure for space optimization. No one likes being crammed into a tiny conference room with too many people or scrambling to find an empty room right before your meeting. On the flip side, it’s not a fun experience to be the only one in a meeting room while ten participants are on Zoom.
Unlike desks, it’s not always so simple to figure out meeting room utilization. You have to take into account which meeting rooms are most frequently booked, how many attendees are physically present, and what type of meetings they are (scheduled or ad hoc). A 40-60% utilization rate is a good benchmark for determining if meeting spaces are utilized well. For example, if you notice your most popular meeting room is booked for six hours out of an eight-hour workday, the utilization rate is 75%. That tells you that utilization is a bit high, and you might need to consider adding more meeting spaces (like lounge areas or kitchen spaces) if the trend continues.
Other considerations include room amenities, such as screens for presenting. If your most booked rooms all have screens, it might be a sign you need to add more of these to your other meeting spaces.
You can pull all of this data from your room booking dashboard. You’ll also want to survey employees, look at the schedule of each meeting room on your calendar, and walk around the office to understand the full story of meeting room utilization.
4. Visitor foot traffic
The last—but not least—important workplace metric to track is your visitor foot traffic. You’ll want to know how many visitors come onsite, on average, every week or month. This will help you ensure you have the capacity to handle the additional foot traffic. Plus, you’ll need to make sure you have a few spare resources to accommodate visitors who need a desk, meeting space, etc.
Next, look for trends in your visitor data. Are there certain days with more visitors? For example, does HR schedule candidate interviews predominantly on Wednesdays or Thursdays? Or do board meetings always occur on a certain day of the month? You’ll want to know how much additional space your visitors are occupying and what resources they need while onsite. Use your visitor management system to get an accurate view of your visitor foot traffic, including how many, who, and how often they visit your spaces.
What to read next
Looking at these metrics can help you paint a complete picture of space utilization across all of your workplaces. This will, in turn, help you make informed, data-driven decisions about how to best optimize your space to save costs and create the best experience possible for your employees onsite. To learn more about how to make smart decisions about your workplace, read our “Ultimate guide to proactive space management.”