Open Office Layout

6 Ways To Capture Room & Desk Occupancy Data In The Office

One of the main reasons for adopting a desk booking system for your office is to determine how efficiently the space is being used and how to optimize the space. This is determined by the occupancy patterns of people who use these spaces for their work. Occupancy information helps to identify whether a space is being used and how well it it put to use. To be able to determine how well a space is being used, we need data on the actual usage of the space. The actual usage of the space is determined by inputs that are needed such as when a user occupies the space and for how long. The method of collecting this information can be quite varied with mixed results. These methods can vary from extremely manual to completely automated. The type of method being used depends a lot on the accuracy of data expected by management and the expenses that need to be incurred to implement the chosen method.

Here we look at a 6 ways to capture room and desk occupancy data in the office.


1. Spot Check Solution

While it is considered the most primitive of the methods to track occupancy, unfortunately, many organizations still employ this technique by looking around the office space for rooms or desks that are reserved but are otherwise unoccupied. The receptionist has a bird’s eye view of the space and can actually keep track of the reservations and occupancy. There is probably nothing beneficial to the organization to this approach. This approach is used if the management is not really considering any form of occupancy analysis other than to police the space for space usage.


2. Physical Key Solution

Many small offices follow this technique of having meeting rooms and desks or desk cabinets locked. Typically small offices employ this tactic such as law and audit firms and other non-technical firms that do not fancy having high technology tools govern their space needs. To use these spaces, the user must approach the front desk or the receptionist to obtain the key after manually or electronically filling in a request. The request and return of the key forms the time stamp on the usage of the space. While this is a very low cost way of recording occupancy information, It has many drawbacks such as the need to obtain a physical key and a person in charge of having to manage and maintain the records.  Secondly, the requesting and returning of the key as time stamps does not necessarily mean the space is occupied for that period of time. These are highly manual and cumbersome approach and is prone to mistakes, delays and poor usage of the spaces. Again, many small offices employ this technique to have a close watch on usage without investing in any form of technology.


3. Desk & Room Booking Software Only Solution

A desk and room booking system such as ecobook provides capabilities for users to be able to check-in and check-out of the spaces. This is done by sending out reminders and enforcing policies such as auto-cancellation if check-in is not performed within a certain pre-defined amount of time. By enforcing such rules, users will be compelled to act of their reservations. While this provides a simple way of keeping track of occupancy, it has many drawbacks. Firstly, it is a highly manual process of having to log into the website or the mobile app to check-in and check-out. Secondly, the check-in process does not indicate that the user is actually occupying the meeting space. In most organizations large and small turf wars on meeting spaces result in users booking such spaces over a long period of time and checking in without actual occupancy. In such cases, there is a huge discrepancy between the data being gathered and the actual usage of  the space.


4. Digital Hardware Devices

These electronic hardware devices are tools that are either mounted near the desks or outside meeting rooms. They are lightweight and have features that can assist in information dissemination and data collection. With these devices in place, the ability to track check-in and check-out of desks and meeting rooms and desks become much more effective. This is primarily because the user must be near the space to interact with the device. For example, the ecobook desk and room display panels come with a touch screen to allow users to check-in and check-out. It also comes with NFC and HID cards to allow users to use their existing staff card to authenticate and register themselves at the spaces. Timers on the device help to keep track of no-shows so that reservations can be automatically released if the user does not check-in in time. The advantage, as we have explained, is that, data collection becomes seamless and more accurate. It cannot be gamed unlike in a software only solution. The data collection is also real-time and gives an accurate picture of the occupancy. The downside is the need to purchase and mount these devices which can be more expensive than other options. So, the investment in these devices depend on the importance attached with the need to track the occupancy rates.


5. Smart Locks

Smart Locks are getting more and more pervasive in modern offices. They help to bring intelligence into the traditional door locking mechanism. Smart Locks are usually integrated with software that helps to keep track of access rights, alarms and door access logs. This information can be quite useful in terms of capturing information that can be mapped to a booking system to monitor occupancy rates. The advantages are that, smart locks provide control as well as information from what is otherwise a mundane task of opening and closing doors. In most organizations, doors are accessed through keypad locks and access cards which users perform anyway. So, tracking information from them can provide a good means of data collection. The downside is that, many smart locks are still more expensive from a traditional EM lock. Also, smart locks can only be mounted on certain types of doors. This limits their usage in many office spaces. When mentioning, EM locks, they are also a good source of access data. The main problem is that many of the EM locks run on pure electronic and electrical technology and their software are closed source. So, getting the data out can be quite challenging. However, if data extraction from these solutions can be achieved, then occupancy data collections can be applied to a wider variety of offices which have these in place already. The solution becomes a software problem without having to perform any kind of physical or structural changes to the office itself. Ecobook has necessary micro-services that help to aggregate this information from the different third-party providers. Since the model, brand and access methods vary, the micro-services need to be configured to understand, interpret, store and analyze the incoming data.


6. Sensors

Sensors offer the most effective and non-intrusive form of data collections. Sensors act on the occupancy by monitoring the environment. Sensors detect the presence of people inside the room or at the desk thereby automatically determining the occupancy rates. Sensors naturally come with back-end software solutions that help to collect, aggregate, analyze and report on the information. For example, ecobook collects data through sensors that are mounted underneath the desks or on the roof of meeting spaces to collect data. These are typically infrared sensors that can detect human body presence and send a quick and short ping to ecobook on the status. Real-time heat maps can be generated and analyzed from these sensors. Like the digital hardware devices, the advantages are plenty. It is firstly, non-intrusive without the need for human interaction. Secondly, it can collect data in real-time and is considered the most accurate. The downside, again, is the heavy investment in the purchase and mounting of the sensors at each location of interest.


Occupancy monitoring is becoming a commonly requested feature in many organizations and even building owners who would like to get greater visibility into how their space is being used. Depending on the type of organization, its imperative to access and analyze data and the necessary budget, different techniques can be employed. In this article, we have covered the most common methods of detecting occupancy that organizations can employ.