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By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist
Efficiency statistics drive many of the decisions we make in life. Would you rather buy the car that gets 22mpg or 40mpg? It’s not just cars, either. We measure efficiency in everything from the performance of our appliances to the batteries in our smartphones. It’s no surprise that office space efficiency is important for facilities managers.
Space efficiency—like all other efficiency comparisons—plays an important role in reducing waste. In the case of workplace planning, it’s about eliminating wasted space and maximizing productivity from usable real estate. Or, in simpler terms: how can you create the ideal environment for maximizing lease return on investment (ROI) and productivity?
Defining and finding space efficiency
Office space efficiency it tells us whether employees have enough space to be productive. It’s measured as square footage per employee and usually tracked against an industry average of square footage per employee. The equation is simple: divide the total usable square footage (USF) of your workplace by the number of employees to get the average square footage per person.
There are actually two variants of space efficiency: total space efficiency (described above) and actual efficiency, which uses the number of present employees for a real-time look at space efficiency. Both of these variants are useful and often easy to program into space utilization software for planning and coordinating tasks.
Office space utilization vs. efficiency
Though they sound interchangeable, there’s a big difference between office space utilization and efficiency. Efficiency is the measure of how much space employees have to work productively. Utilization is a measure of how often employees use spaces. Facilities managers often use both to get a better understanding of employee interaction with the workplace.
Take a conference room, for example. If it’s booked for six hours of a possible eight-hour workday, the utilization rate is 75%. If it has a 12-person capacity and there are nine people using it, its efficiency rate is 75%. Both numbers tell us a different story.
It’s important to note that both utilization and efficiency metrics are scales. Utilization runs from 0% to 100%; if no one ever uses the space, utilization is zero and you can’t occupy a space for more than 100% of its availability. Efficiency operates on a bell curve; you can have either too much or too little space per person. That detracts from ROI or productivity, respectively.
What can efficiency statistics tell us?
Whether by itself or in conjunction with utilization, efficiency tells us a lot about how employees interact with their workplaces. A critical insight it gives us is whether employees physically have enough space to do their job. If the USF range per person is 115 sq ft to 155 sq ft, and your efficiency calculation shows an average of 90 sq ft, your employees don’t have the necessary space to do their job. Likewise, if each employee occupies 220 sq ft, you likely have too much space.
Efficiency is a jumping-off point for office space planning. It provides a baseline for how your current floor plan performs and ways to finesse efficiency to better align with industry benchmarks.
And it goes even deeper. Efficiency statistics paired with other relevant benchmarks unlock a clearer picture of workplace performance. If utilization is high and efficiency is low for a certain space, it’s reasonable to conclude there’s unmet demand for that type of space. If efficiency is high but productivity is low, the space might not be conducive to people’s work habits. Overlaying efficiency as a lens against other core metrics can tell a story of whether the workplace offers enough space as-designed or if there’s unmet need.
Strive for workspace efficiency
There are many metrics that help facilitate positive change to the workplace, each telling a different story. Office space efficiency is an indicator of how well a company uses its current space, and it’s linked to other metrics like utilization, productivity, comfort, and happiness. Make sure space efficiency is the core metric by which you strive to create these traits. A bonus: understanding space efficiency helps improve the value of your lease, enabling higher ROI.
Keep reading: Pillars of Office Space Planning