Ultimate Guide for proactive space management

Dec 12, 2023
Your workplace generates valuable data that can help you save on costs. Are you capturing it?
Amy Kirkham
Senior Content Marketing Manager Alumni

2023 has been a year of returning to the office. Whether full-time or part-time, leaders and employees alike have remembered and accepted the value of working from the office. This might be to collaborate with coworkers, communicate together openly, be productive, or generally be together. While this has offered a window of opportunity for employee experience and camaraderie levels to rise, it has posed a problem for some businesses when it comes to space.

Without predictable work patterns and a solid knowledge of who is onsite every day, the traditional structure of the workplace no longer holds. The world is more fluid, and companies must find ways to utilize their space and control costs in a far more inconsistent and dynamic setting. It may sound simple, but not without the right data and tools. To effectively and proactively manage your workspaces, leaders must tap into the power of comprehensive workplace data to track two fundamental things: office occupancy and space utilization.

In this ultimate guide, we’ll do a deep dive into proactive space management, including what is, why it’s so important for your business, and the benefits it brings when it comes to cost, data-driven decisions, and overall employee engagement. Here’s what we’ll cover: 

  • What is proactive space management? 
  • How does proactive space management differ from traditional space management?
  • Why is proactive space management important?
  • What tools enable proactive space management? 
  • Specific examples of proactive space management 

What is proactive space management? 

Proactive space management uses accurate data insights before there’s been an external or mandated request. Unlike its more traditional counterpart, where you audit and report on your company’s space utilization data, proactive space management aims to do exactly as it says: be proactive. It encompasses passively collecting workplace data at all times and integrating it into daily admin workflows so it can accurately assist in space planning and utilization.

How does proactive space management differ from traditional space management? 

Space management in the traditional sense tends to be reactive. It’s usually in the context of a top-down mandated change, such as the request to move or change a business’s real estate footprint. It can be in response to anecdotal or direct feedback. Here are two examples of how proactive space management can positively impact an organization. 

Example 1:

An organization may use real-time data to identify underutilized areas within their office space, particularly in light of increased flexibility in employee work arrangements. For instance, if a department has consistently low workspace occupancy, the proactive approach involves recognizing this trend early on. 

Instead of maintaining unused space, the organization could proactively explore sub-leasing opportunities to external partners or even other companies seeking temporary office solutions. This way, the organization not only optimizes its space utilization but also generates potential revenue by sub-leasing unused areas.

Example 2:

HR might have received multiple requests from the engineering team that they wish to sit further away from the rapidly growing (and noisy!) sales team. But if a company doesn’t have the office space to move them, then leadership may ask you to look into other options, such as seeing if another floor is available or maybe an entirely new real estate location. 

In comparison, proactive space management uses data insights as its superpower. Using the same example, you can work with the HR team by pulling accurate workplace analytics to understand any of the following: 

  • Percentage of each team that comes into the office versus work from home 
  • The number of empty desks in each section of the office 
  • The areas that are used in the office, such as kitchen areas, social areas, quiet zones

With these insights, you and HR could decide a number of ways to meet engineering’s request without having to upsize the office – and costs. For example, if the data shows that only 50% of the marketing department come into the office versus 90% of engineering, it might be better to  swap the two teams around. By moving marketing closer to sales, it would disrupt less people overall and accommodate the engineering team. Win-win.

Why is proactive space management important? 

A good place to start is understanding the role of data in the workplace. Comprehensive, accurate workplace data helps to improve nearly every facet of work, including business process, performance and employee experience. It equips you with the insights you need to make decisions that reduce wasted cost, time, and stress. 

But oftentimes, companies don’t have an issue with collecting workplace data. The problem is more around understanding how to use it. When it comes to space management, workplace data is pivotal. Let’s cover three core reasons why proactive space management is so important for your business.

1. Saves on cost

Proactive space management is not just about making the best use of your office space – it's also a strategic approach to reducing spend. Traditional space management, while useful, often leads to decisions made after the fact, sometimes resulting in unnecessary expenses. Proactive space management, powered by real-time workplace analytics, changes this dynamic. Here are some ways proactive space management can help you save on cost.

Get a comprehensive view of your data

By passively collecting accurate employee occupancy data through integrations via badge access or Wi-Fi systems, leaders get a full, comprehensive view of who’s coming onsite and how spaces are being used over time. Alone, badge access or Wi-Fi systems only offer a narrow view of who’s onsite, rather than what they are using when they’re in the office. However, when you combine occupancy data with space and resource utilization data, the real magic happens. 

With this view, leaders are able to gain an in-depth understanding of their space, which in turn drives better, more informed decisions about real estate costs. For example, if you know that employees are coming onsite to purely collaborate with each other (and to do most heads-down work when at home), then it might make sense from a cost perspective to invest less on desks and quiet zones and more on breakout rooms with AV equipment and whiteboards. 

Avoid reactive decisions

Provided by workplace analytics software, proactive space management also helps in avoiding reactive decisions that often lead to overspending. It can be easy for admins to be reactive, whether that’s based on a recent event such as an All-Hands or the fluctuating attendance data for different roles.

Imagine this: Your company hosts an All-Hands meeting twice a year, and each time there is an influx of employees into your space and an uptick in complaints about people not having enough room to work. Instead of upsizing the office to accommodate for these two events per year, you know by looking at your occupancy data that most of the time, these employees are working remotely, in field work, or simply based in another location. So based on these insights, you make the decision to rent out a larger space for your next All-Hands and keep your existing workplace that accommodates the number of employees that usually work there throughout the year.

Know when to consolidate your workspace

Proactive space management turns your workplace into a dynamic entity, constantly adapting to your actual needs and saving costs not just in the short term, but also in the long run. By leveraging accurate, real-time data, you can create a cost-efficient and enjoyable workspace without ever having to upsize. For example, utilizing your workplace insights can guide you in strategically scheduling your workforce across different days. This enables people to benefit from the buzz of the office without having too many people in at once. 

A well-managed, compact space doesn’t just translate to financial savings, but also cultivates a positive and energetic workplace. Remember, cozy offices can equal cost savings and good vibes!

2. Optimizes real estate

As offices get busier and busier, optimizing real estate has never been more important. It’s not just about reducing or increasing your physical space, but rather making your existing workspace work smarter before you make any bigger, bolder decisions.

With integrations to access control management systems, you can begin tracking as soon as someone enters your workspace, including who comes into your office, on what days, and for how long. You can also determine who of those people are full-time employees, contractors, and visitors. With all this data, you can start to paint a comprehensive view of how your workspace is used at the broadest level on a daily basis. 

On a deeper level, you also begin tracking how they use areas of your workspace. For example, how many meeting rooms are booked on what days, how many are canceled and how many experience no-shows. You can even look to integrate with motion sensors like Density who offer movement tracking around the entire workplace. 

With powerful data to hand, you can visibly see which areas of the office are consistently underutilized, helping you to make the right decisions to optimize your real estate. It might make sense financially to sublet these spaces. Or alternatively you could re-purpose them for different functions that offer a higher return on investment. 

3. Better workplace experience

A smart workplace often translates to happier employees. The ease and efficiency of working onsite directly contribute to a better sense of presence, productivity, and community among employees.

Proactive space management elevates the workplace experience in several ways. Firstly, it streamlines workdays by offering a single solution for managing space. Employees can effortlessly book or release rooms and desks as needed, which minimizes frustration and errors. Additionally, this approach allows administrators to efficiently plan for the expected number of people onsite, covering aspects like catering, utilities, and facilities staffing.

When employees have the flexibility to use their preferred spaces and collaborate with their favorite colleagues in a well-organized manner, the overall workplace experience improves markedly. In fact, according to Envoy’s latest research on workplace community, 76% say that being together in the workplace – whether that’s to collaborate or simply to have watercooler conversations – is good for their mental wellbeing. It’s therefore clear that smart management of space not only facilitates individual preferences but also enhances the collective work environment.

What tools enable proactive space management?

As you’ve likely gathered already, proactive space management (plus, really, any type of space management) is impossible without the right data and the right tools to showcase it. Here are some top tools you’ll need if you wish to better manage your workspace in 2024: 

Occupancy dashboard 

An occupancy dashboard is an essential tool that merges vital data and insights into office occupancy trends, offering a comprehensive and digestible view of your workspace's usage. It helps you understand the frequency and patterns of employee and visitor attendance and how various spaces within your office are utilized.

With an occupancy platform, you can gain a detailed snapshot of space utilization, highlighting trends in attendance, both on an individual and departmental level. It identifies the busiest days and offers insights into daily, weekly, and monthly attendance averages, helping in assessing departmental space usage and overall attendance metrics. 

With an occupancy dashboard, you can:

  • Identify busy times and opportunities to optimize your workplace policies and check-in procedures
  • See patterns in employee traffic to help inform staffing, purchasing, and business decisions
  • Understand who on your team is using Envoy and who may need additional training
  • Arm your team and higher-ups with insights that can help them make better decisions for your workplace

Learn more about four key occupancy metrics to track to optimize your space.

Interactive maps 

An interactive workplace map offers a comprehensive bird's-eye view of your entire workspace by visually representing your workspace’s floorplan. It enables users to effortlessly filter and locate key areas in the office, such as rooms, desks, delivery zones, and visitor areas. They can locate key points of interest, including emergency exits and first aid stations, for safety and security. 

For admins, interactive maps are a quick way to understand how their workspace fits into the office and how well it’s used. With interactive maps, you can:

  • Discover if coworkers are onsite and where they are sitting
  • Find and book available meeting rooms in real-time based on availability and capacity
  • Find and book available hot desks based on amenities and location 
  • See where visitor areas are, invite guests to the office, and get notified when they arrive

Room utilization tools

When it comes to saving space, meeting rooms play a big role. Ensuring you have a check-in feature on your room booking tool is important. With this feature enabled, employees can seamlessly book meeting rooms using their preferred cloud-based calendars, like Google and Outlook. What’s more, they can use Envoy’s proactive space saver features for rooms, which sends notifications about booked meeting rooms and guides employees to make more efficient use of office space. These notifications include:

  • Suggestions to switch to a smaller room when the number of attendees is low or other bookings necessitate it.
  • Alerts to release rooms automatically if the employees who booked them don't show up or don’t check in as onsite.
  • Reminders to check into rooms up to 10 minutes before a meeting starts. Rooms are made available again for others to use if no one has checked in 5 minutes past the meeting start time.
  • Automatic meeting clean up due to missed check-ins. Check-in requirements to keep track of when there’s unused rooms tied to recurring meetings that are no longer needed. If there are three missed check-ins in a row, you can remove the room from the calendar event and notify the event owner.

Example 1: Editing your workplace maps

As an admin at a medium-sized company, you face a critical decision when management asks about the need for a new floor in the office building. To tackle this, you turn to the company's workplace maps, a key tool in proactive space management. By using the "Manage Seating" feature in draft mode, you are able to combine attendance data insights with map edits. This gives you an immediate understanding of specific employees who don’t have assigned desks but frequently come into the office, as well as department-level insights on how to optimize the seating chart by team.

When reviewing the data, you notice a significant trend within the Sales department: many team members, although without permanent desks, are regulars in the office. Based on this knowledge, you can start to take a proactive approach to space management by exploring available spaces, even contemplating the opening of a new floor to meet these needs.

You provide easy-to-read, digestible reports to your management team to explain your reasoning for exploring a new floor for the office building. 

Envoy's interactive workplace maps

Example 2: Smart space-saving room nudges

A large corporation faced challenges in managing their meeting rooms. With many employees now back in the office, there was a huge inconsistency in the types of meeting rooms being booked. Some rooms were underutilized, while larger, premium conference rooms were often overbooked, leading to an inefficient use of space.

Recognizing this issue, the facilities manager decided to leverage Envoy’s proactive Room Resizer feature. This feature specifically helps free up larger conference rooms, which are typically harder to get, by encouraging employees to book appropriately sized spaces for their meetings. Integrated into their chat tool, smart nudges like Teams notifications encouraged employees to build better habits when booking rooms on-site. These nudges included:

  • Smart room suggestions: Employees received tips to use smaller rooms when fewer people were attending meetings, making better use of space.
  • Automatic room release: If someone booked a room but didn't show up, Envoy automatically freed up the room for others to use.
  • Timely check-in reminders: Envoy reminded employees to check into their meetings. If no one checked in shortly after the meeting start time, the room became available again.
  • Meeting cleanup: If a room wasn't used for recurring meetings, Envoy automatically cleared the booking after several no-shows.

These smart nudges not only helped in optimizing space with behavioral changes but also made employees more mindful of their booking habits. For instance, nudging them not to book a large conference room for a two-person meeting. With easy integration into their usual calendar apps, employees began using rooms more efficiently relative to the number of people invited. The result for the company was a more efficient use of space, freeing up premium rooms, reducing costs, and improving overall workflow.

Product UI notification for downsizing meeting room

Proactive space management isn't just about space efficiency – it aligns with broader business objectives like cost reduction, employee satisfaction, and overall efficiency. By leveraging smart technologies and insightful data, proactive space management has the power to transform the workplace into a dynamic, responsive environment conducive to productivity and innovation.

Want to know more about how Envoy’s space management tools can help elevate your workspace? Sign up for a free trial and start optimizing your office space today.


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Senior Content Marketing Manager Alumni

Amy is a content creator and storyteller at Envoy, where she helps workplace leaders build a workplace their people will love. Outside of work, you can usually find Amy exploring new places, planning her next trip, or enjoying a coffee and croissant in her favorite cafe.

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