by Drew Howells-Tabacco , Erik Steffensen

Your company’s culture is key to sustained success, and the purveyors of your culture are your people. Employees spend on average 2,087 hours per year working, primarily in your offices, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Space is expensive and workplace experience has a massive impact on productivity and engagement. Is your physical environment helping or hurting you? How can you tell?

Flex work programs, automation and virtual collaboration are changing when, how and what people do at work. You can’t afford not to get as much value and utility from every square foot you use, but you can’t manage what you can’t measure. You need intelligent information about how your space is used.

Finding the right accurate, economical, and manageable space measurement tools, while protecting your employees right to privacy, can seem daunting, but a recent explosion of solutions are making things easier and more affordable than ever. Here’s an overview.

App-Assisted Observation

Fast and inexpensive, this solution comprises a squad of low-cost labor who use tablets to observe occupancy and activity at intervals throughout the day during a study period. These yield heat maps and stats about occupancy and usage over time. The observation period is limited, reducing the “big brother” feel of ongoing tracking options.

Badge and Reservation Analysis – Use What Uou Have For a First Cut

You may find your team’s space use data is already being gathered. Combine the timecard data you have with conference reservations on your collaboration suite, and you can get an estimate of occupancy and conference room usage on a given day.

Seat and Occupancy Sensors – Intel on Your Desk Space

These systems do just what you’d imagine, tell when and where people are sitting. This helps in sizing open plan spaces and determining possible groups for remote work. They can also determine utilization of “casual workspace.” This information is gathered anonymously, ensuring personal privacy.

Video Analysis – I See You!

Beyond seating occupancy, this system identifies individuals (in a numerical, privacy-concealing way), to track movement patterns. This “traffic analysis” provides insights about frequency, workflow and convenience. These insights can help optimize operational processes and the value of amenities.

App and Device-Based – Big Brother

Like it or not, your employees already walk around with tracking devices – mobile computers, smart phones and tablets. Occupancy tracking can be applied, correlating a person’s location with their activity. This information can show what teams need to be effective at the office. While this may be invasive for some, safeguards can be applied to help your employees feel you have their best interest at heart.

Bottom line, data solutions for intelligent space management and optimization are economical and readily available to fit every culture and situation. Given the cost of space today and the positive impact that great work environments have on employee experience, you can’t afford to not have every square foot working for you.