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Occupancy Monitoring & Data-Driven Workplace Optimization [Sensor to Insight Series, Part 3]

September 27, 2021

As discussed in an earlier post about different types of IoT use cases in commercial buildings, one of the most popular scenarios is workplace occupancy monitoring and analysis. For good reasons. Many organizations waste as much as half their space. In other words, their savings potential is huge. European businesses could save $243 billion by reducing wasted space in office buildings, according to a World Green Building study, and globally, businesses could realize savings of up to $1.5 trillion if workspaces were optimized. Other sources even suggest that on average in North America, desks and offices sit unused about two-thirds of the time. And a Herman Miller space utilization study found that assigned private offices are unoccupied 77 percent of the workday, on average.

Outside view of office windows

The pandemic hitting, those numbers certainly did not improve, quite the opposite. Because of the surge in WFH, occupancy rates have plummeted. And everything indicates that office occupancy will remain lower and less predictable post-pandemic. Not surprising then that many companies consider or are in the process of moving from assigned seating to more agile workplace concepts, with flexible seating arrangements, hoteling or hot-desking. Early adopters such as AXA were able to reduce desk-to-employee ratios and use space more efficiently well before COVID-19 arrived (Check out the AXA smart workplace case here). After the pandemic, agile working concepts, supported by digital technology to assist employees, will likely become more prevalent.

Occupancy monitoring: a cornerstone of the modern workplace

Reducing vacancy must not happen at the expense of the employee experience. A smart approach starts with measuring evolving building utilization and gaining the insights to not only resize the footprint (aka square footage) but also improve the space configuration. Heads of real estate need to be able to make informed portfolio decisions, with confidence. This requires detailed and highly accurate information – not partial data and sporadic feedback that may lead to the wrong conclusions. That’s where the IoT comes in. Sensors are much better than humans in systematically – and anonymously – capturing and mapping occupancy data.

Sensor options range from basic motion sensors that tell you when a space, desk, or seat is occupied to more sophisticated headcount sensors that you mount on the ceiling and that can really tell you how many people are in a specific space and where they are. This data is processed, securely stored in the cloud, and analyzed. And, most importantly, visualized on floor plans and dashboards that provide a detailed view of how office buildings are used throughout the day.


Non-intrusive occupancy sensing

It’s important to note that IoT sensors accurately track occupants without infringing on their right to privacy. A sensor knows that a seat is occupied or not occupied; it doesn’t know who is in the seat. A smart workplace solution such as Spacewell’s Cobundu IoT platform processes occupancy data to optimize the work environment, not to keep tabs on people’s activities. We believe that responsible use of the IoT – and the insights derived from it – is critical in realizing the full potential of our workplaces.

A huge opportunity ahead

The pandemic has disrupted how and where we work. In the context of hybrid work, many businesses may end up paying for office space they no longer need. A recent CBRE survey found that 80% of occupiers expect to reduce their office footprint over the next 3-5 years. A tool like Spacewell’s Opportunity Simulator dashboard helps commercial real estate teams and workplace leaders to benchmark their space performance, run different space optimization scenarios and calculate savings.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us to explore how data-informed office space management could benefit your business.

Wouter Hartemink

Wouter Hartemink

Chief Revenue Officer at Spacewell

Wouter is a seasoned technology executive with over 15 years of international IT & Big Data experience. His diverse mix of managerial skills and leadership experience enable him to quickly take a ‘big picture’ view, weigh up business situations and develop opportunities. He is an open and direct communicator, focused on driving positive outcomes for all stakeholders.

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