Understanding your office space usage through the insightful lens of heatmaps can be a revelation. Especially in the era of hybrid work. The visual representation of how space is being used adds data to intuition and allows businesses to make strategic decisions about their real estate assets.
Consider this visual:
The fourth floor of your HQ office. It frequently “feels” empty, but the meeting rooms “seem” to get used. Looking at the heatmap, you can measure space usage, rather than relying on perception, and clearly see which areas are most popular and which are often underutilized.
In this blog, we will explore ways to gather heatmap data and the different strategies for implementing the insights learned from these visuals.
How to Gather Heatmap Data
Generating a heatmap of your office space usually involves software or technology designed for this purpose. Space booking software is a fast and flexible option to get started. By capturing desk, meeting room, and other office space bookings, heatmaps can be generated to help you visualize the occupancy trends in your space.
Another option are sensors. These allow for precise measurement of space usage and can integrate with your space booking software. Sensors are more of an investment and lengthy onboarding time, so we typically recommend starting with software to manage your space, and later integrating this with sensors. However, no matter which technology route you choose, make sure that heatmaps are included as part of the standard reporting and analytics, not just static booking or sensor data.
How to use Heatmap Data
For the purposes of this blog, we are going to consider the currently, very common scenario that you’ve analyzed your heatmap data, and (shockingly) have space that isn’t being used at full capacity. This could be entire locations, floors within each building, or sections of specific floors. Heatmaps will help you visualize exactly what areas of your real estate are being used frequently, and where you have opportunities to make changes.
Once you’ve identified these opportunities, there are three primary avenues to consider when it comes making the most of underused spaces: amalgamation, subletting, and repurposing. Each option presents distinct advantages and considerations, enabling companies to align their office spaces more closely with their evolving needs and goals.
Let’s look at each one in detail:
1. Amalgamation: Creating Synergy through Consolidation
Amalgamation involves combining multiple smaller office spaces into a larger, unified one. This approach capitalizes on space efficiency and can foster greater collaboration among teams. Here’s how heatmaps can guide this decision:
- Identifying Collaboration Opportunities: Heatmaps reveal areas of frequent interaction, enabling companies to group teams that work closely together. By consolidating these teams into shared spaces, cross-functional collaboration can be significantly enhanced.
- Improve In-Office Experience: Heatmaps enable companies to see which areas are naturally being underutilized by staff. By “shutting off” these areas and consolidating bookings, not only does the company have the opportunity to test how business is impacted by using less space, but employees get a more vibrant and busier environment when they come to the office. This works best when the driver of in-person work is collaboration and face time with colleagues.
- Creating a Unified Culture: Combining teams under one roof can help create a stronger sense of unity and shared purpose. Especially since most people are only coming to the office a few days a week or month, it’s important that their time together forges connection to each other and the organization
2. Subletting: Optimizing Costs and Resources
If your office space usage analysis reveals areas of consistently lower occupancy, subletting can be a viable strategy to optimize costs while still maintaining a presence in the building. Here’s how heatmaps can aid in making informed subletting decisions:
- Identifying Underutilized Zones: Heatmaps clearly indicate areas that are rarely frequented. By subletting these spaces to other companies, you can generate additional revenue streams and offset some of your operational costs.
- Cost Reduction: Subletting allows you to share overhead expenses, such as utilities and maintenance, with the subtenants. This can lead to significant cost savings over time.
- Strategic Use of Resources: Subletting enables you to allocate resources more efficiently. Spaces that are currently underutilized by your organization can find purpose in accommodating other businesses.
3. Repurposing: Adapting to New Needs
Heatmaps may reveal that certain areas of your office are better suited for alternative purposes. Repurposing these spaces can help align your workspace with your evolving business needs:
- Identifying Niche Requirements: Heatmaps provide insights into specialized usage patterns. If certain spaces cater to specific activities, such as quiet work or brainstorming sessions, repurposing can optimize the functionality of those areas.
- Enhancing Productivity: Repurposing underutilized spaces to align with the specific needs of your teams can enhance their productivity. For instance, creating relaxation zones or dedicated quiet spaces can improve employee well-being and focus.
- Employee Retention: More than ever, employees have a high expectation of what they need and want from the office. As companies compete to attract and retain the best talent, an office that both looks and functions the way employees need it to, is essential.
No Matter Which Strategy You Choose, Do This First!
Using heatmaps, companies have an exciting opportunity to make your space work the way you want it to. However, no matter which strategy you use, it’s ESSENTIAL that you test the impact in advance. In other words, before making big changes to your real estate footprint or design, make sure it will work for your business by testing it out first. Start by “shutting down” naturally underutilized areas, locations, or spaces you are considering repurposing or eliminating and consolidate bookings. Take note of the impact on the business and response from employees. Would this be a good long-term change?
Utilizing heatmaps to understand your office space usage is a transformative step toward optimizing your real estate assets. Armed with insights into occupancy patterns, and interactions, businesses can make informed decisions regarding amalgamation, subletting, or repurposing. Each option holds the potential to streamline operations, boost collaboration, reduce costs, and align your office spaces more effectively with your organizational goals. With heatmaps as your guide, you can embark on a journey of space optimization that’s both strategic and forward thinking.