Jan 18, 2023
By Kate Camerlin

The Evolution of Space Planning: From Occupancy Data to Space Utilization Metrics

Historically, space planners have relied on metrics like occupancy and room reservation data to evaluate their corporate spaces. That’s because space managers used to be able to count on every employee getting assigned one desk, monitor, phone, and seat—and they could then use that information to get an idea of how full or empty a building was. A space planner could measure the capacity of a building by looking at who was assigned to what desk, how often rooms were booked, and even walking around the floors periodically to do visual inspections.

However, with the rise of remote and hybrid work, that’s no longer the reality for many organizations. Just because a worker is assigned a designated spot doesn’t mean they’ll use it every day. When employees have the flexibility to work where and how they need, they might be in the office certain days of the week and working from home on others.

If you’re still looking at occupancy data alone, you won’t be able to really see the nuances of how your spaces are used. Instead, you need a blend of metrics to get utilization data—which includes occupancy, reservation, real-time sensor data, and more—to give you the full picture of how your spaces are performing.

So, How and Why Should You Use Space Utilization Data?

Accurate utilization data helps space planners decide not only how much space they need, but also the kinds of spaces they need to support.

“Utilization data isn’t just about measuring your portfolio efficiency…. It’s also about understanding your employee work preferences and employee work habits.” – Carrie Aldridge, Director of Strategic Insights, CBRE

For example, if planning teams see that one certain type of space is consistently being used and another is consistently underutilized, they’ll know that they need to incorporate more of the popular areas into any office redesigns—and they’ll have the data they need in order to re-evaluate investments in those other spaces.

So, how do you capture this data? There are several key ways, including:

  • Room sensors
  • Badge swipe information for the builidng
  • Wi-Fi data usage
  • Visual inspections (either ad hoc or regular rounds to see how people are using spaces)
  • Survey data
  • Booking and room reservation data

All of this information can then contribute to the larger picture of who is using certain rooms, and when they’re being used.

Several benefits of utilization data highlighted in CBRE’s latest occupancy report include:

  • The ability to improve the workplace experience for employees (for instance, designing spaces around how employees are actually using them)
  • Supporting sustainability goals by letting you see how much use certain buildings or floors get, so you can spot trends and save energy costs
  • The ability to save costs associated with your real estate portfolio

How Having an IWMS Can Help

As you refresh your space, you need plenty of real time (not stale) data to make decisions. An integrated workplace management system (IWMS) that captures space utilization data from many different sources can help with this. Your software solution should be able to integrate with badge swipe system data, room reservation data, sensor data, and more. When all this information lives in one place, it is much easier to visualize performance.

With a connected IWMS, you can:

  • Maintain and improve data accuracy
  • More easily follow any data governance guidelines
  • Integrate many types of data across devices, departments, and facilities
  • Visualize and evaluate building and space performance

An IWMS helps you automate data collection, so you don’t have to manually gather this information from separate systems and spreadsheets.

“That is the future. Taking the manual labor out. Leaning on technology to do a lot of that tactical data gathering, data management, so that we can focus on what really matters. We can focus on occupancy strategy…getting away from the tactical, getting away from the manual…”–Carrie Aldridge, Director of Strategic Insights at CBRE

When you can see how your spaces are used, you can make sure you’re supporting employees in the ways they work—improving engagement and productivity.

This has the additional benefit of also helping reduce real estate costs; if you see that one type of space is under-performing, you can rethink your investment in that lease or property.

Ultimately, utilization data helps you better see how your employees are using their spaces, so you can make more informed decisions about the way you design and shape employee work experiences.

For more information, check out the full 2022–2023 CBRE Global Workplace & Occupancy Insights report.

Plus, watch Carrie Aldridge, one of the authors of the CBRE report, chat with Nuvolo’s Bob Mostachetti about workplace trends in our latest Connected Conversation podcast episode.