What Is Occupancy Planning?
Occupancy planning is all about the supply and demand of space in your workplace. It’s about determining whether your space is being used cost-effectively and whether that space is right for your company and the culture you’re trying to develop. Good occupancy planning means there aren’t too many employees jammed into one office or too few people in a space that’s too large. Doing all this will not only keep your employees and team members happy, but it will help you save money and resources while also taking more control over the feel of your office or workspace.
In short, effective occupancy planning is an in-depth understanding of your workspace, and the actions you’ve taken to maximize that space and make it work for your organization. Your occupancy planning might be the quick survey of the room you take every morning, or it could be based on a high-tech occupancy planning software system. As long as you’re monitoring your workspace and actively trying to improve it, you’re engaged in occupancy planning. With that in mind, there’s always room for improvement!
Whatever your occupancy planning method is, make sure you’re taking advantage of the data you gather; another key element of this planning method is knowing how to interpret your data so you can accurately predict growth and effectively plan ahead to best utilize your space over time. Good occupancy planning can do much more than just make a workspace more livable—you and your team can expect to see all kinds of benefits across the board.
How Does Occupancy Planning Work?
We know that occupancy planning is the fine art of making sure your team members and employees are spending their time in a workplace that is sustainable, efficient, and functional. Occupancy planning also means using the data you collect to plan for future growth and changes. So what are the best ways to make your occupancy planning work? We’re identified a few key mindsets that can make sure your occupancy planning works.
- Helps You Stay Flexible: One of the many things we’ve learned over the past year or so is how quickly workplace trends can change. Companies with occupancy planning methods that could adapt to remote work and mixed in-office and at-home teams found new ways to excel in the tumultuous years of 2020 and 2021. As the workplace continues to adapt to trends and health conditions today, flexibility can be the key to maintaining your occupancy planning.
- Track the Right Data: Make sure you know what all your numbers mean when you’re collecting and interpreting your occupancy planning data. It can be important to collect information on how many people are in the average meeting room as well as the number of empty chairs in a room, but do you know what each of these numbers reflects and how to incorporate them into your plans? If data interpretation isn’t your thing, consider hiring a professional to manage it. Getting accurate, usable results will be worth it.
- Turn Your Knowledge Into Action: Good occupancy planning doesn’t stop at data collection. Once you’re got your data, it’s time to act on it. We recommend setting a specific occupancy-planning-based goal (ideally with some kind of deadline in place), collecting relevant data, and then making your goal a reality with data on your side. Occupancy planning is only as good as its results, and you can’t get results without action. Your workspace and the people you work with be the ones who benefit.
Why Use Occupancy Planning?
If you’re not familiar with occupancy planning, it might sound like another complication to your business plan that you don’t really need. However, there are plenty of benefits to occupancy planning that can make a difference to you and your business no matter who you are or what your area of expertise is. Listed below are just a few of the reasons people are so passionate about occupancy planning.
- Happier Employees: It’s no surprise that a more comfortable workplace equates to happier employees, a better work culture, and increased company loyalty. Occupancy planning will allow you to get an in-depth understanding of how your employees are using their workspace, and from there you’ll be able to improve on those areas that are already popular with your team and start to understand why other areas might be underutilized or just less popular. Improving your workplace in a practical, data-driven way can go a long way towards improving company morale.
- Maximized Efficiency: When you use your resources responsibly, you can save money and feel better about your environmental impact. Improving the way you use your space is a great way to do this. You’d be surprised by the amount of money and resources that go towards powering empty or underused spaces—when you start occupancy planning, you’ll be able to identify which spaces are receiving more resources than they need. After redirecting those resources, you’ll see the difference in the company bank account immediately. You’ll also be able to redirect those resources to other areas in your work that might need them more.
- Eliminate Wasted Space: No one purposefully wastes space, especially in a professional setting, but it happens in workplaces all the time. This could be anything as minor as a few unused desks, or a whole room that is overpowered and underused. You’ll be able to plan your space in order to redirect office traffic and get the best use out of those spaces, whether that means spreading your team out a little more or getting rid of unneeded space altogether. As we’ve stated earlier, reducing the unnecessary use of resources can save money and reduce your carbon footprint, but eliminating wasted space will also improve your professionalism and help streamline the way your team works.
Occupancy Planning Enhanced by Technology
Modern business technology is all about improving efficiency, and occupancy planning is no exception. As we know, data-informed occupancy planning is vital to creating a well-structured office space. But what are the best ways to gather and optimize that information? Technology for the modern office space offers some solutions.
- Replace Old Methods: Previous occupancy planning techniques included practices such as physically walking the space and manually tracking usage with spreadsheets. Thanks to the restructured, open-aid flow of the modern office, however, these methods are long outdated: You may have some employees who work remotely, full- or part-time. Teams are often smaller or may require certain spaces at certain times for ideal efficiency. Client meetings often call for their own, more private spaces, and the new generation of office talent places a high priority on spaces that make employees feel valued. There are a lot of factors to juggle, and clear data regarding these factors is key. The modern occupancy planner needs modern tools and technology, and there are plenty of diverse solutions you can turn to.
- New Options: Modern tracking tools like beacons and passive-infrared sensors can detect specific areas of low traffic, allowing you to better utilize this space for additional desks or meeting rooms. Room or hot desk booking systems can be used to target seating areas that are considered less desirable and meeting rooms that are underutilized, opening these spaces up to other possibilities or alterations. Devices made to monitor electricity usage can help detect uneven consumption patterns to optimize staff spacing and cut costs. AI systems are able to condense and streamline this data, and will even give you suggestions on how to reap the most benefits from it.
- Increased Productivity: There is an obvious slew of benefits to using the aforementioned tech tools. When an employer is able to see these trends, they can in turn make informed, proactive choices regarding occupancy planning. Having this information on hand makes it easier for you to address specific sources of inefficiency without the need for costly and time-consuming overhauls of the entire office space. Seeing issues in real-time and being able to attend to them on the fly leads to improved productivity as well as overall employee satisfaction.
It’s obvious that technology and occupancy planning go hand-in-hand in the modern office. If you’re looking to truly make the most of your space and provide an optimal experience for your workforce, it’s imperative to keep up with the tools available for this purpose.
Read on in the next segment for a more in-depth look at the options available.
Space & Occupancy Planning Tools
Data-informed occupancy planning practices are vital to making the most of your space. There are plenty of tools available to employers for this purpose, and it can be no small feat to select the those that work best for your business.
One of the oldest methods of monitoring occupancy is via manual tracking, wherein an employee with a clicker or a tally sheet keeps track of how many people come in and out. This method may work for sporting events and retail venues, but modern tech has made way for far more advanced and reliable methods.
One excellent way to keep track of what spaces are being used, and what spaces could be better utilized, is via a booking system. Open floor plan offices that use hot desk seating or those with reservable meeting rooms can benefit from an electronic booking system.
These systems allow employees to reserve or check-in for the spaces they need to use, and more advanced systems can even display what desks or rooms are available at a given point in time. This benefits employees by reducing friction over seating or meeting space disputes, as well as allowing employees to select seating ahead of time.
For employers, it can make occupancy planning a breeze: When you can physically see which desks and meeting rooms were used and by whom, it can highlight trends and allow for informed decision-making. Is a large meeting room is regularly used by small groups? Perhaps it could be broken into two smaller spaces. Are certain desks going unused due to lighting or A/C vent placement? The space can be repurposed for something more functionally useful to the office.
Other great options, especially for larger or heavily trafficked spaces, are monitoring systems that can physically track the flow of people through space either via sensors or cameras.
- Camera sensors work exactly how they sound, by recording video to gather information on how many people are in space and where. Some also include facial recognition software to help you pinpoint who exactly is coming and going. These are great for businesses looking to gather information on customers, but not as ideal if your company places a heavy emphasis on privacy or anonymity.
- Radar sensors are another option, and they work very well in large spaces due to their position and coverage area. They can be placed on the ceiling and are very popular in office buildings due to their efficacy and lack of intrusiveness. They can monitor day-to-day motion very effectively, but lose accuracy when a lot of movement is taking place. Another similar option is a thermal sensor, though these can also become confused when observing high-density areas.
- Bluetooth and WiFi sensors are becoming increasingly popular and can be very useful given that most people in today’s office keep some form of WiFi-enabled device on their person. These monitors can track devices via their WiFi or Bluetooth signals, collect this data anonymously, and provide you with a decent picture of how people are distributed in a space-based on network usage.
- Smart lighting, or lights that use timers and motion sensors, can also collect data for occupancy planning. Many of these systems can monitor usage and times, and that data can be later used to better distribute resources.
It’s important to consider the practical needs of your system, as well as what will work best in your space. If you have a large area to monitor with normal, day-to-day office traffic, a radar sensor may be your best bet. Placement of monitors within the physical office is also important to think about: Do you want something that can observe a large area and be mounted from the ceiling, or would motion sensors placed under desks better provide for the type of picture you want to get?
- Another factor is the actual use of the system. If you plan to use your equipment for on-the-fly booking and wayfinding, it’s vital that your occupancy monitoring systems provide real-time updates. If it’s just for analytics, periodic updates are fine. You should also consider the precision of a system, and how important it is to you: Do you need to know exactly how many people are present in a space, or is a general idea of volume and distribution enough to meet your needs?
- Cost and ease of installation are also important. Wired systems take more time and money to install, and can’t be moved. Wireless systems are typically cheaper and more easily moved after installation, but do require more maintenance to keep on top of batteries.
Your needs, as well as the options available, must be weighed when choosing your occupancy planning tools. Staying informed about the tools at hand and keeping abreast of new developments will help you make the best decisions for your business.
5 Ways Businesses Benefit from Occupancy Planning
All methods of occupancy planning require some level of time and effort to implement, but are they worth the investment? Good space management is key to setting your business on the road to success. From cost-effectiveness to stress reduction, the benefits are more than plentiful.
- Savings: Energy use and real estate are two of the major costs facing businesses today. By using effective occupancy planning, both of these expenses can be better managed for optimal savings. When a company utilizes occupancy planning data, it can avoid the need to invest in a larger rental space or building, even as the company expands. Organization of seating areas to accommodate more people in low-traffic areas, re-allocation of underutilized spaces, and changes to walking corridors to improve foot-traffic patterns can all help you maintain, or in some cases reduce, the size of your rental space even as employee numbers increase. You can also use occupancy data to regulate energy consumption. Smart lighting and HVAC systems can be installed and programmed depending on times when people will, or won’t, be using certain parts of the building. It’s also sensible to condense seating arrangements to reduce the need for unnecessary power usage in unoccupied spaces.
- Employee Satisfaction: Office friction, as well as boring workspaces, can damage your company culture and drag down your employees. Many younger employees in today’s workforce consider their office environment to be a major factor in deciding where to work, and occupancy planning can play a pivotal role in improving this.
When you know what spaces are being avoided or underutilized, it presents opportunities to provide better amenities and seating arrangements. If certain desks are avoided or chosen last due to undesirable conditions such as heavy traffic or poorly-placed AC vents, employers can make adjustments accordingly. Amenities such as a coffee nook or quiet workspace can be provided to improve employee morale without sacrificing otherwise high-value space. Similarly, if cramped seating arrangements are causing friction between your team, having good data on hand regarding foot traffic and other factors can make adding or moving desks significantly easier.
- Productivity: When you utilize your space well, your company will see an increase in productivity and efficiency. It’s no secret that happier employees are more likely to both spend more time at the office, and accomplish more while there. Good occupancy planning can make your office a more desirable place to work and boost employee output. Moreover, occupancy planning data will allow employers to observe floorplan bottlenecks or poorly arranged walkways. Perhaps the copy machine is too close to other desks, leading to wasted time as employees squeeze around obstacles. Time can also be lost when employees wait in line to gain access to a too-tight coffee nook or another resource. By being able to observe these patterns and make informed resolutions, wasted time is reduced thus increasing office productivity.
- Safety: While nobody hopes to face a serious emergency situation, the fact of the matter is that they can happen to any business, at any time. Occupancy planning that takes office safety into consideration can make the difference between life and death in a disaster or medical emergency. By reducing bottlenecks and improving mobility-friendliness in the office, you can be sure that evacuation routes are clear in the event of a fire or other major catastrophe. Moreover, occupancy monitoring technology like cameras and motion sensors can detect how many people are still in the building in the event of a disaster, and where. In addition to emergency management, occupancy planning can help better prepare your workspace for changing pandemic conditions. The ability to socially distance workers, monitor occupancy and even contact trace which employees have been in close proximity to one another are all benefits of utilizing occupancy planning technology.
- Improved Planning: Relocating your business operations can be stressful and time-consuming, especially when you add in the difficulty of forecasting your future business needs. How much will your company grow within the next year, or the next five? How many people will work from home, and how often will they need to come in? Will they all need their own desks, and what sort of meeting spaces need to be available? Is all of the space at hand really being used? With reliable, technology-based data, much of this guesswork can be eliminated. Being able to see when, how, and how often spaces are used will allow you to make more accurate predictions of your business needs for years to come. Occupancy planning technology can answer these questions and help you to understand what spaces you truly need. With such data in hand, you can focus on the bigger picture details of planning for your company’s future growth.
Occupancy Planning Case Studies
Occupancy planning is, simply put, the use of data to make informed decisions about space allocation in a company building. Good occupancy planning makes it possible for businesses to manage their space, improve employee productivity, and cut costs. Office space is a precious commodity, and being able to use it effectively can be of great value to companies today. You may wonder, though, how much can occupancy planning really benefit a company, and what does it look like in real-life scenarios? We can see these results by viewing some case studies.
A global insurance firm working in over 120 countries across the globe was looking to renovate its offices to a more appealing model. They were utilizing a traditional office setup with assigned seating but noticed that many spaces were often vacant. This was not what the company wanted moving forward.
By pairing up with an occupancy planning firm, they were able to identify some goals for their new space. They needed unbiased data on what spaces were used, they needed insights from that data to take to company leaders, and they needed to create a workspace that aligned with the needs of employees.
They designed that desk-level sensors would be the best solution, and deployed over 1,600 of these sensors at five different locations. The results were staggering: Over 52% of the space was unoccupied during the workday, and desks were utilized only 75% of the time. This was clearly a massive waste of real estate resources. The company was able to reallocate the wasted space and plan for 22% structured vacancy, leaving room for future growth.
In another case, a fortune 500 manufacturer of power generators had just moved into a new office and needed data on the new workplace design. The new floorplan included significant changes from the previous office setup, and they were eager to see how the new layout stacked up against the previous one. By installing sensors to detect occupancy, the company was able to interpret their data and make a decision not to rent from a third-party workspace provider.
Being able to see the benefits of occupancy data in action highlights the importance of its use. These companies have reaped profitable benefits from its use, indicating that the benefits are more than simply hypothetical.
Tips on Choosing the Best Occupancy Planning For Workspace
When your company utilizes the best occupancy planning method for your needs, you’ll reap benefits from employee satisfaction to energy savings. Occupancy planning can optimize the way you structure and use your space, improve safety, and even reduce the need for new building costs. The advantages are numerous, but with so many options on the market, it can be challenging to figure out which occupancy planning strategy best fits your company’s needs. From sensors to AI mapping methods, what is the best fit for you and your organization?
In order to choose the occupancy planning that your company will benefit from most, you will have to have a good understanding of your company’s needs. Speak with employees and company leaders, walk the space, and then meet with your team to formulate answers for the following questions:
- How many employees do we need to accommodate?
- How will our workforce change and grow in the next five years?
- What can we do to increase employee satisfaction and productivity?
- What kind of data do we really need?
- How can we make these tools work and fit in our space?
- What is our budget for gaining this data and implementing the changes we need?
Consider whether you want to manage occupancy planning in-house, or whether employing an outside agency to assist in the process would be a better fit for your team. If you are interviewing outside companies for the job, be sure that they are able to provide services that specifically align with your goals.
If you are handling the process in-house, be sure to consider the following:
- What team/employees will handle the installation and maintenance of your equipment?
- How will this affect other responsibilities?
- What vendors will you use to purchase the equipment and software needed, and is it actually more cost-effective than outsourcing?
Takeaway – 360 Work Made Easy
There is a multitude of benefits to embracing occupancy planning. Happier employees will provide for better productivity and improved workforce retention, helping you build the company culture your unique business deserves. Increased efficiency, optimized energy use, and real estate savings will ensure that your organization increases its profit margins. When you take the time to be sure your resources are used in the most efficient manner possible, the perks are endless.
Your business deserves to get the most out of its occupancy planning, and hiring a professional team with years of experience in the field will make sure you get the best. When selecting a company to work with, it is vital to make sure that they are both experienced, and able to fully realize the needs of your business. With 360 Work Made Easy, imagining and implementing an occupancy planning strategy that works for you and your business is a breeze.
360 Work Made Easy is an all-inclusive space management provider with a wide range of options and the right experience to fit your needs. We offer cutting-edge occupancy monitoring to fit your space and needs, as well as mobile room scheduling, smart meeting rooms, and more. Our intuitive wayfinding programs make both the guest and employee experience stress-free and efficient, while smart meeting rooms monitor occupancy and regulate usage automatically.
Your company is important, unique, and should have occupancy planning just as versatile as your needs. Schedule an assessment today to learn more about how space management can work for your business!