25 May 2021

How to optimize workplace space utilization post-COVID

With jumping in and out of lockdowns, numerous companies are wasting money on maintaining their office real estate. Yet, what will “going back to the office” look like? When will that real estate be useful again and at what capacity?

Post-COVID, we’re all trying to re-think our space utilization. How many employees will be in the office? How many will attend meetings in person? The list of considerations is vast.

What is space utilization?

Space utilization is a measurement comparing your office space’s occupancy versus its capacity. How much of your real estate are you using? How much should you be using? When calculating square feet per user, are you considering common areas? Desk space?

Space utilization requirements are changing as more and more companies rethink their cubicle-based office spaces. Even so, the space each employee needs to not feel crowded remains the same.

How to calculate workplace space utilization

Calculating workplace space utilization is easy enough: divide the number of employees by the total workplace capacity. If you have 65 employees in an office set up for 100, your utilization is 65 percent.

Keep in mind, post-COVID your workplace capacity might be as low as 50 percent of what your capacity was pre-COVID to account for physical distancing.

Consider call centers versus a flexible workspace. If your company has a call center, you may only be able to reinstate every second desk post-COVID. Whereas, with a flexible workspace, so long as employees are using workstations well over six feet apart from each other and following other COVID health guidelines, companies can work close to capacity.

Key workplace space utilization metrics

JLL offers a neat way to estimate how much real estate will cost, or is costing your company. They call it the 3-30-300 rule. Per every square foot each year, calculate:

  • $3 for utilities
  • $30 for rent
  • $300 for payroll

This equation is a simple ballpark but can help you estimate how much your company will spend on office real estate.

Consider this: For the companies that have been out of office for the past year, each and every month has cost them approximately $33 per square foot of real estate. For a typical 15,000 square foot office, you may be paying just under $500,000 per year on rent and utilities.

How to optimize space utilization

There are two key points to consider when optimizing your space utilization: reducing real estate while considering employee satisfaction.

Employee satisfaction has a huge impact on the productivity of a company. On average, happy employees are 12 percent more productive. Companies with happy, engaged employees are 21 percent more profitable than other companies.

It might be tempting to cut back on real estate and cram employees in like sardines — physical distancing regulations aside — but studies do show the real estate more or less pays for itself via employee productivity.

Expected post-Covid space utilization trends

Post COVID, the average square feet per person should increase by approximately 50 percent to accommodate physical distancing. Alternatively, companies can implement a partial work-from-home standard and never have the same office occupancy as pre-COVID.

Work-from-home policies can change the entire office. These policies can affect how much coffee you supply your employees, how large your meeting rooms are, how many desks you have, and what kind of floor plan you implement.

Here are some post-COVID office trends many offices are implementing to capitalize on workspace utilization.

Hybrid workspaces

Many offices are turning toward hybrid workplaces. Day by day, employees can choose to work wherever they’ll be most productive, whether that’s in the office, at home, or somewhere else entirely.

With approximately half of your workforce working offsite, you won’t need the real estate you once had. Some offices will cut their real estate down by 50 percent instead of adding 50 percent more.

Even for meetings, more teammates will call in instead of being present. This change means fewer people need to be in meeting rooms and the square feet of the meeting rooms can be reduced or repurposed.

Keeping track of your meeting rooms and who booked them can help the office run smoothly. For example, Joan 6 analytics help office managers identify how popular a room is used, the most popular meeting rooms, the average number of meeting occupants, and how many meetings are no-shows.

Flexible workspaces

Desk sharing might be your saving grace in the upcoming years. More and more offices will move toward flexible workspaces with bookable rooms, desks, and niches. Companies will invest in resources that help manage these flexible workspaces, like Joan’s desk booking app.

Joan’s desk booking app.

For more details on creating and managing a flexible workspace, check out our article.

Dispersed workspaces

Although companies may have fewer employees in the office, they’ll have to account for physical distancing for the employees who do come into the office.

For example, Pre-COVID, Office Finder recommended each company to have between 75 and 150 square feet per employee. Technically, that number should be closer to 110 to 225 square feet per employee post COVID.


Navigating the near future will be tricky. No one knows how long it will take for employees to be comfortable working within six feet of each other again. Physical distancing, whether enforced by law or not, will be around for a while.

The tips and forecasts in this article can help you navigate your real estate needs moving forward.

Optimize your post-COVID workplace space utilization with Joan Desk Booking solution.