Currently, commercial office space is undergoing its most significant transformation since the 1950/60s. This can be attributed to the shift towards hybrid working and the need for more occupant-centric workplaces.
These very tangible changes are forcing businesses and commercial real estate managers to review the efficiency and performance of their current facilities. To perform tasks successfully, today’s workers expect building design to accommodate their needs. How employees and occupants interact with your infrastructure will affect their productivity and well-being, as well as your company's ROI and carbon footprint.
This is where occupancy analytics come in.
What are occupancy analytics?
In the context of commercial real estate space, the definition of occupancy analytics refers to the analysis of occupancy data collected by IoT sensors that monitor and track the movement of individuals throughout a building or site. The aim of applying these analytics is to enhance space utilization and efficiency to create smart buildings that meet business goals such as improved sustainability, overhead reduction, and better business performance.
There are two ways to leverage occupancy analytics in commercial offices:
Firstly, you can integrate real-time occupancy analytics into workspace management platforms such as meeting and desk booking systems, building management systems, cleaning scheduling systems or other building location-based services to improve the overall workplace experience for the employees, make them more productive and enable building automation that can reduce operational costs such as electricity and energy.
The second way is to analyze the data over a period of time to identify usage trends of your commercial office space to optimize your space utilization. When you understand how frequently and for what purpose certain rooms and facilities are being used, you can look at ways to optimize or remove these underutilized spaces before they become a liability.
Advantages of occupancy analytics
Applying the insight you get from occupancy data can help you make performance-led decisions that help you improve on the following areas:
Energy: Understanding how and when certain areas of your building are being used in real-time can enable you to schedule and automate lighting and heating as and when it is needed. Electrical and HVAC devices will no longer be left to operate in unoccupied rooms. This helps to ensure that energy is not being exerted on heating, lighting and cooling rooms unnecessarily.
Space utilization: One of the biggest opportunities for saving money is through improving space utilization within your existing facilities. By having an accurate understanding of how staff and visitors move around different rooms and floors of your building, you can identify areas that are not being used optimally and spot problems with the current layout that hinder productivity and communication, ultimately impacting business performance. Facilities managers can then make informed decisions to eliminate certain areas of real estate or change their use so they can be used to their full potential.
Employee productivity: The future of occupancy analytics is focused on creating occupant-centric workplaces that drive productivity. Integrating real-time occupancy data into booking systems that quickly show available spaces will help employees reduce the time they spend searching for meeting rooms or desks.
Not only this but offering building location-based services by integrating real-time workspace occupancy analytics into technology platforms which locate employees' physical geographic whereabouts (such as wayfinding apps ), will be an important step to give employees the requirements they need to locate other members of staff and navigate around the building.
Real results for National Grid
We recently sat down to chat with Simon Carter from Anticus Consulting. In his previous role as Head of Corporate Property for National Grid, Simon was tasked with reforming and improving the efficiency of the company’s large estate of commercial offices, depots, stores and training centres.
With a workforce of over 12,000 employees, the company prioritized the need to create a supportive environment for its workers while also meeting its financial and emissions reduction targets.
Simon stated that Irisys’s discreet, ceiling-mounted people counters were quickly and easily installed across the estate. Within weeks, the devices were able to bring in data that almost instantaneously created results.
The benefits of occupancy data for National Grid:
- Health and safety – Occupancy data helped the facilities team to ensure that regulations were being met and that spaces were not being overfilled. Simon points to the fact that smart work-based environments are flexible environments, making it easy to lose control of the numbers. With sensors, you and your employees will immediately have a view of how the open-plan office is currently being occupied and whether meeting rooms are available.
- Classic efficiency – The traditional response to business growth has usually been to expand the premises. Decisions like this are often based on frequent complaints from employees struggling to find desk space or available meeting rooms. But sometimes, it’s necessary to look at the bigger picture. Accurate data may reveal that one-off events like annual all-employee meetings may cause disruptions; however, they are not representative of the day-to-day occupancy levels in the building. Having occupancy data instantly available in a cloud portal for all members of the property team allowed National Grid to manage the expectations of employees and come up with suitable alternatives to resolve problems with confidence and clarity.
- Empowered employees – Flexible workspaces, although great on the one hand, can cause anxiety and frustration for employees that need to plan their meetings and days according to what space is available to them. Real-time occupancy data helps National Grid’s employees effectively navigate around a location and optimize their workday.
- Significant cost reductions – As part of a wider smart workspace initiative, Irisys helped National Grid make savings of over £8 million per year. Through understanding when and how buildings across the main estate were being utilized, National Grid was able to consolidate its property portfolio and close down costly, underutilized locations.
- Fact-based perspective on how employees interact with a building – Key stakeholders bought into the occupancy system as it collected data anonymously and enabled them to evaluate the peaks and troughs in occupancy and see how this affected not only the utility of the building but also employee productivity. This kind of insight helped National Grid to improve the facilities offered to employees (such as quiet spaces, cafeterias etc) and other incentives to make their workday experience better.
- Positive results from local government – National Grid’s new location in Warwickshire required the facility to provide extra parking in order to accommodate staff relocated from other facilities. From a regulatory perspective, this can often be a very challenging appeal to make. However, the company presented the council with its occupancy data, showcasing how the smart working environment had caused an increase in occupants, necessitating more parking allocation. This approach is revolutionary as the parking space ratio is usually calculated based on the square meterage of the building.
Read more about our work with National Grid, in the case study here.
Occupancy analytics, as demonstrated, can be a real game-changer for businesses and will most likely be utilised by your competitors in the not so distant future. Sound business decisions will always be dictated by reliable data. If you’d like to find out more about how Irisys and our True Occupancy solution can help your commercial property step into the future with occupancy analytics, Request a demo or speak to an expert today.
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