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What Decisions Can We Make From Occupancy Data?

March 30th, 2023 | 7 min. read

What Decisions Can We Make From Occupancy Data?

Jarrod Easterwood

Jarrod is a Customer Success Manager at VergeSense currently based in London, United Kingdom.  He has over a decade of experience in the workplace technology industry, specifically focusing on corporate occupancy and utilization data.  When he’s not helping clients better understand their portfolio utilization, he can be found traveling, skiing, and seeing live music.

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CRE leaders and workplace experts alike are grappling with the challenge of accommodating employee experience while keeping real estate costs low in this world of inconsistent occupancy. Additionally, it’s a tough balance attempting to accommodate employee freedom to work from home while also offering a supportive and enticing workplace for in-person collaboration. 

With hybrid work here to stay, CFOs requiring ROI on every dollar spent, and employees expecting a commute-worthy office experience, this new world requires a new approach to gaining a true understanding of what’s actually happening in our spaces so we can optimize with confidence.  Occupancy Intelligence is how we unlock that true understanding.

So, what exactly is occupancy intelligence?

Occupancy intelligence is how workplace, real estate, and facilities teams gain a true understanding of how and when their portfolio and spaces are actually used so they don’t have to compromise between reducing cost and improving employee experience in a world where occupancy is increasingly dynamic.

The Demand for Occupancy Data

More and more organizations have begun to adopt various technologies to capture occupancy data. This data is a key resource in arming global companies that are striving to unlock the true understanding they need to inform critical workplace decisions. 

These decisions can come in the form of optimizing your top-tier spaces to enrich your employee experience or macro-level decisions about how to optimize your real-estate portfolio altogether. So let’s dig in— what types of decisions can we make with accurate occupancy data?

1. Decisions around space planning

One of the most important and impactful use cases for leveraging occupancy data is to better inform your space planning decisions. Some commonly asked questions in which detailed occupancy data can answer include:

  • Will a hybrid work model leave our offices empty on Fridays?
  • How are my different departments working and what spaces do they prefer?
  • What mix of spaces will allow our organization to optimize utilization?
  • Will a 1:1 desk ratio leave us with too many empty desks?

Maybe your sales team needs less access to meeting rooms going forward because they can collaborate more effectively at their desks–an insight like this could lead to an invaluable space planning decision looking forward. 

Making these decisions with your actual occupancy data allows for real estate and organization leaders to better plan a mix of spaces for offices going forward and make sure that their teams are not only equipped with the spaces they need, but also the spaces they prefer.

2. Decisions around space design

Similar to space planning, using occupancy data to inform your workplace design is a great way to ensure you’re designing the spaces that are actually going to be used. 

Here are some examples of questions that you can answer around space design when equipped with occupancy data. 

  • What are our most popular and least popular space types? 

  • Do our employees prioritize privacy or proximity when choosing a space to work for the day?

  • Why don’t our open collaboration areas have greater occupancy, despite employees asking for them?

  • Does the flow of our floor plans support both collaborative and individual work for employees?

Insight into these questions equips you to design the spaces that will actually get used instead of those that may be more aesthetically pleasing, but less utilized. 

Diving deeper into space design considerations allows organizations to adjust their focus to allow for more popular spaces and less unpopular spaces, while also unlocking some key workplace culture and space attribute data as to why these areas may be preferred.  

An otherwise adequately equipped workstation may not be ideal–and thus not highly utilized–due to not supporting focus work or collaborative work, depending on the individual, team, or even the day of the week.

3. Decisions around space availability

Space availability can be a difficult aspect for organizations to juggle when looking to provide an enticing office for employees.  

Too many free spaces and your floor plan feels empty, too few and it may feel cramped or too busy for teams to focus.  We also need to consider that spaces are often unavailable even if someone isn’t physically present. 

A true understanding of how your workspaces are used is one of the most valuable insights that only occupancy intelligence can provide to workplace leaders. A true understanding requires the whole story about how your spaces are used. Person count and active occupancy is only half of the story, but most solutions only capture this data and present it as the whole truth. However, the other 50% of the story is made up of passive occupancy, which is when objects are occupying your spaces, indicating that they’re being used, just not by a person at that time.  

Some key considerations that can lead to better decision-making when analyzing space availability include:

  • How often are our meeting rooms booked in a given week?

  • Are employees booking spaces and not showing up?

  • Does my office feel difficult to find a space in because desks are actively occupied, or are users leaving jackets, bags, and laptops at physically unoccupied spaces for extended periods of time?

Answering these questions may provide the data necessary to make a challenging, but necessary, decision on proper booking protocols.  

You may also need to adjust what spaces are bookable in the calendaring system. Often, organizations will also decide to integrate physical occupancy measurement with their booking platforms and access insights into the elusive ghost meeting–or booked, but unattended–instances within their portfolio.  

This detailed degree of visibility into your workplace allows businesses to allow for enough available spaces, while also limiting unnecessary gaps in misaligned bookings or passively occupied spaces.

4. Decisions around space cleaning

As more and more organizations strive to pursue greener and more efficient custodial practices in their places of business, having the data to limit superfluous cleaning regimens is becoming more and more important. Long gone are the days that spaces are cleaned on preset schedules. Today, the most efficient space cleaning ensures that only the spaces that have been used should be cleaned, rather than default settings. 

Apart from the environmental impact of poor space cleaning schedules, these services are not cheap and therefore should be considered an important part of optimizing your real estate.  

Here are a few questions worth asking as you strive to better adopt more efficient standards:

  • Can we adopt a cleaning schedule based on occupancy instead of predetermined hours?

  • How much do we spend on custodial maintenance each year and is it excessive?

  • Is my organization able to automate cleaning practices to better support a hybrid work environment?

Historical occupancy data can not only assist in answering these questions, but can also support protocols such as cleaning a bathroom after every 50 visitors instead of every 4 hours–saving valuable resources.  

Additionally, you may be able to prioritize highly used shared areas over other lesser-used workstations when scheduling cleaning services with facilities. Understanding when shared areas are highly utilized and by how many individuals allows for smarter, more efficient cleaning practices that can not only save money, but better support environmentally-friendly usage of materials as well.  

What Does a World with Occupancy Intelligence Look Like?

With access to accurate, anonymous data and AI, you can gain a true understanding into how your spaces are actually used. In a world with occupancy intelligence, you will be: 

  1. Informed: You’ll never have to wonder what’s happening, because you’re operating on facts, not assumptions. 

  2. Able to make cost-effective decisions: When every square foot is optimized, the ROI shows up everywhere. 

  3. Create commute-worthy experiences: By adapting spaces based on real-time data, you’ll create the experiences that your team deserves. 

No single organization has unlocked a flawless solution to offering the perfectly utilized workplace paradise, but with occupancy intelligence, we’re getting closer. 

To learn more about how you can use occupancy data to optimize your portfolio, check out our latest blog.