April 27, 2023

The metrics that matter: How to measure the success of offices and workplaces using occupancy data.


Occupancy data this, occupancy data that…

The real estate industry is facing an increasingly competitive and unpredictable landscape. One side effect of this is the new discourse around office occupancy, vacancies, and especially the data that can be derived from both. Many believe that occupancy data is more important now than it was during less volatile times. However, this is a misguided view. It’s not that the topic at hand is more crucial than before, rather, it’s simply more accessible and understandable than ever.  

This is yet another example of demand creating innovation. If new data and occupancy insights are the innovation, then the most pivotal demands are:

  1. Data-driven decision making: The rapidly changing landscape for office and workplaces means that office building owners and the companies within them need to make better informed decisions quickly to stay competitive or recruit/retain talent.
  2. Optimization through technology: Advances in technology like IoT and digital twins are making it easier to collect and analyze occupancy data. This has led to an increase in the amount of data available, as well as its accuracy and reliability.
  3. Innovative spaces to support the new way of working: Office vacancies are at historic highs and the tenants that are renewing their leases are doing so at significantly less square footage. Building owners are facing the challenge of how to respond to this while maintaining differentiation. In the workplace, the way people work has permanently changed, leading to a shift in the way companies plan and realistically use office space.

Occupancy provides insights into how building space is being used, helping owners make better informed decisions about their real estate portfolios, including identifying opportunities for new revenue streams and cost reduction strategies.

In the workplace, as companies reposition their offices and create new spaces, they are using occupancy data to measure the success of these initiatives, ensuring that they are creating spaces that support connection and collaboration while employees are in the office.

Diving deeper into changing work patterns

A new work style has emerged. For the typical hybrid office, working styles are taking the same general form: Mondays and Fridays are now work from home days focused on task completion and productivity. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are in-office days focused on team building, collaboration, and facetime with bosses, mentors, direct reports, or stakeholders.

The weekly occupancy data proves this:

Source: Cohesion Occupancy Data

Offices need to be repositioned to suit the new working style. New hospitality-like amenities are being created, old amenities are being re-configured, vacant spaces are being activated in creative ways such as flex office space, and out of date static office floor plans are being replaced with hoteling desks and informal team workspaces. These changes have one core mission supporting connection and collaboration when employees are in the office.

Occupancy data has emerged as a useful tool that enables teams to analyze metrics that inform decisions for these new ways of working. Not only does it aid in the planning process, but it is essential for measuring the success of their initiatives. In many ways, quantitative data, such as occupancy trends and space utilization, is more precise and contextual than outdated scenario development or even qualitative data such as interviewing tenants or employees – and certainly superior to mimicking what others are doing.

Metrics that matter in measuring success

To measure the success of these initiatives, owners and workplace teams need to track and analyze data, and these occupancy metrics are key to understanding the realities of the new work style:

Space Utilization: The percentage of time that a particular space is occupied over total available time for a specified period. Utilization is helpful for understanding how frequently or infrequently a particular space is used, which can identify top performing spaces and amenities as well as laggards that need to be activated or replaced.

Q4 Average Amenity Utilization (5 building sample size) Source: Cohesion Occupancy Data

Vacancy: The percentage of vacant space divided by total available space. This metric can help people understand how much space in their office or building is underutilized, and how much excess capacity they have so they can make better decisions about consolidating or subleasing space.

People per square foot (people density): The number of people per square foot of space. In the past, people density was typically around 250-300 square feet per person. However, with the rise of office vacancies and hybrid work initiatives, this metric has changed dramatically. For example, the average people density in February was 946 Square Feet / person across four major markets in February 2023*. Today, people density can vary significantly depending on the type of space and the industry.

Data set is a portfolio sample of 3 buildings; tenant company average daily occupancy in 2022.
Source: Cohesion Occupancy Data

*8 building sample size across 4 major markets based on average daily occupancy in February 2023 including staff, tenants, and visitors.

Staff:Tenant Ratio: The ratio of staff members to individual tenants in an office building, based on real-time occupancy. In Q1 of 2023, staff to tenant ratios are around 1 building staff person for every 16 tenants (1:16) versus what it would be if everyone returned to the office for 100% occupancy, which is closer to 1:81. Understanding the ratio of building staff to tenants provides a new perspective on staffing for true occupancy rather than expected occupancy.

Building staff includes managers, security, engineers, janitorial staff and other admin personnel.

Collecting good data and choosing the right partners

However helpful occupancy data can be when it is collected and contextualized properly, it can be just as detrimental and misleading when it is not. To ensure you are getting the most out of your occupancy data, you will need to identify a reliable system for capturing a true picture of occupancy. This can be done in two ways: check-ins based on access control badge swipes and real-time occupancy based on sensors.

Utilizing both keycard swipes and sensors gives your teams an essential view of dynamic occupancy which not only measures the flow of people coming and going, but also collects granular data such as time of day, or type of badge which you can only receive through access control check-ins. This yields dynamic occupancy which is key to true and reliable occupancy information. Data quality is the most important aspect in achieving this. In fact, in today’s overabundance of publicly shared and often conflicting occupancy statistics, the most important metrics may well be based on your buildings’ own occupancy data. 

Choosing the right partners can determine the quality of your occupancy data. While a technology partner that can connect the dots between your access control system and occupancy sensors is essential, IoT is just the first step in creating better processes that lead to even better data.

Before you read any further, recognize that data quality suffers with built-in workarounds. It’s important to find a technology partner that natively integrates to your access control system, eliminating loss in data quality by giving you a more reliable and complete data set. Many technology providers offer building access solutions in lieu of traditional plastic keycards which can get lost or used to grant access to more than one person. Proxy reports that 17.3% of card/fob users lost at least one badge in 2019 and it takes a physical security employee an average of 12.2 minutes of work time to replace a single badge. It may not seem like a lot, but this data loss can add up. Eliminating these obstacles is one positive side effect of office buildings and workplaces shifting away from physical cards towards using employee badges on mobile phones, which has become a catalyst for the recent popularity in technology providers offering Apple Wallet.

Employee badges in Apple Wallet seamlessly integrate into your existing access control systems while taking full advantage of the privacy and security features built into iPhone and Apple Watch. There is no hassle of printing physical badges or possibility of people losing them as the employee badges are stored on their individual device. This means Apple doesn’t see the places people access, so data is private and secure. It is exactly this convenience, ease-of-use, and security that provides a built-in method for high adoption of employee badges on mobile – which in turn ensures that you’re collecting data as frequently and consistently as possible.

However, all of this is futile without a reliable building access control system. Not all are created equal as the card readers used in buildings can vary widely. For example, choosing a leading provider of access control hardware that is known for their reliability and accuracy, like HID, will contribute to high occupancy data quality. To get the most out of your technology partner’s capabilities, they need to be paired with a system that is designed to provide consistent and accurate data, even in challenging environments, and from a wide array of formats including mobile access and Apple Wallet.

If building access control hardware is the system for capturing the data you need and mobile employee badges are a wide-scale adoption method to collect complete data sets, then your technology partner is the bridge that connects the two and contextualizes it into insights in real time, when the data is most relevant and meaningful.

About Cohesion:

Cohesion is a software platform that is leading the way in smart building and workplace technology – seamlessly connecting critical systems with the human ecosystem, simplifying management through transparent operations, and increasing asset value for owners by delivering better experiences and powerful insights. Cohesion offers a secure and comprehensive platform that harnesses building information by uniting workflows and disparate systems to provide actionable insights for improving building operations and enhancing employee experiences.  Cloud-based and IoT-enabled, Cohesion’s platform is customizable, scalable and optimizable to the latest technology developments in the market.  Cohesion has a robust library of integrations that include HID and offers engaging products such as employee badges in Apple Wallet.

For more information, visit https://cohesionib.com

About HID:  

HID powers the trusted identities of the world’s people, places, and things. We make it possible for people to transact safely, work productively and travel freely. Our trusted identity solutions give people convenient access to physical and digital places and connect thingsthat can be identified, verified, and tracked digitally. Millions of people around the world use HID products and services to navigate their everyday lives, and billions of things are connected through HID technology. We work with governments, educational institutions, hospitals, financial institutions, industrial businesses, and some of the most innovative companies on the planet. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, HID has over 4,500 employees worldwide and operates international offices that support more than 100 countries. HID is an ASSA ABLOY Group brand. For more information, visit www.hidglobal.com

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