Against a backdrop of continuing uncertainty, measuring how employees use the workspace ensures that they’re getting what they want and need out of the office.
UK office occupancy rates have plateaued at roughly half their pre-pandemic rates. Vacancy rates in tech hubs like San Francisco are at all-time highs, with office space rumoured to be going for roughly the same price as 2009.
Hybrid work patterns have completely upended use of space, and have made it even more difficult to predict what decisions will best meet the needs of employees and the overall business. Space utilization data and analysis provides the certainty needed to decisively improve the workplace.
What is space utilization?
Space utilization is the measurement of how people are using a space. That could be by crowding it to its full capacity, not using it at all, and everything in between.
Office space utilization data paints a picture of how workspaces can be better used and managed. By measuring workspace utilization, companies can find opportunities to:
- Cut costs by dropping underused real estate and spending less on utilities in underoccupied spaces.
- Improve the employee experience with better office design that reflects what employees want and need out of the workplace.
- Plan for the future by making data-driven decisions with architectural design, office layout and real estate portfolio.
Space utilization measures what’s actually happening in the office. It quantifies employee behaviour and provides granularity that other data sources like badge check-ins and employee surveys can’t.
Space utilization is also a definitive measure of how successful your workplace strategy is in practice.
Check out this Workplace Strategy Guide for workplace innovators for the steps to create a workplace strategy that’s right for your employees (and makes your CFO smile).
Or watch/listen to this webinar!
It’s tough to plan for the future without a thorough understanding of the present. That’s why space utilization is the foundation of everything from office design to real estate portfolio decisions.
Tracking these five key space utilization metrics will give you the certainty you need to improve your workplace experience and plan for the future.
1. Utilization Rate
What it is: The percentage of space in a building, floor or zone occupied by employees compared to the space’s total capacity. For example, if a floor has a 7% utilization rate on a Tuesday, employees aren’t using 93% of the floor on that day.
How to calculate space utilization rate:
Employees occupying the space / total capacity of that space = utilization rate
How to use utilization rate: Plan for future architectural design and office layout by creating a heatmap of office floor plans. Areas with high space utilization rate are likely to be the popular areas that motivate employees to come into the office. Areas with low space utilization rates likely aren’t giving employees the functionality they’re looking for and are creating waste.
Pro-tip: Overlay office floor plans with utilization rate to visualize employee behaviour for each area or zone. You could discover that employees are using the spaces in different ways than the intended ones.
2. Peak Utilization rate
What it is: The utilization rate of office spaces when they’re at their peak, or highest, occupancy.
How to use peak utilization rate: Determine whether spaces are overcrowded and creating a poor employee experience when they’re at their busiest, or if lower than expected occupancy is creating waste. Space planners can use this metric to ensure that the floor plans they create are properly accommodating employee demand.
3. Weekly utilization patterns
What it is: Daily utilization rate over a standard working week that indicates weekly occupancy patterns. For most organizations using hybrid working, weekly utilization rate tends to peak on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and trough on Mondays and Fridays.
How to use weekly utilization rate: Understanding weekly occupancy patterns over the week helps workplace leaders:
- Reduce costs by closing off underused floors and zones on trough days.
- Optimize employee experience by making sure spaces aren’t overcrowded on peak days and a total ghost town on trough days.
Pro-tip: manage occupancy to smooth peaks and troughs with intelligent scheduling software.
4. Long-term utilization trends
What it is: The overall direction of occupancy long-term. While measuring weekly utilization patterns entails comparing daily rates with the objective of spotting recognizable, repeatable peaks and troughs, utilization trends track how employees are using the office space over weeks, months and years. Patterns repeat themselves, while trends show how behaviour is changing medium and long-term.
How to use utilization trends: This metric is the best way to track RTO (Return-to-Office) velocity, and figure out what’s impacting it.
It’s also a great way to answer the C-Suite’s most burning question that real estate and facilities leaders dread getting – are people coming back into the office?
Utilization trends measure how appealing the office is to employees, and how changes in the workplace impact that. Plot utilization trends against policy changes (e.g. return to office mandates) to measure their impact on occupancy. This can inform how policy changes are communicated internally and clearly show what employees want out of the office, so they don’t feel they’re being lured back in with gimmicky short-term benefits like free lunches.
5. Predicted Utilization Rate
What it is: Expected occupancy based on current patterns and trends.
How to use predicted utilization rate: Use space utiliuzation analytics to forecast employee demand on workspaces in the short and long-term future.
In the short term, use predicted utilization rate to ensure spend on utilities, facilities services and even office furniture is proportional to employee occupancy. For example, use predicted utilization rate to order food for the cafeteria for the week ahead.
In the long-term, predicted utilization rate can inform repurposing of spaces, floor plans and real estate portfolio decisions like acquiring additional floors of even buildings.
Pro-tip – it’s best to err on the side of caution with impactful decisions, and budget for slightly more space than the data predicts you’ll need.
HubStar is a next-gen hybrid workplace platform that helps workplace innovators create a productive, connected workplace. Bring teams together in the right place at the right time while optimizing the spaces, facilities and policies they need to collaborate, do their best work and thrive.
Schedule a demo to find out how Hubstar makes it easy to track each of these five space utilization metrics.