3 Things to Know About Space Utilization Technology

How Can You Optimize Your Office Space Footprint?

What rooms are most often used in your workplace? Knowing this, and similar space utilization tracking information, can give you insight as a facility manager into habits that are shaping your workplace, and even pinpoint data on where people gather.

Space utilization tracking is a useful resource that not all companies take advantage of. There are important points every facility manager should know. Here is a quick discussion of three.

1. Benefits

The most obvious advantage of tracking space usage is the insight on how much space isn’t being used. Companies often overestimate the space occupancy of their facilities.

FMLink reports that one medical facility in southwest England expected staff to increase by 28 percent and wanted to expand its space. But the total space usage only added up to 37.4 percent. In a similar case, the Wisconsin branch of the Kimberly-Clark Corporation found that what appeared to be a shortage of sufficient meeting space was actually the result of small groups occupying rooms intended for larger meetings. In each of these cases, tracking space saved them from perhaps large (and costly) changes.

Another benefit of space tracking is finding the connections between the way people use the space and its effect on productivity.

According to the Wall Street Journal, one Bank of America call center gave employees special badges that tracked their movements and recorded the tones of their voices when they spoke. What did it find? Those who bonded with their coworkers and worked together in teams were more productive. To better simulate this effect, the company had workers take breaks in groups, instead of individually. Productivity increased by 10 percent. The WSJ also reported that one tech company, using space utilization tracking, concluded that the size of the cafeteria’s lunch tables also affected productivity. Workers who sat at the 12-person table were more productive than their peers who sat at 4-seaters.

space utilization technology

2. Methods

An office space tracking tool can be used for different reasons. For example, OfficeSpace uses stacking charts (featured above) to show the amount of space used by the department in a company’s different locations.  For a single facility, it can report the occupancy and vacancy of cubicles and seats in rooms and shared areas. But as Bank of America’s badge experiment shows, other technology can zoom in even closer.

A partnership between tracking software companies PeopleCube and Countwise has given rise to a video recording tool that surveys the flow of traffic in retail stores. Abintra, a corporate space management data company, offers WiseNet, which uses sensors placed strategically around the office (under a worker’s desk, for example) to pick up information and send it back to a data router.

3. Issues

No discussion of space tracking is complete without a discussion of employee concerns - especially if you do decide to use tools such as badges or sensors.

It’s crucial to speak with employees how these devices work, and what kind of information they do and do not pick up.

If the topic of space tracking isn’t presented carefully, employees may feel as if the company is devolving into spying and micromanagement.

As The Best Workplace puts it, “If everyone feels like they are being spied on, they will change their behaviors and your data will not be truly representative of normal conditions.”

While many high-tech solutions for space tracking are available, there’s one that’s convenient and free: the classic solution of surveying the office, walking around and observing what you see. It may not be the most sophisticated way to track space usage in an office, but it can still provide a lot of useful insight when you need to focus on one particular area.

If your budget won’t allow for advanced space utilization technology, try taking a walk through the office at a few key times during the day, and ask yourself, “What am I seeing?”


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Image credit: duron123 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net