IOT for Office Occupancy and Usage planning

IOT for Office Occupancy and Usage planning

IOT sensors, the Internet of Things, can play a big role in the new challenges related to the planning and management of occupancy in office spaces. 

Dive into current trends in occupancy management, the objectives pursued by occupants and Corporate Real Estate (CRE) managers, the measurement tools available, and the interpretation of the results.

Key figures for workspace occupancy

Less than 40% is the average occupancy rate calculated by CBRE in their 2023-2024 report on Workspaces and occupancy, based on a study of clients representing 32 million square meters in the world.

This workspace occupancy rate has been declining everywhere since the COVID period. The reasons are clear: the development and generalization of a hybrid work organization. A work organization that mixes: remote work (home, etc.), office work and hybrid mode. So-called “hybrid” work is becoming more widespread.


Another major study, documented by JJL (Jones Lang LaSalle), Global Occupancy Planning Benchmarking Report 2024, describes this underlying trend. According to figures published by JJL, 87% of organizations have a program related to hybrid work, and 49% of organizations will extend an existing program in the next 3 years.

Currently, office work is 3.1 days per week

JJL Global Occupancy Planning Benchmarking Report 2024

Another study, from Freespace, identifies that Tuesday and Thursday are the days when offices are busiest. On Monday, and especially Friday, employees prefer to work from home. The occupancy rate is also lower on Wednesdays.

Occupancy Planning. For what?

Why measure and act on the occupancy rate of workspaces?

According to JLL, in their 2024 report on Global Occupancy Planning, the main motivations for a hybrid working mode are:

Buildings and work spaces are, for many companies (especially in the service sector – the tertiary sector -) the second largest cost item after salaries. The total cost per square meter and per year of an office space varies, depending on the location and the level of comfort, between €200 and €700. If we consider an average of 10 to 15 square meters per person, an occupancy rate of 40% means a theoretical annual waste of between €1,200 and €6,300 per employee!

Of course, this waste figure must be put into perspective. Achieving an occupancy rate of 100% is unrealistic, and undoubtedly undesirable, if we want to maintain a certain level of comfort and flexibility. But reality shows that the occupancy rate decreases over time, and therefore the relative cost of offices increases in the same proportion.

Finally, the hybrid mode of organization of work also brings changes in the allocation of spaces. We no longer work in the same way. Interactions are organized differently today. The review of the organization of workspaces includes, in addition to individual offices and meeting rooms, other spaces such as:

  • Seat Sharing
  • Focus Space
  • Collaboration Spaces

IOT at the service of occupancy measurement

Measuring the occupancy rate of buildings, office spaces (desks), and meeting rooms is an essential step if we want to optimize spaces, reduce costs, improve comfort and productivity.

There are classic measurement methods, such as employee badging, reservation data, identification by WIFI, Bluetooth or RFID. These methods can be complex (expensive) to implement. In addition, they are often individualized, can impact respect for private life, are not favored by unions, and perhaps generate problems with European regulations linked to the GDPR.

The placement of IOT sensors can be seen as an advantageous, and anonymous, alternative to produce the data necessary for understanding and planning occupancy in offices.

IOT sensors for measuring occupancy

There are many sensors available, depending on the type and quality of measurements expected.

  • Overall measurement of the occupancy of a building or office space.
  • Measurement of occupancy by zone, by individual office
  • Measurement of the occupancy of meeting rooms or collaborative spaces


General traffic in the building. How many employees and visitors are present, per time slot, per day, per week… There are different sensors, based on infrared signal measurement, or image analysis (which are not transmitted) , to give a good estimate of the number of occupants of a building, or an office space

It is possible to measure occupancy by work zone, or even by individual office (particularly in organizations based on shared offices). There are individual sensors, to be placed under desks, or zone sensors allowing you to count the number of people present.

The occupancy rate of meeting rooms. But also the usage rate, based on the capacity of the meeting rooms. A meeting room can be considered busy all day, but if this room is used by one person, even though its capacity is much larger, this is far from optimal. For this purpose, there are simple presence sensors (presence or not), but also sensors that can determine the number of people present in the meeting room.

The level of toilet attendance. Sensors on the doors make it possible to estimate the number of visits.

Key Metrics of Office Occupancy

What to do with occupancy data generated by IOT sensors?

The 2 main “metrics” for measuring occupancy are the occupancy rate and the usage rate.

The occupancy rate measures whether a space, an office, is occupied or not. 

The usage rate refines this measurement by taking into account the number of occupants.

Based on the measurement of the occupancy rate and the usage rate (available per time slot, per day, per week, per month, per zone, per floor, per building, etc.), we can then calculate many indicators, such as:

  • the vacancy rate
  • the density of use,
  • tops/flops in terms of use
  • Days or periods of the day with high occupancy intensity
  • etc.

Benefits of (re-)planning office occupancy

There are many strategies, which will depend on the objectives of the company:

  • Increased comfort: occupancy data makes it possible to better understand needs, and therefore, to adapt the organization of work spaces (fewer individual offices, more meeting rooms, new collaborative, quiet spaces, etc.). .). Improving comfort can be an argument for reducing “churn”, limiting the departure of employees, in a world where a war for talent is growing.
  • Increased Productivity. Adapting office spaces to new needs and new methods of collaboration will influence employee productivity.
  • Ensure good air quality. Air quality is often directly linked to the level of office occupancy. This is especially the case when the ventilation does not react directly to the actual occupancy, or if the ventilation is not sized to accommodate all levels of occupancy. 
    Read also: The Relationship between Air Quality and Office Occupancy
  • Lower the costs:
    • Knowledge of occupancy levels over time (by period of the day, by day of the week, depending on the seasons) makes it possible to review energy consumption (heating, ventilation, air conditioning). Closing floors and spaces on certain days can drastically reduce energy consumption
    • Organize cleaning according to needs (use), and not simply on the basis of a fixed schedule
    • Reduce allocated spaces

Continuous measurement of Occupancy

It is important to mention that measuring occupancy should not be seen as a “one shot” action. Organizations evolve, and habits change. You must be able to refine your strategies over time, based on measured reality.

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