Corporate Culture & Productivity

Navigating the Decline in Office Space Utilization

Kayla Giles
February 21st, 2024

According to our 2023 Workplace Strategy Report, 40% of workplace leaders are planning on reducing office space within the next two years.

With the transition to hybrid work, companies are realizing they have the opportunity to reduce real estate costs and optimize existing spaces. 

However, right-sizing your office space is more complex than it appears. Having a full picture of how employees use office space is critical to making informed decisions about your commercial real estate.

Keep reading to learn practical advice and strategies for navigating the decline of office space utilization

Space Management Made Easy

Make smarter space decisions and optimize your workplace to suit everyone’s needs.

Why is office space utilization declining?

The pandemic caused a hasty need to move to remote work. It’s easy to see how office space went unused. 

But even in a post-pandemic world, employees are still demanding flexibility in their work environments, and technological advancements have made it easier for team members to meet and collaborate without being in the same physical space. 

Implementing hybrid models allows for flexibility while still providing productive places for face-to-face interactions. 

While a hybrid model provides many benefits, it also comes with challenges. The number of employees in the office can fluctuate, making it difficult to determine how much space you need.

Our 2023 Workplace Strategy Report highlights some of the challenges of predicting office space needs:

  • Desk bookings increase by 150-250% more on peak days.
  • The majority of organizations don’t have a blanket company policy on in-office use. Customizing it per department or site is more common.
  • Only one in five decision-makers have clear workplace goals with defined metrics to track progress.

How to utilize office space

Multiple factors influence in-office and remote days. Data on how employees actually use office space has a significant impact, but it’s also important to understand employees’ motivations for going on-site in order to practice effective space management.

There are three key insights to consider when creating an office space that supports a hybrid workplace.

Rethink the role of the office

Traditionally, you could find all employees in an office building. Physical space was necessary to communicate and collaborate. But today, we have technological tools and apps that allow employees to work from anywhere with an internet connection. These advancements provide an opportunity for rethinking how an office and a workforce can operate.

Some leaders may want to hold on to the old ways of managing employees. But the truth is that the office isn’t always necessary for employees to complete individual tasks. 

However, an office space still has an important role to play in the hybrid work model. Each company will have different demands for in-office time. The goal is to ensure the office space supports valuable in-office activities like collaboration. 

Optimizing your office space

Optimizing your office space

Optimizing your office space is more than just ensuring a company gets an ROI out of every square foot. It’s also about creating a space that encourages productivity. 

In a hybrid office, optimizing workspaces requires careful space planning. Employees need just the right amount of space to be productive and engaged. 

Companies used to rely on manual processes like Excel spreadsheets to evaluate how much office space was occupied. These days, multiple data types can provide real-time insights into office space utilization.

Gathering data from sources like badge swipes can show the reality of office space usage. Surveys can reveal employee needs for physical offices. Companies can use this data to gain visibility into their workplace and what could be improved.

Your workspaces need evaluation to ensure no square footage is wasted. All meeting rooms and workstations should align with your hybrid strategy. For example, you may need to invest in technological upgrades to ensure in-person employees can join hybrid meetings.

Several organizations are choosing to remodel their workspace to accommodate their hybrid workforce. Our 2023 Workplace Strategy Report reveals survey respondents are planning on making office space changes:

  • 35% are adding collaborative spaces
  • 31% will increase social spaces
  • 26% will add private spaces

Reconfiguring workspaces can maximize space and employee productivity. However, you can only effectively change your office layout if you are collecting data to support your reconfiguration.

Embrace the hybrid model

Decision-makers need to adopt agility as they build a hybrid work environment. It may take some testing and time to find the right hybrid workplace solution for your company, site, or department. 

Collecting accurate data is crucial to measuring workplace success. Without it, you don’t have reliable data to prove your hybrid workplace strategy is working.

Here are a few metrics to consider when designing work arrangements:

  • Occupancy rate: The rate of space occupied over a period of time.
  • Vacancy rates: Measurement of office density or office vacancy.
  • Capacity of meeting rooms: Number of people that can be accommodated in meeting spaces.
  • Desk utilization: The number of desks occupied.

Analyzing the data you collect will reveal how you can improve your existing hybrid workflow. When done right, office space optimization can use space efficiently and affordably.

Want to easily understand your office occupancy?
Workplace Intelligence powered by Looker, is an industry first. Turning your WiFi network into a sensor so you can go beyond basic metrics, and get true workplace intelligence.

What makes the best office space?

The best office space is the one that is designed with your employees in mind. The office layout should encourage creativity and productivity. 

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to office space utilization. Your company may even need different solutions for different departments. 

Moving to a hybrid office can seem intimidating. But with the right tools and an open mind, you can explore new paths to create an engaged workplace. Tracking office utilization will help business leaders make informed decisions about their commercial real estate. OfficeSpace software can track and measure office space usage and ensure you receive the full picture of your workplace.