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.

 

Smart Building Sensor Network Deployment Checklist

At OpenSensors, we have acquired much knowledge in planning, conducting, and managing real-world sensor network deployments.  Our checklist is based on our experience with field deployments. We have found the checklist to help manage the following risks:

  • Site specific risks: gateway/sensor placement for signal quality, ensuring connections with gateway has been established, ensuring gateways connect to cloud
  • Prepare risk – staging to verify design
  • Maintenance risk  – detecting sensors that have failed (e.g. stopped transmitting)
  • Connectivity of network, connectivity from gateway to cloud, deploying – setting up staging, maintenance – keeping the data flowing
  • Scoping process – identify and ensure impact on key KPIs


Site specific checklist

  • Gather CAD drawing or floor plan
  • Plan gateway placement
  • Identify any mounting and placement issues
  • Test building corners for signal quality
  • Confirm gateway locations and pre-installation requirements with onsite contacts 

Staging checklist

  • Order sensors and gateways
  • Develop schedule
  • Plan deployment rollout: floor by floor
  • Plan for safe storage
  • Plan and implement staging to pre-configuring gateways and sensors
  • Assemble Project Kit with all hardware (inc adhesives, screws, mounts, etc) 

Connectivity

  • Connect gateways and test connectivity using some sensors
  • Test remote access to the gateway
  • Mount gateways into position and document
  • Test end-to-end network connectivity with a few sensors

Implement

  • Deploy sensors according to the rollout plan
  • Test end-to-end

Handover

  • Prepare handover documentation with asset register
  • Review visualisations

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.

 

What does project managing sensor deployments involve?

We catch up with Kevin MugadzaProject Manager at OpenSensors

Kevin Mugadza is responsible for a thorough site preparation inspection, off-site staging of the network, deployment, and ongoing maintenance support. Kevin has a decade of experience managing logistics and risks to provide on-time delivery of a fully operational sensor network.

Based on years of experience managing inventory, supply chains and logistics, he sees the following as the top risks for deployment of sensors networks:

  • Site specific risks: gateway/sensor placement for signal quality, ensuring connections with gateway has been established, ensuring gateways connect to cloud
  • Prepare risk – staging to verify design
  • Maintenance risk  – detecting sensors that have failed (e.g. stopped transmitting)
  • Connectivity of network, connectivity from gateway to cloud, deploying – setting up staging, maintenance – keeping the data flowing
  • Scoping process – identify and ensure impact on key KPIs

 

How does a project begin?

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“My involvement begins when the project is signed off and the client has given us the CAD drawings, floor by floor so that an initial site survey can be done.

At the beginning of a project the main thing we look for is mitigating risks and anticipating potential problems so a project can run smoothly. We start with a detailed site survey. The survey let’s us know where best to position the sensors and gateways for maximum signal strength to be recorded.

The next stage is to make sure the client is ready to receive the information when it’s set up. Prepared with a sample kit, we double check it’s powering up and that all sensors are communicating with the gateway.”

What determines where you would put the kit?

“There are a lot of different variables influencing signal strength depending on where you put the kit and these need to be identified so that the data can be gathered securely and precisely. Successful communication between the gateway and the sensors is based on signal strength and ‘signal to noise ratio’ within its LoRa range. We start by centrally positioning a gateway, and then we place a sensor in each of the four furthest corners of the room. From there, you can tell where the maximum strength of signal lies and where it may register as dropping off.”

What affects a signal?

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“It depends on the makeup of the building. Materials, such as metal in the foundations of the buildings, can be one way of influencing the sensor. One of the reasons we use LoRa technology is because it reflects off other buildings so we don’t need a clear path for a good signal.”

OpenSensors does installation in stages, why is that?

“The phased approach is to mitigate against risk. We start off with a small pilot for an early win and to adequately prepare for larger subsequent deployments within the company. Rather than trying to tackle too many things at the same time, having a phased approach makes it easier not only to have a reliable understanding of what you can expect over a period of time, but also how best to manage it. We want to understand what variables there may be in the life cycle of a sensor and whether these differ between each site or over different floors. If a sensor goes down, it needs to be in touch with the structure already in place so that it can be quickly picked up and then dealt with.“

How long does a pilot run for?

“The pilot phase will run from 1 to 3 months. Deployment time is kept to a minimum because we have project kits with pre-configured sensors and gateways ready to go straight from the box. This saves a lot of time and money since we are able to operate onsite with only a small focused team.”

How long does it take to install a sensor?

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“This depends on the type but for desk sensors it only takes about 20 seconds per unit. They can easily be attached under a desk discreetly and are unobtrusive enough not to be noticed. They can just as easily be unattached and moved as and when needed.”

How do you support the existing structure within the company?

“We try to be as frictionless as possible throughout the whole process. That’s why our systems are designed to work independently of a client’s networks so we can do a lot of our support work remotely when we are troubleshooting. It’s important to establish a clearly defined route in order for this to happen. Tickets can be raised by clients and we have a dedicated team to deal quickly with any issues that might arise.

You need a reliable set of data regularly coming in, so keeping sensors online and talking to the gateway is essential.”

What sensors are clients interested in using?

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“The most popular sensors are occupancy monitoring sensors which look at the use of space whether that’s meeting rooms, desks, break-out spaces such as canteens, kitchens, etc. We also use environmental sensors which measure factors such as heat, light, noise, air quality, etc.  We help clients look at the trends within their spaces; how busy that space is, where it is and at what times of the day, days of the week or month is it being used most or least. We also look at what affects where people decide to locate themselves within that space, so if you’ve got a lot of hot desks and find that people are gravitating to particular areas to find a quiet space to work in if they need to concentrate, we will be able to see that.

Desk monitoring comes first and then environmental sensors are phased in after to give you a full overview into what may be affecting people’s comfort and productivity.”

What happens after the initial kit deployment?

“After all sensors and gateways are consistently providing the information needed, we make sure we take time to help the client understand how to use the dashboard and support tools that we have in place to keep their network live so they’re comfortable seeing data coming through and able to interpret it.”  

How do you tell whether a sensor is online or not?heartbeat-2418733__480

 

 

 

 

 

 

“All our sensors are setup to send ‘proof of life’ signals to the gateway at regular intervals wherever they are. This alerts us to any issues quickly and makes sure that everything is as it should be. We help clients manage their assets as comprehensively as they need to

We overlay our visualisations on top of a client’s CAD drawings.

Each sensor can be identified from its unique numbered tag so you can see immediately if a sensor isn’t behaving as it should be. Even if it is in a meeting room, it’s quite easy to narrow down pretty quickly where in the building it is. We get an alert which allows an exact location on the floor plan so that sensors can be managed as efficiently as possible.

Not only does it show us where the sensors are in the building but it also gives us a good overview of their general health. The other thing we can see in the dashboard is battery life.”

How long do sensor batteries last for?

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“There are two different types of sensors; one is plugged directly into the mains whilst the other is battery powered. We check the frequency of messages sent to make sure each sensor is registering at a consistent rate. Most clients require sensors programmed to send a regular ‘heartbeat’ every ten minutes. Based on that, batteries will normally last for 2 years. For greater granularity, it is possible to set the sensor to send data more frequently than every 10 minutes  however the battery life will then be reduced. For most people, a very comprehensive overview is still possible with a heart beat signal every ten minutes. “

How do you know when a battery needs to be replaced?

“All the sensors have an indicator on the dashboard leading up to low battery life. Every time a sensor sends a ‘heartbeat’, it also sends a battery report making it very easy to see when one needs to be changed well before it stops working. “

When does your involvement with the client end?

“For the life cycle of the project I am there to make sure that our clients find the value in the system installed and that they are happy with the data provided. We are there to help meet their expectations and offer continued support throughout.“

About OpenSensors

OpenSensors has a multi-disciplinary team to manage the risks for deployment of sensors networks. We have experience with thorough site preparation inspection, off site staging of the network, deployment, and ongoing maintenance support. Our process provides on-time delivery of a fully operational sensor network.