Workplace Utilization and Occupancy Sensors – How to Get Started

Workplace occupancy and utilization info shown with occupied and free desks

When you want to measure workplace utilization and optimize your working spaces, workplace occupancy sensors are where it all starts. There are a variety of smart office occupancy sensors out there that monitor utilization and occupancy, so knowing what features to look for is important when you’re getting started. 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. Here’s how to get started with workplace utilization and occupancy sensors.

The modern workspace needs to offer the best possible working conditions for many different ways of working. At the same time, facility managers and company leaders are searching for ways to optimize office space usage. To optimize your spaces without making any sacrifices to employee experience, you need to understand how and when your current spaces are used. In addition, hybrid working and hot-desking present new challenges on how to organize your office space and ensure a good flow of work in the office, having an accurate and reliable workplace utilization and occupancy system in place is a vital part of optimizing your office space as well as organizing hybrid work.

Things to consider when choosing your workplace occupancy sensors

A typical occupancy sensor is a desk or room sensor that can be placed in, e.g., office desks, meeting rooms, phone booths or any other space at your workplace where you wish to measure utilization and follow occupancy levels. Workplace utilization and occupancy sensors are usually based on a Passive InfraRed sensor (PIR) that detects motion by receiving infrared radiation. PIR sensor device technology is not based on a camera, which means that they detect movement completely anonymously. 

The Haltian PRESENCE sensor device, shown in the picture below, is a good example of a wireless workplace utilization and occupancy sensor. It´s about the size of a matchbox and can be easily installed where it’s needed.

Thingsee PRESENCE workplace occupancy sensor installed under a desk
Thingsee PRESENCE workplace utilization and occupancy sensor installed

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Here are a few things to consider when looking for the correct workplace occupancy sensor for your office:

Ease of installation

One of the most important things to consider when getting started with workplace occupancy sensors is the ease of installation and how fast you can get your solution running. Even in a smaller office, you’re often looking at installing at least a hundred sensors devices to cover all the desks, rooms and phone booths. In light of this, it should not take much longer than a minute to install one occupancy sensor and have it send data immediately. 

Maintenance needs

Another important thing to find out is the maintenance needs of the occupancy sensors. Once you’ve installed hundreds of sensor devices, it’s safe to say you don’t want to be going through all of them manually any time soon.

The biggest thing to take into account is whether you want wireless or mains-powered occupancy sensors. Having mains-powered sensors would surely mean that you wouldn’t have to change the sensor batteries, but wired devices are often a hassle and create restrictions on where and how they can be installed. For workplace occupancy monitoring, wireless devices are more practical and here, looking at the battery life of the sensor is key. The batteries of your workplace occupancy sensors ought to last for several years. In addition, changing the batteries, if needed, ought to be quick and simple.

Haltian workplace occupancy sensors installed on a ceiling for utilization monitoring
Thingsee workplace occupancy sensor installed above a doorway for utilization monitoring


When it comes to any IoT solution, scalability is a big factor in how easy and future-proof your solutions are. Scalability is closely related to the ease of installation but takes into consideration factors beyond the quick and simple installation process.

Depending on your company’s needs, you might be looking into onboarding several office floors, and locations and even scaling your solution globally. When the number of connected devices grows, your IoT partner needs to be prepared to scale your workplace occupancy solution from hundreds to thousands of sensor devices with ease.


Workplace occupancy monitoring and sensors will always raise questions about security and GDPR compliance in your company. As mentioned before, most workplace occupancy sensors provide anonymous occupancy and visitor data, meaning they simply show e.g., if a desk is used or not, not who is using it. In a similar way, visitor counters that are not based on camera technology simply count the number of people passing by without identifying any persons passing by.

You have your occupancy sensors in place – what´s next?

Workplace occupancy analytics and optimization are, of course, extremely important. When you know how and when your spaces are used, you can make significant savings on office expenses.  In addition to cutting costs, better planned and optimized office space can increase employee satisfaction and reduce absenteeism. 

By monitoring occupancy and utilization of the office spaces you can:

  • Manage hot-desking and hybrid work better
  • Make data-driven decisions over what kind of spaces you need more, and what are possibly underused
  • Make data-driven decisions over if you need more office space or if you can move to a smaller office saving large amounts of money yearly 
  • Create spaces that your employees truly want and use, making a better workplace for everyone

Once you’ve gotten your occupancy monitoring devices installed and ready, you need something to view and analyze your workplace occupancy data. Commonly the IoT data is gathered to a dashboard or a digital twin of the office, from which the data can be both seen in real-time and analyzed for reporting. Digital twin office solutions bring the occupancy information beyond facility management needs and offer value to the end-user as well: with real-time occupancy information employees can find available meeting rooms and desks in an efficient way. 

Haltian Empathic Building digital twin solution visualizes occupancy data in real-time, as well as provides extensive reports all in one place. 

Empathic Building digital showing desk occupancy reporting for workpalce optimization

In addition to visualizing the desks, rooms and phone booths of your office, the digital twin allows you to create different working zones that can be seen in the application. Some use the zones to set up quiet or group work areas, whereas some use the zones to make finding different teams easier in the office.

Having your workplace occupancy sensors on a map of your office makes sense in IoT management and inventory point of view as well: from the map, you can find all the sensors and check their status, and battery levels and change their position virtually if the physical spot is changed.

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What comes after occupancy sensors and data visualization? It’s time for workplace optimization

Getting the occupancy data and analytics is just the first step, now we can get into the actual workplace optimization. By using occupancy and utilization data to optimize your office spaces, you remove a lot of guesswork and can get results a lot faster.

One of the most efficient ways of workspace optimization is to combine feedback and insights from the end-users with the data you have gathered. Gathering feedback from the people using the office space gives you a great view of the initial wants and needs of the employees, but also provides a good starting point for workplace optimization. Having employees involved in the optimization project from the start will also engage them and you’re more likely to succeed in your project!

Start by finding out what kind of spaces your office might need more, and if there are any spaces that are underused. By transforming underused spaces in a way that fits your needs better, you’re already a long way into better-optimized space usage.

room utilization reporting in a digitial twin for better workplace optimization
Empathic Building room utilization report

If your company is planning on moving into hybrid work and/or hot-desking, meaning that not everyone has a permanent desk at the office, desk and room booking from your digital twin make the new ways of working much easier: using the digital twin your employees can find desks and rooms that fit their needs, check their availability, and book them all in the same view. Alternatively, workplace occupancy sensors also allow so-called ad-hoc booking, where people can ‘book’ a free desk or room just by taking them into use and the solution marks them as ‘occupied’ automatically.

Steps to workplace optimization in short:

  • Install occupancy sensors and create digital maps
  • Measure workspace utilization
  • Gather user feedback and insights
  • Combine user insights with the utilization data
  • Set up meeting room and desk booking in your digital twin
  • Optimize hybrid work
  • Collaborate


Installing workplace utilization and occupancy sensors at your workplace is not that complex a thing, but it can make a huge difference in both optimizing your office space usage and creating the best possible working environments. When choosing your occupancy sensors you should consider the easiness of the installation process, the scalability of the solution, and security. After the sensors are in place, visualization of the data and taking action based on the data are the next important steps.

Are you interested in examples of best-practices in Workspace Optimization?