Office Space Management: Which Occupancy Study Is Right for You?

businesswoman standing in modern open office space

Flexibility when it comes to remote work, a greater focus on employee health, and changes to the way businesses use their office space are all trends that were highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic. And they'll continue to be important for the foreseeable future, especially as many companies begin the process of getting their employees back to work in a post-COVID world.

Because of the pandemic, we've also learned in 2021 that office space planning can have a direct effect on the health of employees. Not only can office layouts help prevent the spread of communicable diseases, but it can boost mental health as well. Employees who feel safe and at ease when they're in the office will most likely be more productive.

You can show them that you are dedicated to their well-being by making noticeable changes to your space. But before you deploying any new office solutions, consider the various approaches to gathering usual data and which one will provide you with the most accurate information.

1. Observational Study

As the name suggests, an observational study involves doing just that: observing your office space. You may hire an external firm or individual to do the legwork, or you can choose internal personnel. Either way, the person who observes the space will try to gauge employee activities and measure occupancy throughout the office.

On the surface, an observational study may seem like the easiest and most reliable way to gather data. And it does allow employers to gather data objectively. However, it leaves more room for error than any other option.

First, your employees may feel uncomfortable having someone walking around the office to observe them. This can lead to unnatural behaviors that can have a negative impact on your results. Many employees may even see it as invasive, and it can hamper productivity.

It's also time-consuming. The longer an observational study takes place, the more accurate your data will be. Unfortunately, most observational studies only last a few weeks, which can lead to several issues. Not only are your results limited, but they may not be completely reliable because some of your employees may be out of the office for business travel or paid time off. And when you're focused on health and safety during and just after a pandemic, you don't have time to wait weeks or even months for your data.

2. Badge Study

Another popular option is a badge study. This works if you have a system in place that requires employees to swipe a badge to access various aspects of your office. It's objective, and, unlike the observational study, it's not as invasive — your employees may not even know you're doing it. You can also integrate your data via API.

But a badge study has its own problems. First, it's not going to provide you with a complete set of data. For example, should one employee swipe their badge as they enter the office for the day and then hold the door open as a courtesy for every employee coming to work at the same time, only one employee will be counted. Or you may have an employee who comes into the office to work for a few hours and leaves at lunchtime. Your badge data won't reflect any of this. In the long run, you end up spending way too much time and money to create data that doesn't fully flesh out a good picture of your occupancy.

Badge studies can also interfere with any plans you have to shift towards a hoteling or hot desking system. Because the badge doesn't count time spent in the office, you'll have no idea who is a good candidate for this type of setup and who requires a dedicated workspace.

Last but not least, while your employees may not know you're doing it, it's probably best to disclose that information. And some may still see it as an invasion of privacy.

3. Sensor Study

Your third option, a sensor study, provides the benefits of badge and observational studies and then some. Essentially, it involves installing sensors throughout the office — such as under desks, on tables or on conference room walls — and allowing them to gather accurate, real-time and continuous data that shows whether a space is occupied and for how long.

It's more cost-effective than the other options, and it doesn't disrupt the daily workflow. It's objective and doesn't take up any of your time. Best of all, you can integrate it with many technology products you may already have in place, such as your badge system or conference room scheduling software. And, because you'll begin receiving data right away, you can make both short-term and long-term decisions that have a positive impact on your employees, your business and your bottom line.

Which One is Right for Your Business?

None of the three occupancy studies mentioned is perfect. But if you're looking for the option that's actionable and affordable and will help you make the most informed decisions, sensor technology with 4SITE by CORT is your best option. It will help you navigate these uncertain times with more flexibility and certainty.

It will also help you move forward. As we get back to work and continue dealing with the pandemic and its aftermath, things will continue to change. Sensor technology with 4SITE and our real-time data will help you make faster decisions about your space when something new arises. It's the best option for maintaining a safe and healthy workplace while continuing to focus on productivity at the same time.