According to research related to the future of workspaces, the UK’s office market is in flux and currently undergoing its most significant transformation since the 1950/60s. This can be attributed to the communications revolution and the growth of industries that primarily rely on knowledge workers.
These very tangible changes are forcing businesses and commercial real estate managers to review the efficiency and performance of their current facilities. It’s essential that the buildings we occupy are designed in a manner that is reflective of the modern worker’s 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.
Definition of occupancy analytics
In the context of facilities management and optimisation, occupancy analytics refers to the study of data collected by smart devices or other manual applications in order to track the movement of individuals throughout a building or site with the aim of enhancing the space for efficiency and utility while also meeting business goals such as improved sustainability, overhead reduction, and better business performance.
Benefits of occupancy analytics
When operating a commercial property, knowledge really is power. By assessing the data derived from your occupancy analytics tools, you will be able to improve your facility's efficiency and performance based on accurate and relevant information.
Here are some of the key benefits of occupancy analytics:
Energy efficiency and cost-savings: Understanding how and when certain areas of your building are being used enables you to schedule 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 minimise the risk of any technical mishaps due to unattended devices whilst ensuring that money is not being spent on heating, lighting and cooling rooms unnecessarily.
Space utilisation optimisation: One of the biggest opportunities for saving money with occupancy analytics is through improving space utilisation within your existing facilities. By having an accurate and real-time understanding of how different rooms, floors and even whole buildings are utilised, you are able to identify areas that are not being used optimally. Employees working in under-utilised areas can be relocated to other under-utilised areas, boosting the space utilisation in this area and enabling the facilities manager to cancel the lease, sell or rent out the newly vacated space.
Improve employee productivity: By understanding how staff and visitors move around your building, occupancy analytics can help you to identify problems with the current layout that hinder productivity and communication, ultimately impacting business performance. Occupancy analytics can help you to create more open, free-flowing spaces that occupants enjoy using, and, in return, feedback into the revenue loop of your organisation.
Improved wellbeing of occupants: Employees spend an increasing amount of time at work; therefore, the facilities you provide need to accommodate their needs in order to sustain a healthy mental and physical wellbeing. Obstacles in the office layout, poorly attended amenities, and dimly lit rooms with unsuitable temperatures are all stressors which will not only influence productivity but also your employees’ overall health and wellbeing. The insights gained from occupancy analytics will help you to better understand and manage the challenges that may be affecting your staff’s workspace so that you can take quick, proactive decisions to improve their environment.
New income streams: Once you have reviewed the current data and made the necessary improvements to your commercial property, you may find yourself with additional floor space or interesting opportunities to collaborate with other businesses. You can rent out office space or provide facilities for pop-up shops for online businesses – opportunities are abundant.
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 prioritised the need to create a supportive environment for its workers while also meeting it’s 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 on 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, they 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 optimise 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 utilised, National Grid was able to consolidate its property portfolio and close down costly, under-utilised 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 parking space ratio is usually calculated based on the square meterage of the building.
To read more about our work with National Grid, download our 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 can help your commercial property step into the future with occupancy analytics, get in touch with our experts today.