Why undertake a workplace utilisation study

Presynct: Why undertake a utilisation study

Understanding how you currently occupy your physical workspace is essential to any workplace strategy. A workplace utilisation study is used as one data point in workplace strategy to determine how often different settings are used. Together with design engagement activities, this data is used to determine the following:

  • Ideal occupancy model: how the organisation will occupy the space.
  • It answers questions about whether the organisation or teams should have assigned vs shared workspace.
  • Optimal sharing ratio: how many people and at what ratio should sharing occur?
  • Optimal area, capacity and workpoints: taken with the growth profile of the organisation, the utilisation data can also determine the optimal workplace area (sqm of the typical workplace), the number of workpoints and the capacity range the model will support.

While swipe card or office attendance data can be helpful, understanding your setting utilisation gives a much clearer picture of how your people spend their time in the office and the organisation's needs moving forward.

Traditional workplaces are underutilised

On average, most traditional workplaces with an assigned seating occupancy model are underutilised at any given time. This trend has been exuberated throughout the pandemic. Based on pre-COVID utilisation benchmarking, at the peak (maximum number of workpoints occupied at any one time), 80% of assigned workpoints were used; and 52% of assigned workpoints were used on average. Post-COVID benchmarking data shows that workpoints are further under-utilised due to increased flexible and remote working, with just 45% of assigned workstations used at peak and 32% on average.

As office attendance has increased across most Australian capital cities post-pandemic, it is an opportune time for organisations to evaluate their space requirements and address the needs of their employees. The option to work remotely at least some of the time will continue to be offered by many organisations. As such, many larger businesses are reducing their physical office space and looking for flexible workplace solutions to accommodate fluctuations in headcount, provide a range of work settings and limit continued spending on design and fit-out.

As the workplace landscape shifts, organisations can benefit from a utilisation study to reduce the uncertainty and employee demands of today’s modern workplace. The 2023 Australian Edition of MRI’s Voice of the Employee report shows that nine in 10 Aussie workers are keen to return to the office at least some of the time, provided they can reach their workplace within 30 minutes and access hotel-like amenities around the clock. These are other excellent examples of why businesses must undertake workplace utilisation studies to ensure that workplace change is implemented effectively.

Risks for not undertaking a workplace utilisation study

There are risks if you choose not to undertake a workplace utilisation study as part of your workplace strategy:

  • Employee resistance to new ways of working because the model is based on something other than actual quantitative data.
  • Leasing more space than needed and rising real estate costs lead to wasting money on underutilised space.
  • The space is not driving the right behaviours to support new ways of working, which could negatively affect business outcomes.

Two types of workplace utilisation study - Manual vs Sensor

Presynct workplace strategy and change specialists offer clients two types of workplace utilisation studies: Manual and Sensor. They are explained in more detail below.

1. Manual

A workplace observer completes a walkaround via a set route every 30 minutes during office hours every day for two to four weeks. The observer records the data in a spreadsheet, which is then analysed to determine peak, average and worst-case occupancy for work settings and meeting spaces.

This option provides our team with detailed information about what is happening in the space and can be completed internally with tools supplied by Presynct. It is highly labour-intensive, and people tend to adjust their behaviour when seeing the observers.

2. Sensor

The collection of workplace occupancy data is completed via sensors which offer real-time insights on workplace occupancy and space availability. Sensors only record heat and movement and are installed after-hours to minimise disruption. Sensors provide accurate to-the-minute data about how the current space is being used. Data is translated to a dashboard that doesn’t identify individuals but demonstrates how much (or little) space is used at any given time. This option can be deployed quickly and easily on one or multiple floors for two to four weeks. The software is independent of your IT system, protects individual privacy, and has all the necessary communications. It is a non-intrusive, cost-effective method to collect highly accurate data.

Presynct is a team of workplace strategy and change specialists, based in Brisbane, with national and international reach. We can help you understand how your organisation works in its current environment to assess and define future viable occupancy models and space requirements. To request more information on our utilisation studies, click here.

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Lisa Copland