Published on January 2018
Reading time: 5 minutes
The average office utilisation rate rarely goes over 45% and the pressure is on for Corporate real estate and Facilities teams to switch up their workplace strategies and optimise office space for today's workforce.
The average cost per workstation in London cost businesses £17.5K (approx. $22.7K) per annum, according to Cushman & Wakefield's research, ranking London as the second most expensive location in the world. With peak office utilisation averaging at 45%, businesses could potentially see as much as $6.2M in unused real estate every year (based on an average of 500 desks).
Most Corporate real estate, Facilities or Workplace teams generally conduct regular workplace utilisation surveys of desk usage either using manual counting or desk sensors. Reports generated from these show granular information about the average as well as peak desk utilisation.
Here we explore 5 key data points you should consider and how they can help you increase workspace utilisation.
1. Turn fixed desks used 0-20% of the time into flexible desks
As today's workforce is rapidly changing due to the evolution of technology with people being more connected than ever before, most are now able to work from any location. Most companies are adapting their work practices to these changes but the challenge still remains - 'how much space do I need and how do I reduce the cost of unused space?'.
One of the small changes you can make to increase utilisation rates, is by allocating fixed desk to flexible desk. By converting a set number or even 20% of unused desk from a ratio of 1:1 to 1:2 people per desk, could make you a significant amount of cost savings (as much as $2.8M based on an average of 500 desks).
Occupancy distribution data points - using the occupancy distribution over a set period as shown in Figure 1 - Floor occupancy distribution, you can quickly identify the specific numbers of desks that are only used 0-20%.
These desks can easily be repurposed as flexible working desks, without risking over utilisation.
Additionally, we identify that 10 desks are used 20-40% of the time. Allocating at least 5 of those to flexible desks (hot desks) will still give you enough desks to accommodate a growing workforce.
Figure 1: Occupancy distribution chart
2. Increase person to desk ratio across different teams
Every team or department within a company operates differently and assessing how each currently use workspaces can give you insight into the varying occupancy rates across departments.
Take for example product teams who are likely to be in a fixed location as opposed to sales teams who are more likely to be on the road. Reallocating desk space from Sales department to other teams who need the space could save you significant amounts than investing in new leases.
Tag floor and desk space - using sensor technology that captures floor and desk space occupancy data can give you a complete picture of utilisation rates across teams and departments. This is an inexpensive method than traditional manual surveys. You can then use this data to benchmark your average and peak occupancy rates to make informed decisions on how to reallocate spaces.
In the example below Figure 2: Average and peak desk occupancy, the average number of desks occupied is 45, with only 56 desk used at it's highest peak at any given time. This indicates that a particular team has over 50 desks that are severely under utilised. In this scenario, we would recommend reallocating these desks to other teams where employee growth is on the rise or turning them into flexible desks.
Figure 2: Average and peak desk occupancy
3. Have better conversations with business unit leaders
One of the challenges our customers face is convincing business units or teams to either give up space or that they don’t need more space.
With more data backed evidence in hand you can have better conversations with business unit leaders, using the utilisation comparison to shift conversations from ‘how many desks do you need’ to ‘how can you use your space more productively’.
Giving you the negotiating power to add value and help align goals and budgets and collaboratively work on plans to effectively utilise space.
4. Allocate space on demand
Less than a handful of suppliers offer floor level heat map data as a way to help businesses visually see in real time what spaces may or may not be in use. If this is available to you, then use this information to identify workspaces that could be used as an overflow buffer during peak times.
Figure 3 below is a snap shot of our occupancy heat map which customers see when they review the dashboard. The data pulled from sensors tagged to each floor, desk and meeting room is configured into a visual to help users quickly see what areas are highly utilised.
For the spaces were there is no usage, allocate these as temporary hot desks during peak occupancy in order to efficiently optimise space.
Caveat: This assumes a business operates agile working practices and employees are as happy to work in alternative locations.
Figure 3: Floor occupancy heat map
5. Identify peak days and encourage work from home
One of the important metrics to monitor is peak and off peak days in order to better understand occupancy trends across time, day of the week, location and even seasons.
This is a critical data point to track as it will help you understand patterns in your workforce and put you in control to better optimise workspace and provide recommendations such as:
- Encouraging people to come in during off peak times
- Work from home during peak time
- If you manage multiple sites, encourage employees to work at other locations where occupancy is lower during those days
In figure 4 below, we illustrate trend lines for all Mondays over a 2 month period below. The data depicts patterns of severely under utilised desk space every Monday. The recommendation here would be to investigate further with the team/department where the under utilised desks are located and if needed, negotiate alternative ways to better use the space.
Historically occupancy data was often collected through manual surveys (and many companies still do this), it would not be possible to capture this level of detail immediately and implement quick changes.
Capturing data using occupancy sensors is only half the equation, having a robust team and data platform to interpret and transform this into tangible solutions gets you to the finishing line.
Figure 4: Trend lines for all Mondays
Want to find out more on how to increase workspace utilisation?
Learn more about how to get a complete picture of workspace occupancy in this short webcast on 5 ways to increase desk utilisation or contact us to speak to our team.