5 easy changes to increase desk occupancy

Most facilities and workplace managers conduct regular workplace utilisation surveys of desk usage either using manual counting or desk sensors. Reports generated from these show granular information about the average as well as peak utilisation of desk utilisation.

There are some easy wins to increase desk utilisation in your office.

1. Turn all desks used 0-20% of the time into hotdesking

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Figure 1: occupancy distribution chart

Looking at your desk occupancy distribution chart (figure 1), we quickly identify the specific numbers of desks that are used 0-20% of the time over a given period. These desks can easily be repurposed as flexible working desks, without risking overutilisation.

Additionally, we identify that 10 desks are used 20-40% of the time. Allocating at least 5 of those desks to flexible desking will still give you enough desks.

2. Increase teams’ person to desk ratio

By tagging specific teams on your floor plans, you are able to view their utilisation rates and benchmark their performance.

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Figure 2: average and peak desk occupancy

 

In figure 2 it’s clear that this team has over 50 desks which are severely underutilised. The metric ‘peak occupied’ highlights that no more than 56 desks were utilised at the same time in the specified period.

3. Have better conversations with business unit leaders

With more accurate data in hand you can have better conversations with business unit leaders on how many desks they actually need. The conversations will shift from ‘how many desks do you need’ to ‘how can you use your space more productively’.

4. Use soft seating as overflow buffer

Occupancy heatmap
Figure 3: floor occupancy heatmap

When looking at floor level heatmap data (figure 3), it’s easy to see which desks that are located near highly utilised areas.  If for instance the green areas are soft seating, and the red areas hotdesks, you can safely optimise for very high desk occupancy rates (>80%). If all desks are full, employees can flow over to the soft seating. Caveat: this assumes good design where employees are as happy to work in alternative seatings as with desks.

 

 

 

 

 

5. Identify peak days and encourage work from home

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Figure 4: calendar view

Using the calendar function (figure 4), you can identify patterns at specific points in time. For instance, you can recommend employees to work from home on particularly busy days.

 

 

 

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Figure 5: trendlines for all Mondays

Figure 5 shows the pattern of utilisation for all Mondays over a 2 month period. We clearly see that the space is severely underutilised every Monday.

 

Case Study: Technology Company Managing Desks

A Regional Manager for Office Experience at a fast growing technology company found himself getting increasingly frustrated by the unending demands for more space but equally by seeing the space half empty most of the time. Mark had the insight to use sensor technology to minimize the currently very expensive real estate costs and looked for data to help manage and plan prime floor space for their rapidly growing company.

He wanted hard data which would help him solve the problem of “how much space do I need?” in a less political and more objective approach. His situation was made more complex by having accrued a number of companies over the years, all with their own separate real estate contracts. Both legacy leasing and new real estate plans were based on more guesswork than real data. It was particularly important to take guesswork out of occupancy as these contracts were going to impact them for the next 10 to 15 years.

OpenSensors worked with Mark’s team and Stuart Imhof from Resource At Work to specify and install two types of sensors: desk sensors and meeting room sensors. The desk sensors are passive infrared sensors (PIR) that are triggered by both motion and heat,  providing  real-time 1:1 space utilisation. Initially we did a pilot with 5 devices but currently they have over 200 desk sensors over 6 floors. Our dashboards display usage per desk and an aggregate of the usage over the floor.

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Example: key metrics for desk and meeting room occupancy

The meeting room sensors count the number of people using individual meeting rooms. OpenSensors dashboards display usage per meeting room and also per floor of usage. Now when Mark’s team gets complaints that there aren’t enough meeting rooms, they can dig into the problem and find a workable solution. After installing the meeting room sensors, the team learned that whilst the meeting rooms were used a lot, it was by individuals. As a direct result of this insight, they’re doing a refit and they’re adding some kind of individual space where people can make phone calls. Another thing that the team learned was that many people would book the meeting rooms but not use them leaving them unoccupied.

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Example: Desk occupancy distribution chart and under- and over utilised facilities

Negotiating with the business units

With desk sensors, Mark quickly identified that initial desk utilisation was 36%. With these numbers in hand, the team was able to negotiate with the business units and drive up the utilisation. Mark noted that the data from the sensors helped align the business unit leaders’ goals and costs resulting in better space utilisation without additional cost.

Refit plans

The sensors not only enabled better management of space planning, but provided Mark and the facilities team knowledge to develop a needs-based refit plan. Based on meeting room usage, the team was able to add more individual space and free up meeting rooms for large groups.

Sensor deployment process

Initially deployment planning starts with CAD drawings, location data and floor information from the client. From there, we start making decisions about gateway placements and also tying the sensor IDs to the drawings.

Next, OpenSensors along with our installation and maintenance partner, Stuart Imhof from Resource At Work, visited the client’s site for a site assessment where we put up the gateways, and tested for signal quality on a floor-by-floor basis. During the site assessment, we walk the perimeter of the buildings, ensuring that we have strong signal strength.

Prior to deployment, we do as much prep ahead of time as is possible, so that when we arrive on site, the sensors are turned on, installed and we can quickly identify if the sensor has successfully joined the network. Our aim is to have very little configuration on site in order to ensure the least disruption to employees.  For more information on our deployment processes, check out our recent blogpost where our Project Manager, Kevin Mugadza, shares his experiences.

Impact

Overall, OpenSensors and Resources at Work have been successful partners for Mark and his team, enabling them to improve and fully understand space planning management. The OpenSensors space occupancy dashboards allow the team to streamline their work and ensure support for all business units.