July 19, 2022
— Kasper Ullits (CPO/Founder)
13 office space utilization metrics you need to know
Are you looking to optimize how your office is used? Or maybe you want to reduce your office size after going hybrid? We’ve collected 13 office space utilization metrics that you need to know.
You want your office to support your employees, and to do that, you need to improve the way your office is being used. But before you make any actual changes, you need to figure out how your office is being used in the first place, and that’s where office space utilization analysis comes in.
The question is, what should you measure and how?
In this article we’ll give you a rundown of 13 office space utilization metrics that will help you understand how your office is being used, and we’ll tell you how and when you should measure them.
If you’re new to office space utilization, or if you’re trying to figure out how office space utilization has changed with the hybrid workplace, you should look at this article about office space utilization and the hybrid workplace.
1. Capacity and occupancy
Measuring capacity and occupancy lets you know if you are fully utilizing your office space. If you’re looking to find out whether you should increase or decrease square meters, this is where you start.
While they are actually two metrics, capacity and occupancy are often named as one, simply because you need to measure both if you want to understand one.
Capacity refers to how many people a building or a floor can contain based on the architect’s recommendation for maximum capacity of the building. Occupancy refers how many people are using the specified building or floor at any given point in time.
Measuring capacity will give you a sense of how many people can potentially use your premises at any one time. This is a useful metric when looking at the total office space utilization.Measuring occupancy will give you a set of occupancy trends, which will let you know how your office is being utilized at specific times.
How to measure capacity and occupancy
Measuring capacity can be done by either looking at the architect’s recommendation, or by counting the number of seats. Meanwhile, measuring occupancy can be done using occupancy sensors, or by carrying out regular headcounts over a period of time to find out how many seats or rooms are occupied at any given point in time.
2. Total workplace utilization
Total workplace utilization is the percentage of your workplace which is occupied. This can be measured both as a snapshot or as an average calculated over time.
There’s an opportunity to gain different pieces of information from continuously calculating total workplace utilization. This includes development in trends over time, peak usage, underutilization, and workstation occupancy.
How to measure total workplace utilization
Total workplace utilization is measured by calculating the relationship between the number of employees and the total workplace capacity. For instance, if you have 35 employees in your office, and your office space has a capacity of 50, you have a total office space utilization of 70% (100 / 50 x 35 = 70).
3. Space-specific utilization
While total workplace utilization concerns itself with the entire workplace, space specific utilization concerns itself with certain areas or types of areas in the workplace.
Measuring space-specific utilization lets you compare the utilization of different areas and lets you know if you need to increase the number of a certain room or workstation type.
Understanding both total workplace utilization and space-specific utilization will help you support greater efficiency and productivity for employees.
How to measure space-specific utilization
Space-specific utilization is usually measured as the occupancy per hour of a specific room or area or how many hours the area sees use over the course of an entire day.
4. Mobility ratio
Mobility ratio is another metric that requires you to compare the number of employees to the number of seats. To account for workforce mobility, you need to factor in how many of your employees and how often, how many part-time and full-time employees you have, and how many visitors utilize your offices each day.
If your office consists of 50 workstations which are occupied by 35 people regularly, you have a utilization of 70%, but if you have adopted a hybrid work style with a 50/50 split between remote and in-office work, there’s a good chance that you in fact have 70 people who could occupy a seat.
The purpose of mobility ratios is to figure out if your office can function when 100% of your staff shows up at the same time. But more importantly, you need to figure out if you want it to.
How to measure mobility ratios
Calculating mobility ratio is rather simple, as you are mainly looking for the number of seats per employee. The number of seats gives you an idea of how mobile each employee can be in terms of where they are working from.
5. Cost per head/seat
The biggest reason to measure and analyze utilization, isn’t to balance the number of employees with the amount and types of workstations. From a business perspective it’s mainly about controlling costs.
Depending on when you are calculating cost per head/seat, measuring this metric either allows you to optimize your office and layout design within a given budget or create an overview of how much you are spending to accommodate each employee.
How to measure cost per head/seat
When it comes to office space utilization, cost per head is measured by calculating the average annual cost to lease, decorate and furnish an office space and dividing it by the number of employees using that office space.
For hybrid workplaces you can choose to calculate the cost per seat instead of the cost per head, as this lets you measure cost related to the office space without tainting your figures with costs related to equipping home offices. This is especially important if the two things are funded by different budgets.
In essence, density is the number of people per square foot. As a metric density is more granular than most other office space utilization metrics. But it is still useful in looking at the office in segments (departments, buildings, floors etc.)
Data related to density can be used to show when a team, department or even your entire organization has outgrown its current space.
How to measure density
You measure density by comparing the needs of a certain segment (like a team or a department) with the number of square feet (or seats) of a certain type which matches the needs.
For instance, if you have a department of 50 people, who has access to two meeting rooms with a total capacity 30 seats, and where 35 members of the department may need to be seated in a meeting room at any given point in time, you are looking at a density which is higher than the total capacity.
Looking at density in a segment as we have done in this example, tells us not only that there’s a need for space, but also which type of space is needed, and more specifically who needs it.
7. Immediate occupancy rate
The immediate occupancy rate is how quickly a given room or workstation can be occupied after it has been cleaned.
An organization may have policies to air out a room after use, and during covid it wasn’t uncommon for offices that were still open to have a policy of leaving rooms “locked” for a certain amount time after being used.
How to measure immediate occupancy rate
Immediate occupancy rate isn’t measured as such, as it is usually a number of minutes specified by the organization. During covid this number was commonly increased to reduce the spread of disease.
8. Room turnover rate
Room turnover rate is the rate at which a room becomes ready for use after it has been occupied.
For meeting rooms this may be the time it takes before it is cleaned, or any catering is removed from the room by service staff. During the height of covid 19, the same concept was applied to workstations, where it was calculated as how long it took from a workstation was vacated until it was cleaned and ready for use by another person.
How to measure room turnover rate
To find your room turnover rate, you simply measure how long it takes from the point a room becomes vacant, until it is ready to be booked again.
Note that in many cases, your turnover rate could be instant, rather than an actual figure if, for instance, you have meeting rooms which are “self-cleaned” or unable to receive catering (and as such requires less cleaning). The room turnover rate may differ depending on room type.
9. Capacity vs. occupancy rates
While capacity and occupancy are two different metrics, you can learn a lot from comparing the two. Most importantly, measuring capacity vs. occupancy rates lets you determine how much a given area is actually being used.
How to calculate capacity vs. occupancy rates
Capacity vs occupancy rates are usually calculated simply by dividing the occupancy of a given area with the capacity of that same area.
For instance, if you are calculating the capacity vs occupancy rate for an office with 150 workstations (capacity) where 107 are occupied on average (occupancy) that area would have a capacity vs occupancy rate of 0,71.
10. Room usage
The metrics that make up room usage is split between the number of hours a given room is in use, how many hours it is available, and what the downtime is for that room.
How to measure room usage
Measuring room usage is usually done by consulting insights or analytics modules of your chosen room booking software. The resulting data can then be used to turn each figure into a percentage for easy comparison. Things like occupancy sensors can be used to further increase the quality of that data.
11. Open space performance
When you are looking at the performance for open space environments such as lounge areas or open collaboration spaces, you will most often need to include metrics such as density, sensitivity to noise, and privacy levels.
How to measure open space performance
The best way to measure open space performance is to gather the relevant metrics for all open spaces and the calculate an average. After that, you can compare your average with the extremes in your data set or with a predefined target.
The textbook definition of overcapacity is “how much capacity exceeds occupancy”. Which is just a fancy way of saying how much of your space is going unused.
Overcapacity is usually measured as a development over hours or days.
This is because certain times of day (early morning, lunch, and late afternoon, for instance) will have a much higher overcapacity than other times.
Operating with a high overcapacity is quite common in hybrid workplaces, as employees who decide to work from home instead of going to the office will leave empty workstations.
Overcapacity is one of the best metrics to look at, when trying to figure out how much you can reduce your office size after going hybrid.
How to calculate overcapacity
Overcapacity is calculated as a percentage. For instance, if your office has 100 workstations but only 75 workstations are occupied, you have an overcapacity of 25%.
This may change throughout the day as some employees leave or take breaks and visitors show up. Because of this, overcapacity should be looked at as a development over time and not as a single percentage.
13. Desk ratio (workstations per employee)
Desk ratio, also known as workstations per employee, is the average number of workstations supplied for each employee.
The number usually includes both cubicles, desks, tables, and other areas where employees can carry out work. Meeting room seats can be included in the calculation but usually aren’t.
The thing you need to be aware of, when it comes to desk ratio, is that minimum desk ratio and optimal desk ratio rarely match each other. This is especially important for hybrid workplaces looking to reduce their office size.
Hybrid workplaces can use desk-ratio calculations to optimize their office size for maximum space efficiency.
How to calculate desk ratio
Calculating desk-ratio in a 100% in-office workplace is pretty simple. You just divide the number of workstations with the number of employees, and that’s your desk ratio.
For instance, if you have 120 workstations in your office and 96 employees, you have desk ratio of 1,25. Meaning you have 1,25 workstations per employee.
However, this figure isn’t as useful when you have remote or hybrid workplaces and want to reduce your office size, mainly because you may end up with a desk-ratio below 1, which would suggest you should add more desks, even if those desks aren’t used.
For hybrid workplaces looking to reduce their office size it works better to reverse engineer the calculation, so instead of calculating how many workstations you have per employee, you calculate how many workstations you need.
To do this, you need to know how many days your employees are in office on average. If you operate with an “allowed” number of remote days per week, you can use those numbers, or if you use a desk booking app or workplace management tool, you can glean the data from that.
When you have the data, you need to multiply the average number of days employees spend in the office with the number of employees divided by the length of your workweek.
This will give you the minimum number of workstations needed, however, for most workplaces you need around 30% more workstations than the calculation shows.
Where to go from here
If you are just starting to measure your office space utilization you should keep in mind, that one or more of these metrics may not apply to your particular organization.
A good place to begin, is to focus on the primary objective of office space utilization – to optimize the relationship between capacity and occupancy ratios.