What is Space Optimization?

By Reagan Nickl
Enterprise Customer Success Senior Manager

Optimization is all about making the most effective use of something. In the case of space optimization, it often happens incrementally. It’s hard to go from zero to 100% optimization, especially when the variables begin to add up. It’s easy to put one person in one desk and call it space optimization. But what about when there are a hundred employees, two locations, and 10 different types of desking arrangements? What is space optimization in this case?

Understanding space optimization is about context. How much space is there? What are the demands for that space? Optimization comes from proper utilization, and utilization is a product of extensive review.

Space optimization defined

Space optimization is about making the most effective use of real estate. If you’re leasing an office that’s too big and paying for unused space, that’s not good space optimization. But, if your workplace is carefully configured to include in-demand types of workspaces and accommodate everyone, it’s well-optimized.

Optimized workspace is efficient. It’s productive. It’s comfortable and welcoming, not to mention supportive and inclusive. This is to say that optimization goes beyond paying attention to occupancy. True space optimization creates the best possible workspace for business success. Take a look at your business’ objectives and principles. If the way you’re using your space aligns, it’s safe to say it’s properly optimized.

What does space optimization mean for…?

Modern workplace optimization is a multifaceted concept. You can excel in one way, yet come up short in another. Staffing 20 employees in an office meant for 20 may equate to great occupancy optimization, but if the correct types of workspaces for these 20 employees don’t exist, your efforts fall short of true workplace optimization.

For commercial real estate, consider what optimization means from a variety of perspectives.

  • Culture: Is the workplace inclusive and welcoming? Do people like spending time in it, or does it frustrate them? Do employees see their workplace as part of the company and their job? Do visitors get the right impression about your business from the workplace you’ve cultivated?
  • Productivity: Does the workplace provide employees the types of spaces they need to do good work? Is there a diverse range of workstations? Do employees have enough space to work and the right type of space to accommodate different tasks or expectations?
  • Finance: What’s the cost-benefit analysis of your lease? Are you paying for more space than you need or making the most of existing space? What is the cost-per-head of your current workspace design and is there room to improve it?
  • Comfort: Do employees have enough personal space vs. accommodations to collaborate comfortably with peers? Is there enough space to navigate easily in your office? Is accessibility a priority?
  • Growth: Are you at peak space utilization or is there room to maneuver in times of growth? If your space needs to change and evolve, can you support it with your current facilities? Is there an action plan to address new space requirements?

True space optimization comes from considering as many variables as possible. Satisfying them means creating a space that boosts business operations and future success.

Optimization = Control

Think of space optimization as control over two of the largest assets your business has: The workplace and your workforce. With the right space utilization plan, you can transform facilities into a support system for the people working within them. Whether it’s lowering costs or improving efficiency, different levels of space optimization yield benefits worth considering.

Choosing to optimize the workplace is the same as developing a hiring framework. You vete candidates and hire with the intent of adding a professional to your team who can contribute to your business’ success. In optimizing the workplace, you’re vetting space usage and utilization to create a floor plan that supports operational excellence. Both examples are controlled processes aimed at facilitating success.

Emphasize space optimization

Space optimization leverages the workplace to its fullest potential. It’s about employee experience, cultural development, and maximizing leases. These are markers of good space optimization and a workplace that adds value to the company.

Keep reading: How can space optimization software help your workplace grow?


What is a Space Utilization Plan?

By Nai Kanell
Director of Marketing

Planning is the first step before any action. Business operations revolve around marketing, capital allocation, and service rollout plans—even emergency action plans. That’s why a space utilization plan makes sense. Before rearranging desks or seating employees anywhere that’s convenient, there should be some semblance of a plan.

When there’s a plan, everyone is on the same page about what’s expected and who’s responsible for what. It links actions to goals and you know what you’re working toward. Additionally, a plan adds context to action. You can’t achieve step C until steps A and B are complete. There’s also the benefit of having clear and present communication.

Space utilization plans leverage all this. More importantly, utilization plans keep companies focused on a single objective: maximizing the value of real estate. But to reap the full benefits of a utilization plan, it needs to be well-designed.

1. Identify utilization goals

When creating a space utilization plan, ask yourself an important question: What is space utilization in the context of your approach to space management?

  • To improve overall utilization?
  • To understand demand for different types of spaces?
  • To gauge occupancy across workspaces?
  • To correlate space types with productivity?

No matter the metric, make sure it relates to a larger goal. A specific goal will inform the types of data you need and the changes you make. For example, to improve overall utilization you’ll need a baseline of current utilization rates or workspace-specific utilization levels. Clearly stating your plan’s objective puts methods in context.

2. Explore possible solutions

What patterns or trends become apparent after looking at benchmark data? What solutions do they point to? Space utilization software is great for aggregating information—and to virtually experiment with solutions.

If your goal is to gauge occupancy across workspaces and you find low utilization for a specific type of workstation, consider whether the space is necessary. Maybe it’s best converted to alleviate excess use in other areas.

Before affecting change, chart it. That’s the purpose of a space utilization plan—to create an ordered, smooth process for transforming the workplace. Use Integrated Workplace Management Software (IWMS) to create potential floor plans and examine hypothetical occupancy data. Establish the effects of a workplace change without actually changing things. Use good models as jump-off points for making real change.

3. Champion change

One of the biggest advantages of a space utilization plan is overcoming pushback to change. People are averse to change—particularly employees who are set in their ways or upper management who may not see the value in it. A good plan helps communicate the benefits of space utilization optimization. Use a space utilization plan to show and explain all the major elements of change:

  • The problem. Here’s why the workplace needs to change.
  • The solution. Here’s how the workplace will change.
  • The benefits. This is how the workplace will become better.
  • The method. Here’s how we’re going to get there.

Your space utilization plan should answer most conceivable questions about proposed changes, from start to finish. Moreover, it should address common concerns of affected employees, as well as strategic questions by upper management and decision-makers.

In addition to answering questions, use your utilization plan to champion change leaders. When individuals understand and embrace the concepts within the plan, they’re more likely to aid in facilitating it. Give them responsibility and create accountability. As the workplace evolves, these individuals will be instrumental in executing changes at ground level.

4. Execute and measure

The final piece of any space utilization plan is actionable steps for measuring change. Data gleaned while identifying utilization goals help measure improvement metrics. Make this an ongoing part of any workplace change initiative.

Not only does measuring change provide context for future utilization strategies, it gives credence to the modifications. Whether it’s delivering results to the C-suite or exploring new insights about your workplace, utilization data is a keystone for understanding.

5. Develop continuous improvement standards

Regardless if your space utilization plan is a living document that’s constantly reviewed or a procedural approach to everyday decision-making, it’s an essential part of successful business operations. Like any other integral cog, it’s aided by proper planning. Continually reflecting on this plan and taking the time to develop it sets a standard for workplace management that’s always rooted in well-defined goals.

Keep reading: Space planning software guide.


How Do I Optimize My Workspace?

By Jeff Revoy
Chief Operations Officer

As commercial real estate becomes more expensive, businesses are trying to do more with less. For most, that means more efficient use of the space they have—and in some cases, downsizing to a smaller lease. The name of the game is space optimization. It has plenty of C-suite executives asking, “How do I optimize my workspace?”

The answer is a multi-step process. To optimize workspace, you need to quantify what you have. That takes technology and resources, and a critical look at what’s important vs. what’s underutilized.

Optimization doesn’t happen in an instant. Understanding improvement opportunities is one thing; it takes initiative to capitalize on them. Given cost savings and deriving more value from their workplaces, business leaders should be optimizing where they can.

Identify inefficiencies

Finding inefficiencies is the first step toward improvement. To optimize workspace for productivity, first figure out what’s not working—or what’s working inefficiently.

  • Evaluate workplace utilization metrics to see what workstations employees aren’t using. Take a look at workspaces that attract the most use and use them as a baseline for understanding space demands.
  • Pinpoint areas of friction and identify chokepoints in the physical workplace. Do employees have enough personal space? Are there conflicts over noise, proximity, or privacy?
  • Gauge what’s ideal to employees and how features are reflected in your workplace. Identify likes and dislikes with a Net Promoter Survey or informal poll, then use the results to make changes.

Utilize data and technology

Charting the course to an optimized workplace requires data and software to design changes and improvements that push transformation.

  • Use sensors and data aggregation tools to map occupancy and utilization. This data provides credence to the types of workspaces in-demand within your workplace.
  • Rely on dynamic floor planning software to create a composite of your current set up, as well as iterative versions of possible ones. This is invaluable in planning a workplace redesign before actually moving anything. Drag-and-drop floor plans also simplify changes based on stakeholder feedback or unforeseen obstacles.
  • Make good use of a messaging platform to keep stakeholders in the loop on optimization efforts. Communicating directly with C-suite executives, department heads, workplace managers, team leaders, and employees is a great way to field concerns, collaborate on potential problems, and assign responsibilities.

Explore new floor plans

Now, it’s time to explore new workplace solutions that meet your employee demands for workspace productivity, while staying cognizant of available space, lease costs, and utilization metrics.

  • Explore spaces based on the type of work most prevalent in your workplace. Individual work benefits from hotel desks and private workstations. Collaboration spaces and activity-based workstations support group work. Hot desks and open-office environments accommodate remote workers. Pay attention to the mix of workers and duties, and build a floor plan with balanced workspaces.
  • Even if your first floor plan is a masterpiece, consider alternatives. Make several variations and run them down the same gauntlet. Do they address employee demands? Is the plan conducive to your ideal layout? Does the data support this design? Stopping at a single floor plan deprives you of truly knowing if your new arrangement is optimal.
  • Solicit feedback from leadership and employees on configurations. Don’t seek validation—rather, listen to legitimate concerns and field questions about the impending changes. This is an opportunity to learn about a new workplace design through the eyes of others, particularly those spending the majority of their time using it.

While exploring new arrangements, make sure to save everything. It’s not uncommon to piecemeal ideas and concepts into something greater. And, there’s always the chance that a future workplace design may draw inspiration from something previously tabled.

Continue improvement exploration

The concept of the best office workspace is elusive. The optimal choice is the one that meets employee needs right now. As the company grows and work evolves, so will the workplace. Optimization is the constant pursuit of the ideal workspace. It’s up to companies to continually recognize changing demands and meet them with innovative solutions.

Keep reading: Deploying workplace occupancy sensors to improve utilization.


How do you Calculate Space Utilization?

By Aleks Sheynkman
Director of Engineering

Workplace optimization isn’t about creating an environment with a cool aesthetic or installing a desking arrangement that’s trendy. It’s about making the most of your space from a functional standpoint. Design and desking strategies are important concepts, but they need to support efficient space utilization. But what is space utilization, really?

The practical side of utilization

Space usage is becoming increasingly important to facilities management. Executives are examining space utilization metrics and tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) to determine the best way to leverage the workplace for success.

The simplest definition of space utilization is using space to its fullest potential. But calculating and quantifying it is more difficult than it may seem—largely because it involves so many factors. The workplace is dynamic and trends impact individual workspaces. This affects utilization in myriad ways.

Ten people sitting at 10 desks may represent 100% occupancy, but it might not mean 100% utilization. If those 10 desks are used four days a week, utilization is only 80%. Similarly, if five employees constantly leave their desks to collaborate in a shared space, utilization for those five desks may be 50% for a portion of the day, and 75% overall. These rates skew depending on how you look at them—and how you interpret them depends on what metrics you’re measuring.

Calculating space utilization metrics

Understanding space utilization comes from calculating it in several different ways, depending on the metric most relevant to your objective. If there are too many desks or not enough collaborative workspaces, you might check occupancy rates. Or, if you’re trying to make due with fewer workspaces and a mobile workforce, determining peak workstation usage is relevant.

Here are some of the most common metrics for deducing space utilization and how they’re calculated:

  1. Occupancy: Space occupancy is occupied square footage divided by unoccupied square footage (multiplied by 100 to convert to a percentage). The result tells you how much available, unutilized square footage there is. Take the inverse to find the utilization rate.
  2. Density: Density provides a more precise occupancy calculation. Take the number of employees multiplied by an average 125-250 square feet per employee. The sum shows how space is appropriately occupied. Measure this against overall occupancy.
  3. Workstation occupancy: Use the same calculation is general occupancy, replacing square footage with workstations.
  4. Point-in-time occupancy: This calculation is best done using automated data collection software. By measuring total time of occupancy across every workstation and dividing it by the total hours in a workweek, you can determine when a workstation is used, for how long, and at what percentage of total available capacity.
  5. Peak usage: The value of measuring point-in-time occupancy is to identify trends in where and when employees use specific workspaces. Peak utilization tells a facility manager how valuable a space is at any given time of the day or week.
  6. Desk-to-employee ratio: The standard workplace configuration is 1:1 desk-to-employee. In modern workplaces, this ratio doesn’t necessarily represent optimal space utilization. An in-house employee working 40 hours a week may still occupy a desk full time for 100% occupancy. However, a 1:5 desk-to-employee ratio may also represent 100% utilization if five remote workers each use the same desk once per week.

To properly calculate space utilization, consider the following:

  1. Are you measuring total workplace or individual workspace utilization?
  2. Is your definition of utilization based on occupancy or usage?
  3. What’s your chief objective in understanding the usage and utilization of your space?

Measuring the above metrics against these questions provides context for measuring space utilization.

Putting utilization data to work

Space utilization data from relevant metrics provides decision-makers with information to affect positive change in the workplace. Unused desks become much-needed collaboration spaces. An open-air floor plan morphs into desk neighborhoods. Static desks become hot desks. Utilization trends inform better desking arrangements, which aid efficiency and productivity.

More than measuring pure occupancy or desk-to-employee ratios, surveying space utilization through a variety of metrics is the best way to contextualize your workplace.

Keep reading: Office space management software tips and guidelines.


Five Space Utilization Metrics Every FM Needs to Know

By Reagan Nickl
Customer Success Senior Manager

Every good business measures itself against a variety of important metrics that help management understand improvement opportunities or areas of concern. While data tends to focus on financials or operations (customers, orders, sales, etc.), many successful businesses are leveraging space utilization metrics.

Making the right space management decisions is important for plotting future success. To fuel future growth, companies should measure themselves against the right benchmarks. Here are five space utilization metrics every facility manager (FM) should know:

1. Capacity and occupancy

Capacity and occupancy dictate how many people a space supports and how many people are using it at a given point in time. A collaborative space may have a capacity of 10, but only four people occupying it right now. Tomorrow, eight people might use it. Capacity never changes; occupancy does.

Measuring capacity gives FMs a sense of how many people can feasibly use a workspace at any given time. Looking at the total capacity of all workspaces determines overall workplace capacity, which is useful for other metrics like utilization. Meanwhile, looking at occupancy trends—by the hour, day of the week, or over a longer period of time—shows usage trends. Capacity and occupancy are the core building blocks for most space utilization metrics.

2. Overall/space-specific utilization

Overall office space utilization is a simple equation: Number of employees divided by total workplace capacity. If you have 75 employees in a space designed for 100, you’re utilization is 75%. This metric doesn’t show space efficiency, but does paint a clear picture of the workspace as a whole.

There’s more opportunity to glean information from space-specific metrics. These can include point-in-time trends, peak usage data, areas of underutilization, and workstation occupancy calculations. Understanding total workplace utilization and individual workspace use drives greater efficiency and productivity.

3. Density

Density is a more granular utilization metric—one that’s useful in looking at departments, floors, and business segments. Density data shows when a group has outgrown its space or when business demands outstrip available workspace types.

Marketing has 20 people. Utilization statistics show their demand for conference rooms is exceedingly high—as many as 14 department members may be in project meetings at any given time. But Marketing only has access to two conference rooms with a total capacity of 10 seats. This is an example of density benchmarking at work. It shows not just demand for space, but demand for specific space by a specific group for a specific purpose.

4. Cost per head/seat

Utilization is more than balancing the number of employees and types of workspaces offered. It’s also about cost control and creating a floor plan that accommodates everyone—without hampering the balance sheet.

Calculating cost per head/seat breaks the fixed lease down to a granular figure that helps FMs understand the cost of housing employees within available space. This data helps project the cost of facility growth, model productivity of a workspace, and highlight inefficiencies in particular desking arrangements. Everything in business comes back to numbers, which makes cost per head an essential utilization metric for quantifying the workplace.

5. Mobility ratios

The workplace is far from static. Accounting for workforce mobility is important in measuring true space utilization. How many remote workers do you have? How many part-time vs. full-time employees are on the payroll? How many visitors do you average on a day or week? These people may not need a desk every day, but they impact utilization.

Measuring the variable demands of a mobile workforce is separate from general utilization and occupancy metrics. Your workplace may have 100 seats and 75 regularly occupied desks (75% utilization), but what about those 25 part-time and remote employees? Can your workplace function at 100% total capacity in the unlikely event that everyone in the office at the same time? Moreover, if you can support 100% capacity, do you really want to?

Factoring in mobility ratios—different groups with variable desking needs—is an important extension in understanding total workplace utilization.

Data tells the whole space utilization story 

Good data and space utilization analysis are critical for better decision-making. For FMs and their superiors, these metrics emphasize the workplace’s role and impact on business success. The more utilization data points, the more insights workplace managers can use to improve operations and further business goals.

Keep reading: Six core pillars of office space planning.