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5 advantages of using workplace occupancy monitoring

How efficiently is space used in your organisation? On any given day, are you greeted with a sea of empty desks? Or are colleagues constantly frustrated at the lack of available meeting rooms?

In their 2017 Occupancy Planning Annual Report, Jones Lang LaSalle reported that most corporate real estate executives estimate that 20% of available space is wasted, though this can actually be as high as 30-40%. And in today’s uncertain economy, it’s not surprising that most companies are under pressure to use space more efficiently and reduce real-estate costs.

How to do it? The first step is to get a better understanding of how spaces are used throughout the day, week and month. You may already have an idea of how many staff work part-time or spend a proportion of each week working from home. But with the growing adoption of flexible working, it can be difficult to keep track of people’s movements. You need hard data.

By detecting the real-time presence of people around the building, you can get an instant picture of availability and direct people to a desk or meeting area you know is free. Looking slightly longer term, by monitoring space occupancy over a fixed period, you can identify which spaces are underused and which are in high demand, then plan your use of space accordingly.

1. Save on energy

Today’s smart building management systems let you automate building controls such as lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning based on real-time occupation. Not only does this reduce energy consumption – reducing expenditure and carbon emissions – it also allows you to provide a more comfortable working environment.

2. Increase productivity

Workplaces have gradually become more relaxed. The informal, collaborative style of working beloved of tech startups is filtering down to more traditional organisations such as banking, accountancy and law firms.

But what’s right for your business? Occupancy data shows you exactly how much demand there is for informal meeting spaces and break-out areas, letting you optimise office layout to facilitate collaboration and enhance productivity. You could find you need more comfortable areas for group discussions or creative brainstorming, or video conference rooms for discussions with colleagues in different regions. Conversely, you might need more isolated quiet areas for tasks that require more concentration, or phone booths for people to make important calls. It’s all about giving people the space they need for the tasks they need to complete.

3. Attract and retain talent

In many industries, businesses are struggling to attract and retain top talent. Perhaps surprisingly, the type of working environment on offer can be a key factor for those choosing an employer.

According to commercial real estate services and investment firm CBRE, 78% of millennials – who will be the most dominant age group in the workplace by 2020 – said the working environment was important when considering an offer of employment. The 2017 Deloitte Millennial survey showed that millennials favour a relaxed environment and would think twice about working somewhere that seemed sterile and impersonal.

4. Improve safety and security

Knowing where people are around the building isn’t just convenient – it could be lifesaving. In an emergency like a fire, you’d know the whereabouts of anyone left in the building and be able to notify them of the emergency and their nearest exit.

While occupancy sensors aren’t ever intended to replace intruder alarm systems, they can add an extra layer of security, or prove useful if some areas of the business are only accessible to authorised staff.

5. Only relocate when you really, really need to

Is your workforce getting bigger? You might assume you’ll outgrow your current premises at some point and will have to begin the time-consuming, expensive process of packing up your operations and moving to a bigger office. Sometimes relocating is unavoidable, but sometimes all that’s needed is a smarter approach.

Traditional seating models give everyone their own desk, meaning that every time someone else joins a team, you get a request for more space. But if half of those desks are always empty because their designated owners are working somewhere else, there’s little point making more room. Likewise, you may have a meeting room that comfortably seats ten, but discover that it’s only ever used by two or three people at a time. That’s a big waste of valuable space.

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