Office space optimization: how to increase efficiency

Space optimization and efficiency with digital twin and occupancy sensors

Office space optimization and efficiency are important due to many factors. Office space is expensive, and optimization not only reduces required space but also improves overall work well-being and efficiency. By optimizing your office space, a significant amount of space and money can be saved. Read how data can help to optimize office space to increase profits and efficiency.

Depending on the location, a nice, modern office space rental may cost anything between 30 and 400 EUR per square meter a year. After personnel costs, office space is one of the largest cost items for any business. In light of the huge rise of remote and hybrid working many companies are now looking into possibilities of reducing their office spaces or at least allocating some of them to a different use. Of course, it is not only about minimizing workspaces but optimizing them. When your office spaces are optimized, they are functional, always big enough for comfort, but no space is wasted. In addition, a well-optimized workspace is designed to make the office welcoming to the employees and increase their productivity.

Office space optimization is extremely valuable and it’s a task that is never finished, but something that you need to keep evaluating and doing regularly. In this article, we introduce the key points on office space optimization and efficiency and give you step-by-step tips on how to do it with the help of utilization data.

Office space optimization step by step

  1. Make a plan
  2. Collect feedback
  3. Deploy IoT devices and collect occupancy data
  4. Take on space optimization software (digital twin)
  5. Office space utilization and occupancy rate
  6. Create a new, optimized office design
  7. Prepare for the future

1. Plan your office space optimization well

A job well planned is a job half done. Before you jump right into reordering your office and getting rid of everyone’s dedicated desks, it’s a good idea to sit down and plan the office space optimization project well. It’s important to investigate what the objectives of the process are: are you looking to reduce office space and move to smaller premises or are you hoping to create more varied working areas? Do you want to lure more people back to the office or perhaps move towards more permanent remote working? Another big thing to consider is, of course, the budget. In the beginning, it’s important to find out how much the changes will cost and if you have a budget to, for example, hire space utilization experts or interior designers.

Another big part of your planning is deciding how you’re going to collect the data you’re going to base your decision on.

2. Engage your employees and collect feedback

A well-planned office ought not to rely on occupancy data alone. While utilization and occupancy data are the best way to get objective insights into how, when and which spaces are used, your employees are a great source in finding how what kind of changes and spaces are needed.

Making changes and trying new things can be difficult in an office, where people are often busy with their own work, and might find a redesign or digital workplace project time-consuming and confusing. Getting your employees engaged with your office space optimization project is the best way to ensure that you’re creating truly functional spaces and that your employees are onboard in taking on new ways of doing things.

3. Deploy IoT devices and collect occupancy data

Commonly, occupancy sensors are installed under your office’s desks, meeting room ceilings or, for example, the phone booths to monitor their utilization rate and occupancy in real-time. The occupancy sensors collect data, from where it’s sent to a workplace software for analysis and visualization, like the Empathic Building digital twin solution shown above.

                  Read more: Workplace utilization and occupancy sensors

Thingsee PRESENCE workplace and occupancy sensor installed under a desk for space optimization
Haltian Thingsee PRESENCE IoT sensor under a desk for occupancy monitoring

With the data collected with occupancy sensors you can, for example:

  • Determine the average utilization
  • Determine peak usage times
  • Monitor meeting room utilization
  • Monitor desk occupancy
  • Manage flexible desks and hybrid work
  • Do capacity management, i.e., make sure your office is not too crowded, or underused

4. Take on space utilization software

When you start measuring the occupancy with sensors, it’s needless to say that you’ll need some software to analyze the results and start your office space optimization journey. The purpose of the software is to visualize everything you need for office space optimization from desk and room utilization reports to heatmaps of people flow and most used spaces.

Good software for space optimization gives both extensive reporting in dashboards, but also offers other insights into your space usage such as what kind of spaces are the most popular ones, and what factors (like equipment or air quality) affect people’s choices.

Empathic Building software showing office utilization rates for space optimization
Empathic Building digital twin showing office utilization rates

Should the software show real-time data as well?

In addition to space utilization dashboards and reports, real-time occupancy and utilization information can be very important for office space optimization. Managing the way your office space is used, is ultimate not only in office design planning but also in managing the way people use the spaces. By showing real-time occupancy data in a digital twin, for example, hybrid and activity-based working runs smoothly and people can find their spaces, desks, and colleagues without any hassle, making your employees happy with the solution and their office, resulting in fewer complaints and better employee experience.

A digital twin of your office

The best way to collect data on space utilization and occupancy is to create a digital twin of your office. Share within the whole company a functional, simple, and interactive digital twin to collect and visualize all of the information from utilization rates and air quality to employees’ opinions and wishes.

Without data, office space optimization is based on gut feel and subjective opinions. The best way to optimize office space is to collect data about space usage such as occupancy rates, popular areas based on employee flow, peak times and so on. To get this information, start to collect data with a smart office IoT solution, like camera-based or PIR sensors. Of all the solutions out there, the best value for money is usually wireless IoT sensor devices, as they are easy to install without a professional technician, they scale easily, and they can be installed anywhere without having to worry about power outlets and complicated wiring.

5. Office space utilization and occupancy rate

According to JLL benchmarking report, companies reported an average of 60% utilization rate before the COVID-19 pandemic, while companies usually target around 80-89% utilization rate. Now, after the pandemic, the average utilization rates have certainly dropped even more. Underused spaces are, of course, a huge waste of resources for companies, but having a poorly designed and empty office certainly does not lure people back to the office either, leading to poor employee experience in the long run.

The first step to becoming more efficient with your office space usage is getting data so that you can calculate your space utilization and occupancy rates. In short, occupancy tells you how many people are in your office and utilization how those people interact with that space.

Once you have calculated your utilization and occupancy rates, it’s much easier to make educated decisions on how to make more use of your office space, and if you can make savings by reducing office space without risking employee comfort.

To calculate the office space occupancy rate, divide the occupied floor space by the total floor space:

                  Occupied square feet / total workplace square footage = space occupancy rate

In the US, the average office occupancy rate in 10 major cities is 38% (ranging from Austin, 58,8% to Washington D.C., 36,6%). It is predicted that the rate will level out to a 55-65% return rate, but only for some days of the week due to hybrid working. In Europe, the average office occupancy rate was 43% in June 2022, ranging from Paris: 54% to London and Prague: 38%.

While the space occupancy rate tells you how many people are in the workplace, it does not yet give much insight into how well the workspace is optimized. For this, you need to also calculate the office space utilization rate:

                  Number of employees / total workplace capacity= space utilization rate

According to the JLL report, the manufacturing industry has the highest reported utilisation rate globally of 68%, followed by financial services at 67%. Professional services reported a utilization rate of 49%, which is way lower than companies target.

Checklist for office space optimization and planning

Contact our office space optimization expert

You can already take some actions based on our checklist above, but if you’re interested in taking a step forward and start measuring occupancy rates and optimizing your office space, it might make sense to contact Haltian office space optimization and digital workplace expert.

We design and implement occupancy and utilization sensors and smart office software from small offices up to multinational company headquarters. We have data available from different countries and all sizes of offices – we can help you get started with space optimization all the way from getting the right IoT hardware to smart office software.

If you’re wondering how much your company could save by optimizing your office space, please feel free to send us a short description of your office space,  and our specialist will get back to you for a free consultation.

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6. Create a new, optimized office space design

A well-made office space optimization plan takes into consideration both the user feedback and the data gathered with IoT occupancy sensors. After you have gathered the data you need, it’s time to act on your findings and create a new, better-optimized office design!

Emphasize variety:

Modern office spaces need to offer more than just a desk and coffee machine. In the era of remote work, offices need to be more focused on making connections, as most of us visit the office to meet people and work with our team. While creating different kinds of co-working spaces, for both meetings and more relaxed team discussions, focused work and peaceful areas should not be forgotten! Many want to have variety in their workday and do focus work some part of the day and group work the other. When creating a new office design, it’s good to emphasize variety and design spaces that fit the needs of all your employees. Here’s where your utilization data will help to determine where you have space to use.

Create flexible desks and manage hybrid work

As mentioned before, a high number of employees wish to work remote at least some part of the week, i.e., do hybrid work. As a result, keeping person dedicated desks in the office is a huge waste of space. By creating flexible desks that can be either booked in advance or booked ad-hoc, you can create plenty of space for other types of working areas.

man holding a smart phone that has a digital twin office map with free and occupied desk for hybrid works
A digital twin is a great tool to manage and organize hybrid work

To make hybrid work easy for everyone, taking on a digital twin of your office is essential. With the digital twin, people can see which desks are occupied and booked, and which are free. In addition, you can add equipment info on the digital twin, so that people can find the workspace that fits their current needs.

Read more: Seven Great Benefits of Hot Desking – Optimise your office

Remember technological requirements

Next to co-operation and opportunity for focused work, good equipment and high-speed internet are also often reasons people come to work at the office. This is why it’s good to consult your IT department during the office space optimization project to make sure everyone will get the technology they need to work.

Consider factors such as the location of printers, storage for technology, proximity to outlets, wifi routers, and space for projectors and screens.

Don’t forget good air quality and temperature

The effects of air quality and temperature on people’s well-being and efficiency are well documented. When you’re making changes to our office, also consider the environmental factors as well in creating the best possible office space. Monitoring air quality and temperature in real-time gives you a chance to identify possible problem areas and make improvements.

7. Prepare for the future

As any office facility manager can tell you, office space optimization is never finished. Work-life and people’s needs change continuously, and so do company working styles, teams, and projects. Office space optimization is continuous work, to keep up with the requirements at the time. Therefore, we recommend monitoring your space utilization and occupancy rates continuously, to be able to address any issues before they arrive.

Smart Building service tickets with Empathic Building application

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