However, optimizing the workplace for safety is not always cost-efficient and vice versa.
In this article, we overview a few classic office utilization metrics and claim that in the era of hybrid work, most of them should be looked at from the safety perspective. When it comes to maintenance costs, not all the answers can be found between the numbers defining capacity, occupancy, or density.
Capacity and occupancy
Simply put, workplace capacity is the maximum amount of people the office can contain. In theory, it is a steady and unchanging metric - you’ve got what you’ve got. But can you use everything at your disposal?
Last year, Buro Happold drafted a few predictive modeling scenarios of how well a corporate office can maintain social distance at various rates of occupancy. Their results showed that any workplace with a rate higher than 40% cannot effectively implement physical distancing measures. According to later research, this rate may vary up to 60%. Yet the conclusion is straightforward: office space management decisions should not be based on standalone capacity metrics. It must be followed by occupancy dynamics.
Occupancy monitoring can be set up with sensors that are placed on desks or hallways as well as by establishing space reservation and check-in procedures. Whichever is your method of choice, look for real-time tracking as well as in-depth reporting possibilities. Dig into patterns and understand the office utilization trends at different timeframes.
Office density shows the space allocated per workstation per square foot. Some real estate professionals offer the following classification:
- High density (80 – 150 square feet per workstation);
- Average density (150 – 250 square feet per workstation);
- Spacious office (250 – 500 square feet per workstation).
The higher the density, the lower the space per workstation. For example, most customer support or coworking offices tend to be highly dense. The average density is usually achieved by mixing open desks and private work hubs, while almost every private office-only workplace can be considered spacious.
As the Facility Management focus is shifting from maximizing utilization to ensuring employee safety, high density is not anymore on the radar for modern workplaces. The spacious (or at least average) scenario is the goal and can be achieved by increasing the physical distance between desks.
It can be done in two ways. High-capacity offices with partial occupancy can physically space out the desks, but such a move does not ensure long-term flexibility. Occupancy is a fluctuating metric influenced by many external factors, including prone to change legislation. Therefore, instead of layout remodeling, many organizations opt for the second option - space management solutions that empower to set up minimal distance between workstations in use and other measures for density control.
Other utilization patterns
Do not neglect metrics that may seem secondary or dwell into the usage habits of a narrow group of employees. Check what type of analytics your space management solution offers and discover the patterns.
A better insight into average utilization, number of bookings per space, or the percentage of no-shows can help understand how well your workplace is arranged, what could be changed to optimize it even how much space you need.
The golden rule: 3-30-300
Nowadays, keeping an eye on occupancy and density is important to comply with physical distance standards. But aside from the increasing health and safety-oriented responsibilities, facility managers must also take care of workplace maintenance costs. For that, they need more actionable insights than space utilization metrics can offer.
The concept of 3-30-300 is not new: Jones Lang LaSalle, a global commercial real estate services company, introduced the formula a few years ago. It grasps the order of magnitude for a company’s costs per square foot, per year, claiming that on average, companies spend:
- $3 in utilities;
- $30 in rent;
- $300 in payroll.
This translates into the following:
- 10% increase in energy efficiency saves $0.30;
- The same 10% decrease in rent yields $3.00 savings;
- Finally, a 10% upsurge in productivity is worth $30.
The conclusion? Cross-examine what constitutes productivity in your organization, the ways it is measured, and work towards boosting it. Workplace wellness and workplace configuration should always go together.