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Making the most of data to build a sustainable workplace

By Karl Breeze, CEO at Matrix Booking

As the UK’s deadline for the Net Zero 2030 targets draws nearer, the push for companies to lower their emissions and tackle climate change has intensified. With the shift towards flexible work arrangements—always-in, remote and everything in between—the challenge has grown. It’s hard to predict when and how office spaces will be used. Employees have varied schedules, often book rooms they don’t use or work from home on a whim. This makes managing energy use efficiently a complex puzzle.

This is where knowing who’s in the office and when becomes essential. Having accurate, current data on office use lets managers match real needs, not guesses. The key is to ensure that occupancy data is based on actual use rather than bookings that can go unfulfilled.

In this way, occupancy data helps businesses turn unpredictable patterns into opportunities for energy saving. It enables them to take real steps towards cutting down on waste and emissions.

Occupancy data is more than just numbers. It’s a strategic tool that reveals the ebb and flow of office use throughout the week. The data gathered will allow companies to better plan a working week that suits the more flexible nature of today’s workforce. It enables a focus on the best use of the workspace both on an environmental level and a productivity one.

Take, for instance, the decision-making process around setting mandatory in-office days. By analysing which days are consistently popular for in-office work, companies can establish those as the office days and close the premises on the others. This will ensure that face-to-face collaboration thrives, along with productivity.

Acting on occupancy data to close the office on quieter days leads to significant savings on energy, commuting emissions and operational costs. But there’s a trade-off. On days the office sits empty, it becomes an underused asset, costing the company without providing direct value.

This calls for a new way of how we view and manage office space altogether.

The old rule of one desk per employee is outdated in today’s flexible work world. Long-term occupancy data is key to understanding our real office space needs. This data doesn’t just show daily ups and downs but reveals long-term trends about how much space we truly use.

For example, if long-term data shows that at its peak, office occupancy never surpasses 60 per cent of the workforce, it signals a clear opportunity to downsize. Similarly, discovering that certain areas of the office remain largely unused can prompt a rethink of space allocation.

This move towards smaller offices not only cuts costs but also supports our goals for a greener planet by using less energy for heating, cooling and lighting, all while meeting the actual requirements of the workforce.

In essence, smarter office planning based on actual data can make businesses more agile, cost-efficient and environmentally friendly. This approach challenges us to rethink our space to fit how we work today, making every square foot count for our future.

The journey towards sustainability doesn’t just benefit from knowing how office spaces are used over weeks or months. Real-time occupancy data opens the door to immediate, impactful changes.

Being able to adjust heating, cooling and lighting based on who is actually in the office at any given moment not only conserves energy but also reduces unnecessary costs. Imagine the savings when an automated system dims the lights in unoccupied rooms or scales back HVAC operations during off-peak hours.

Yet, the potential extends beyond mere headcounts. Modern sensor technology can measure environmental conditions like temperature and humidity. This nuanced layer of data provides a fuller picture, ensuring that energy isn’t wasted.

Beyond the clear environmental benefits, these adjustments contribute to a more comfortable, inviting workplace. It’s a win-win. As companies move closer to their green targets, they also forge spaces where people genuinely want to work.

Achieving sustainability in our workplaces requires practical steps, informed by reliable data. As we make these adjustments, we move closer to our green goals.

The effort to reduce emissions and improve energy efficiency is an ongoing process, but with each step, we contribute to a healthier planet and a more sustainable future. This journey needs a balanced approach, aiming for a future where our workplaces are as green as they are productive.

About Sarah OBeirne

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