4 space utilisation metrics to track and improve with occupancy sensors

In this post, we’ll look at four key workplace metrics you can track using occupancy sensors to help you better understand your meeting room and desk utilisation.

Data is the new oil, so they say. A few years ago we were introduced to the concept of ‘big data’. The hype around that has since been replaced by the hype around ‘AI’ and ‘machine learning’. Whatever you call it, the premise remains, broadly speaking, the same.

Data allows us to make better decisions.

Every aspect of business – from the workplace, to the technology we use, to the way we manage staff, to the sales & marketing process – is being optimised through the use of data. By analysing historical data we’re able to see what worked and what didn’t. And do more of the former and less of the latter.

Organisations’ physical office space is often its second largest investment after staff. If you want to maximise the value of that investment, you need hard data on how it’s being used.

After all, as they say, if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.

Are occupancy sensors hard to install and use?

Previously, gathering workplace data was a mostly qualitative process, involving surveying staff and gathering first-hand insights. When occupancy sensors were used, they were a temporary, specialist solution bought in by outside consultants and removed at the end of the project.

Ricoh have made occupancy sensors easier to install and our DIY sensor packages make it easier to install and use sensors without training. The units are small, unobtrusive and can be fixed to most surfaces using peel-and-apply sticky pads. The data is then pulled into live dashboards for easy interpretation.

What used to be a costly, specialist service is now accessible to almost all organisations.

Can’t I use meeting room calendars to check occupancy?

I’ve heard this a few times. It’s a fair question, but I always give the same answer:

Calendars don’t measure occupancy. They measure intent.

In fact, according to iOffice, 40% of scheduled meetings don’t end up happening in the room they’ve been booked to take place in.

Which means your calendars could tell you that your meeting rooms are at capacity and that you need to invest in more space. When in reality, you just need to stop your staff booking rooms they’re not going to use.

If you’re making financial decisions, you want to base those decisions on actual, real-world data.

With that in mind, here are four key workplace metrics to track and improve using occupancy sensors.

Meeting room occupancy

This is the most common one – and for good reason.

Remote and flexible working may be on the rise but face-to-face meetings are still the best way to solve problems and tackle creative challenges. It’s crucial for businesses to create spaces which facilitate these tasks.

Analysing meeting room occupancy can tell you, objectively, whether the number of meeting rooms you have is enough for your workforce. But it can also tell you which of those meeting rooms are the busiest. And, by association, which meeting rooms need some attention.

If your occupancy rate is typically +70%, but one of your meeting rooms is languishing around 35%, clearly there are issues with that space that need to be resolved.

Desk occupancy                                                              

The combination of hot-desking and remote working have made the concept of desk occupancy more fluid. Some days the office will be busy, some days less so.

It’s important to track desk occupancy and understand the rhythm of remote and in-office working. After all, no one wants to come into the office only to find out that all the desks are full and they’d have been better off at home.

No shows

As I’ve already said, just because a meeting has been booked, doesn’t mean it’s definitely going to happen. Things change. That’s just a fact-of-life.

In an ideal world, the room booking will be cancelled and the room freed up for someone else. But it doesn’t always happen that way. Tracking no-shows allows you to track wasted meeting room time. It can also highlight repeat offenders who may need a friendly reminder to cancel their bookings when they cancel their meetings and improve their office etiquette.

It’s also important to track the length of time that has been booked compared with the actual length of the meeting. If people are in the habit of booking 30-minute or one-hour meetings and only sticking around for 10 minutes, that’s an issue.

Peak utilisation by week or month

Finally, keeping track of your peak times can help you manage staff expectations and encourage teams to schedule your meetings for less busy periods where possible.

The ideal is to spread your meetings out to create a solid baseline of occupancy across the week, instead of peak periods which then drop away to nothing.

Want to learn more about occupancy sensors?

If you’d like to learn more about how occupancy sensors can help your business better understand your workplace, watch this great video from iOffice.

Ricoh is iOffice’s UK partner and is proud to offer their workplace analytics services to our customers. If you’d like to hear more about anything mentioned in this article, feel free to drop me a line on LinkedIn. Or if you’re interested in reading about our case studies on workspaces we have helped transform, please read our guide on Workplace Services.

David Willoughby

Digital Workplace Transformation Lead at Ricoh UK

Read all articles by David Willoughby