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CRE Leaders Focus on Utilization Rates as No. 1 Guiding Factor

The latest CBRE research reveals utilization as the top metric Corporate Real Estate (CRE) leaders prioritize when considering portfolio performance. Utilization locked in the top spot for the second consecutive year, landing in front of Cost Per Seat and Seat Density – two drill-down metrics.

“Utilization will continue to dominate occupancy metrics as the data informs workstyle personas, employee experience programs and portfolio optimization strategies,” the Global Workplace & Occupancy Insights Report states.

“Utilization will continue to dominate occupancy metrics as the data informs workstyle personas, employee experience programs and portfolio optimization strategies,”

2022-2023 CBRE GLOBAL WORKPLACE & OCCUPANCY INSIGHTS REPORT, CHAPTER 4

In the sprint to get hybrid work right, workplace managers and CRE Leaders alike found themselves searching for data that closed the gap between what we think is true of space utilization and what is actually true. 

Wi-Fi Based Utilization Systems Gain Traction

The static data that corporations used back in the days of cubicles are falling out of practice as CRE leaders realize the need for continuous space analytics. As emerging Workplace Strategists roles rise up and collaborate with other corporate leaders, they’re coming up against the data gaps left by the old way of measuring utilization – badging, visual observations, clicker studies, and room sensors. 

When it comes to Badge Data, we hear again and again about the top challenges of using badging systems – mainly the obvious, no one is badging out, making it impossible to see utilization highs and lows. Yet the 2022-2023 survey showed Badge Swipes way out in front as a methodology for examining utilization.

Even more surprising is Visual Observations as a methodology on any list. Those clicker studies, or boots-on-the-floor people counting, have to be adjusted for holidays, for events, for weather – and these days, surveys like that simply couldn’t keep pace with the newly dynamic workplace. The CBRE report highlights the opportunity to work with CRE leaders to share the values of Wi-Fi based solutions.

According to the CBRE research, there are 5 ways utilization is currently measured, with Badge Swipes way out in front as a method of collecting data. The remaining were: Badge Swipes (93%), Visual Observations (34%), Wi-Fi and Network Analysis (32%), Ceiling Sensors (23%), and Threshold Sensors (15%).

  1. Badge Swipes (93%)

2. Visual Observations (34%)

3. Wi-Fi and Network Analysis (32%)

4. Ceiling Sensors (23%)

5. Threshold Sensors (15%)

Ceiling sensors saw a quick rise in popularity when social distancing became necessary, and corporations transitioned to hybrid work models overnight. They add valuable granularity to utilization metrics, but they need to be integrated into other systems for context and clarity. Sensors, like any hardware installation, come with the associated time and costs of wiring, maintenance, battery replacements, and increasing costs at scale. 

For our part, we advise CRE leaders to think more about the costs associated with space utilization, or underutilization and instead ask questions that help meet strategic goals.

  • Do I have any underutilized spaces?
  • When and how could I repurpose them?
  • Do I have enough collaborative spaces?
  • I keep hearing Department X needs more space. What is the peak utilization in their designated area and how often does that occur?
  • How does a Downtown Building compare to a Suburb?

Continuous Utilization Analytics for Corporate Spaces

These types of strategic questions call for a new way of thinking about how we collect utilization metrics. These decisions require continuous, agile space analytics that can be adjusted should the KPIs shift focus. As the report shows, year over year there has been a greater awareness of the value of understanding utilization, and the ability to reference data when requests for space come in.

Getting to actual utilization rates is a big part of workplace management jobs these days – a lot of the CRE leaders are fielding requests for departmental expansions, hybrid workspaces, flex space or collaborative spaces – a tough task without knowing how existing spaces are used.

The CBRE report called out utilization data as a way to have an “unprecedented positive impact” on CRE: “Utilization data is used to measure employee experience and preferences that inform user personas and design standards. Over time, space designs are refined to better support worker needs, increasing utilization rates. This virtuous cycle has an unprecedented positive impact on portfolio optimization over time, creating portfolios and spaces that are directly aligned with measurable user preferences and quantified space demand.”

Bottom line: The right metric makes anything possible.

“Utilization data is used to measure employee experience and preferences that inform user personas and design standards. Over time, space designs are refined to better support worker needs, increasing utilization rates. This virtuous cycle has an unprecedented positive impact on portfolio optimization over time, creating portfolios and spaces that are directly aligned with measurable user preferences and quantified space demand.”

2022-2023 CBRE Global Workplace & occupancy insights report, chapter 4

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