empty desks in a very bright office

What Is an Occupancy Analytics Platform?

August 19, 2022 Digital Workplace
Kaya Ismail
By Kaya Ismail

Office space is one of the highest fixed costs for any business. The estimated expense for an office can run anywhere between $100 and $1000 per employee, according to NerdWallet. At a time when organizations are reassessing the purpose of a central office and juggling hybrid work schedules, knowing who is in the office and how they're using it can help inform better decision making. Some organizations are turning to occupancy analytics platforms to help. 

Occupancy Analytics Platforms Assess Building Requirements

An occupancy analytics platform uses IoT sensors to measure and track the location of people within a facility. Using that data, it helps determine your business's actual need and how effectively your leased or bought space is used. The platforms provide more granular insights into office use than more traditional badging or booking approaches. Occupancy analytics platforms don't just look at when people enter or leave an office, but can determine what desks are in use, how often meeting rooms are booked and where population density occurs throughout the office. 

It can tell managers how often specific spaces are used and whether costs are effective. For example, if only 40% of desks are in use on any given day, then you can decide whether to reduce the footprint of your space, rethink how else to use that fallow 60% of the office or reassess your return to office policy. Watching the data over an extended period will be key however, as needs fluctuate throughout the month, which may require more deliberate coordination and planning across the company.

So how else can occupancy analytics be used to improve business operations?

1. Improve Operational Costs

The first factor they can improve is operational costs. "By analyzing this information, managers are able to make changes to improve the overall efficiency of the building," said Akshat Kulshrestha.

Suppose business leaders realize that part of their space is underutilized. In that case, they could potentially negotiate with their landlord to reduce rented office space or rent it out to a smaller business that could add a revenue stream. They could also survey their employees, to find out what they want from the office and how they could rethink their office space to provide for those needs.

Improving operational costs can be a significant driver for businesses currently struggling with rising operating costs with energy, materials and more.

Reductions can come from other areas as well, such as utility costs. The average expenditure is between $2 and $3 for every square foot of space you lease. If you can reduce the office size required, or incorporate smart building technology to do things like automated lights to turn off when a room is unoccupied, you can save costs too.

Related Article: The Case for Minimum Viable Office

2. Improve Staff Collaboration

Part of what an occupancy analytics platform can determine is when specific staff members are at work. Therefore, managers and even staff can plan their time in the office around the availability of their colleagues. For example, if the marketing team knows that the sales team are in the office on Tuesday and Thursday, then the head of marketing might consider scheduling time in office one Tuesday a month for a joint meeting.

Alternatively, managers can recognize when congestion in the building is high, to better schedule team time for off-peak days. As companies continue to assess their hybrid work models, occupancy analytics can inform where and why office successes are happening and adjust their plans accordingly.

Simon Bacher, co-founder of Chiang Mai, Thailand-based Ling App, agreed, "Software can use occupancy trends to automatically recommend times for each employee to arrive at the office. It also suggests spaces to reserve based on where co-workers are at the moment." 

One prevailing theory for the office space is that it should focus entirely on group time, but managers should use analytics to determine the need for individual focus time. As Ryan Anderson, VP of global research and insights at Miller Knoll said, "The data before 2020, and particularly in 2020, indicates that a lot of people really struggle due to distractions to be able to focus from home." Providing that balance will be key for hybrid workplaces, and occupancy analytics can help inform that balance.

3. Improved Safety

Part of the occupancy analytics is knowing who is in an office at any given time. Therefore, the occupancy analytics data can be used for a roll call when there are emergencies, like a fire in the building. This simple act can ensure that staff are not left out and put at risk.

Without the analytics, this can be tough, especially when employers have remote working policies and don't know whether certain people are in that day or not.

Related Article: What's Driving the Move to the 'Eco' Workplace?

4. A Better Understanding of Worker Habits

Managers can better understand working habits with more granular insights into an office's occupancy. For example, if teams congregate in common areas on days in office and eschew more traditional desk layouts, managers can use this information to advocate for more flexible workplace designs. 

Other trends might emerge with access to analytics. For example, occupancy might not be based on the day of the week but on the time of the month, potentially according to department. For example, accounting teams might have a heavier in office presence when they do the end-of-month accounts or marketing teams' occupancy rises during campaign planning.

Knowing this information, managers can work on appropriate strategies to ensure departments have the resources they need when they need them.

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