What is the difference between space utilization and occupancy?

By Scott Mitchell

September 03, 2021

A mostly empty office isn't the best use of your space

You have a business, you have an office, and you have staff. Unfortunately, having these things doesn’t automatically mean they’ll all work together and produce efficient work.

The reality is a deliberate, methodical, and a — dare we say — mathematical approach is needed to properly leverage your staff and your space without wasting money.

Space utilization means better ROI

Properly leveraging your people and your workspace is critical to efficiency. This includes efficiency in work, communication, and the value of each square foot in your spaces.

And all of that loops back into the cross-section of your space and your occupancy.

We often think of these two ideas as separate concepts. Our offices, including layout, equipment, and communal areas are treated as separate from occupancy. We plan our “ideal office,” find the right space to support that office, and then slam whatever staff we have into it.

Instead, our spaces should be designed around our occupancy goals, and space utilization is exactly how we do that.

First: what is space utilization?

Space utilization is a very important topic for any business. We won’t be covering it in too much depth here, but we have other content that dissects this idea more. For now, we can summarize space utilization as a mathematical approach to maximizing the efficiency of your physical space.

This broad definition often leads to space utilization being confused with similar concepts, like occupancy, capacity, and interior design. Instead, it’s better to think of these concepts as components of space utilization.

Space utilization is something that exists as a philosophical as well as a mathematic concept. That means there are plenty of ways to calculate it for your business. Space utilization metrics can read like a CVS receipt, but the ones we think have the most impact include:

  • Raw total square footage
  • Functional square footage (with layout and equipment included)
  • Density/heat mats
  • Cost per head/seat
  • Mobility ratios
  • Daily and average peak utilization
  • Peak frequency

How is occupancy different?

Occupancy is certainly a more day-to-day application of space management for many businesses, if not always by choice.

From the first day of searching for a suitable space for your business, occupancy is always important. You need the capacity (a function of max occupancy) to support your current needs while offering you enough space to grow. You’re working with local municipalities or fire marshalls to set max capacities and meet local compliances.

Beyond these more legal applications, occupancy factors into the very fabric of your office layout and design. For example, designing a space for 30 employees in 2018 looked a lot different than it does in 2021. Having an office for a staff of 15 in a space with a max occupancy of 18 may mean it’s time to go office hunting.

Occupancy also goes hand-in-hand with capacity management. When you have a maximum capacity for your spaces, you need methods of keeping track of the in and out traffic. Leveraging physical access control with personal identification and automated software is a great way to maximize your occupancy without compromising security or compliance.

In a lot of ways, occupancy is the first factor in your space utilization strategy.

Take your spaces to the next level

The way we work has changed a lot over the last two years, and in all likelihood, it will keep changing. Expectations around workflows, structure, physical workspaces and access have grown broader than ever, and it’s vital to keep your finger on the pulse to keep your business up to date.

Space utilization, and by extension topics like occupancy, are becoming an increasingly important part of maximizing revenue and efficiency. Be sure to check in with Kisi’s blog to get the latest info and updates.

And if you’re looking for ways to get more from your spaces while bolstering security, give our products a look.

Scott Mitchell
Scott Mitchell

Content marketing strategist with specializations in IT and managed services.