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Calculating Your Ideal Employee-to-Seat Ratio: A Step-by-Step Guide

April 21st, 2022 | 10 min. read

Calculating Your Ideal Employee-to-Seat Ratio: A Step-by-Step Guide
VergeSense

VergeSense

VergeSense is the leading spatial intelligence platform trusted by fiscally savvy and employee-first companies across the world.

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As the world has begun adapting to remote and hybrid work over the past few years, organizations are beginning to return to the office. As we look at a post-pandemic workplace, more return to office initiatives are also working on workplace transformation to increase employee engagement.For companies taking this as an opportunity to implement new flexible and hybrid workplace policies, many are contemplating what this return means for their workplace infrastructure and office space design.

Each day, business leaders are asking themselves questions like — Does an increase in hybrid work mean that we need more collaborative spaces or more individual desks? Do we need more office space per employee or less? How might employee needs vary across different business units or different geographic regions?

Data from the Continental Automated Buildings Association found that by strategically improving workplaces and work environments, organizations can decrease employee absences and illnesses by 20-60%. 

To help leadership teams understand workplace needs across the entire corporate real estate portfolio, start by calculating the ratio of employees per seat in every region, building, or department. By analyzing these needs regularly and capturing data about how the workplace is used, you can tell a story that encompasses business goals.

Office space occupancy and utilization data aggregated over time can help organizations think strategically about their offices and improve spaces for their employees, improving their everyday experience at work.

Office Space Per Person is Changing

Employees are not only choosing hybrid and flexible work, but the way they work in the office is changing. Collaborative spaces have become more popular over the past few years, and employees are interested in different types of work areas. Some employees love coworking-style desks, while others do their best deep work in private office spaces.

Many companies are implementing private phone booths, pods, wellness areas, training classrooms, and social lounge areas to help improve the employee experience and retain top talent by having areas that appeal to each type of team member.

With the addition of so many unique spaces in the workplace, how can companies calculate how much office space they need per person? 

Using spatial intelligence tools, workplace strategy teams can analyze use of space at scale and in real-time—allowing them to optimize their offices and allocate sufficient square footage to each department or location.

By collecting and reviewing spatial intelligence data, companies can ensure they are providing the right workspaces for employees based on use, season, location, and department types. 

What is the right ratio of employees to desks in an office space? 

Ratio-based seating is the practice of maximizing your total office space by determining the ideal number of workspaces, cubicles, offices, or desks that you offer to employees.

Traditional office design assumed 1:1 assigned desk per employee. However, the popularity of activity-based working, communal spaces in the workplace, and flexible work in recent years, combined with the increase of organizations adopting a hybrid work model, has now made determining the ideal employee-to-seat ratio an incredibly challenging task for workplace and corporate real estate teams everywhere

Think about it this way — if you have 100 employees and they all work on-site every day, you will need to provide them with 100 workspaces and your ideal employee-to-seat ratio would be 1:1. For a company with remote, hybrid, or flexible employees their ratio will look a little different.

For example, if you have 100 employees and half of them work remotely on any given day, you will only need to provide them with 50 workspaces and your ideal employee-to-seat ratio may  be closer to 1:2.

In an ideal world, ratio-based seating allows organizations to optimize their total office space by only creating and allocating workspaces on a need basis, which in turn allows them to both save space and real estate costs while meeting employee needs each day.

Best Practices for Understanding the Right Ratio of Employees to Workspaces

1. Conduct Surveys of Employees to Understand Their Office Space Desires: 

Before making any significant workspace changes, survey your employees to ensure you are making decisions that support their preferred work methods.

Consider asking about their preferences for keeping things or storage at the office to understand what portion of your team would be more comfortable with assigned seating, or who would prefer a hot desking model.

2. Be Gradual with Office Design Changes: 

Adjust seating ratios gradually, to avoid minimizing the number of available workspaces too quickly. Try piloting a new design and seating ratio with a specific team or on just one floor before rolling out more broadly.

3. Be Flexible as Employees Experience Office Changes: 

Approach ratio based seating with a flexible mind, as making permanent changes to your office space may backfire if workplace policies are changed again.

4. Prepare For All Scenarios: 

Structure your office space to support occasional overflow seating in the event of sporadic fully on-site work. As you prepare for these scenarios, consider when large meetings might occur or what to do when there’s a company all-hands onsite.

5. Offer a Variety of Working Space Types: 

Improve the employee experience of ratio based seating by offering a variety of seating options. Continue to provide workspaces for team meetings, hybrid collaboration, and individual work.

Some employees prefer the privacy that a small flexible room with a door provides, whereas other thrive in open environments where they can brainstorm. With more virtual meetings occurring with more hybrid workers, consider additional spaces where employees can have some privacy for those meetings.

6. Leverage Office Occupancy Sensor Technology: 

Use occupancy sensors to accurately and continuously measure office space utilization. This can help you understand (especially in a pilot) which spaces are most used, and which people don’t seem to use as much.

Calculating your Employee-to-Seat Ratio

There is no hard and fast rule for defining the perfect employee-to-seat ratio for your organization. However, there are several key metrics to consider in your calculations as you find a data-driven approach to right-sizing your office and creating the best workplace experience. 

Step One: Calculate your minimum office occupancy and maximum office occupancy

Because determining an accurate employee-to-seat ratio is all about optimizing the use of space, before you can determine your ratio you first must gain an understanding for how your office space is actually used.

Start this process by monitoring how your employees utilize their office space for a predetermined period of time, like three months using real-time active and passive occupancy data. After the quarter has ended, analyze the employee behavior you’ve gathered and determine the minimum and maximum occupancy of your office.

Once you’ve got your minimum and maximum occupancy levels for each floor, department, or neighborhood of your total property you can use them as a jumping off point for calculating your ideal ratio.

Continue monitoring how your employees use your workspaces in order to determine the accuracy of your employee-to-seat ratio.

Step Two: Calculate the workspace needs of each department

No two departments have the same employee makeup. Depending on the specific job requirements of each one, your organization may be composed of a mixture of departments with a majority of remote, hybrid, or on-site employees.

Therefore, the ratio of each department will differ. Of course, the utilization of your complete office space will have a total calculable employee-to-seat ratio. But in order to reconfigure your workspaces to provide employees with the right number and types of workspaces they need to perform, you’ll need to calculate the individual employee-to-seat ratio of each department.

Assign a number to each employee that reflects how often they work on-site. Start by labeling every fully on-site worker as a 1 and every fully remote employee as a 0. Then, each hybrid employee will have a number between 1 and 0 that is a reflection of how much time they are projected to spend in the office.

For example, employees that work on-site only one week out of every month will be labeled as .25 and employees who work from home two days a week will be labeled as .75. Once you have labeled every employee based on their work schedule you can calculate the ideal employee-to-seat ratio of each department.

Your employee-to-seat ratio may also vary based on the nature of your business. Gensler’s annual workplace survey found that those in the tech industry are more receptive to unassigned seating than those in the legal industry. Even within a company, some departments will be far more receptive to agile seating and hot desking than other departments.

Step Three: Evaluate the distribution of space for individual workplaces vs. conference rooms vs. collaborative work spaces

The function of the space will affect your ratios. Consider how much space you’ll dedicate to collaborative space versus individual space, with a recent trend being the rise in the use of collaborative spaces in offices.

How much space is dedicated to conference rooms? Are they being used? Are they the right size for hybrid meetings or your team’s meeting needs?

With a growing number of organizations adopting a hybrid work model, many are restructuring meeting rooms to be more conducive to smaller groups and video conferencing technology, rather than traditional, large boardrooms of the past.

Analyzing the distribution of office space often prompts a workplace redesign—here’s why your workplace design strategy should be founded on data.

Step Four: Implement workplace software for room booking and desk booking

Using software to allow employees to reserve desks or meeting rooms serves two purposes. One—you provide employees with an easy way to pre-book a spot in the office, making their hybrid work experience better and improving their work-life balance and productivity. Having a desk reservation also helps each employee plan their week.

Two—you collect rich data and insights on how your employees work, giving you the information you need to improve your workplace for their specific needs.

VergeSense’s meeting analytics and integrated smart sensors can improve the on-site work experience even more by releasing conference or huddle rooms that have been “ghosted” so they don’t get left unused. 

Step Five: Continuously monitor your workspace utilization

Calculating your employee-to-seat ratio isn’t a one time project, but an ongoing process .

After a few months, you may realize that maybe you over calculated for individual work and after a month you realize your focus rooms are way underutilized. Or maybe you miscalculated how many members of your marketing department work on flexible schedules and you’ve found yourself with overbooked huddle rooms struggling to accommodate their team needs. Whatever you may learn from continuous monitoring, you always have the option to adjust your ratios to reflect the realities of your office space needs.

Additionally, if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that flexibility is necessary for success in the modern world. By continuously monitoring your employee behavior using smart sensors and workplace analytics, you’ll be able to anticipate the ever changing needs of your workforce. That way, you won’t be caught off guard if more and more employees begin shifting to remote or on-site work. As a rule, ongoing monitoring allows you to create the proactive workplace your employees deserve.

Building an effective employee-to-seat ratio that stokes creativity and collaboration all comes down to how accurately you are able to monitor your workspace utilization and employee behavior. Without collecting these insights, you may find yourself struggling to create a truly efficient, equitable, and sustainable workplace for all of your employees, no matter how often they step foot into your office space. 

Ideal Meeting Room Sizes

The ideal meeting room size has changed, along with new specifications for what meeting room design is conducive to today’s hybrid and tech-centered meetings. In the past, conference rooms required large tables, more than 500 square feet, and conference call equipment. 

Now, meeting room spaces, sizes, and capacities look more like this, according to iOffice:

  • Individual/1-1 spaces: 1-2 occupants, 50 square feet
  • Huddle rooms: 2-6 occupants, 150 square feet
  • Conference rooms: 6-20 occupants, 150-500+ square feet
  • Lounge areas: 5-20 occupants, 500+ square feet

Meeting rooms should include Wifi, a monitor, soundproofing, a whiteboard, tables, chairs, a speaker, outlets, and any adapters to support hybrid meetings and collaboration. Other spaces can include wellness areas, pods for nursing mothers, cafeterias or dining areas, exercise rooms, classroom facilities, and more. These office spaces will vary in size.

A comprehensive workplace analytics platform like VergeSense is equipped to provide you with all of the insights you need to transform your office space into the high-functioning place it is capable of being. To get started, request a demo today.