You’ve made the switch to activity-based working and have reduced your footprint. You’ve removed desks and individual workstations, and now your people-to-seat ratio has been adjusted based on your usage data. You managed the transition well and your employees seem happy and productive.

Until…somehow, every department decided to schedule an all-hands meeting on the same day. Will there be chaos as everyone tries to find an open desk and sufficient meeting room space? Or have you planned for peak utilization of your building?

What Is Peak Utilization?

It’s the scenario above—when everyone, or nearly everyone, shows up to the office, expecting to have a desk or workstation. Will there be enough to go around? As companies adjust their people-to-seat ratio (on the understanding that, on average, 40% of their space isn’t being used) and move to hybrid or agile working environments, planning for peak utilization is a crucial exercise.

Change how you track space utilization to get a more accurate picture of your building usage.

What it Takes to Plan for Peak Utilization

There are two main approaches that go hand-in-hand:

1. Understand work patterns so you know when/how often to expect peak utilization

Each department likely has slightly different needs and work patterns. Maybe Monday through Thursday, you can safely assume that only half the Sales team will be in the office, but that department has a meeting every Friday and almost all of them will be there in person.

Maybe the Marketing team, which works next to Sales, also regularly schedules a team meeting the last Friday of every month, so you know that’s the day when that space will be crowded.

2. Encourage work patterns to keep resource utilization balanced

You could just accept that on that last Friday, Marketing and Sales will be fighting for space. Or you could share the data you have with Marketing and Sales to help them make a decision about their schedules.

Take a close look at employee work patterns so you know what to expect on any given day.

Activity-based working is not a one-size-fits-all—learn how it can be adapted for your company.

What’s Stopping Companies from Planning for Peak Utilization

Historically, getting accurate data on building usage required time-consuming manual audits. Now, thanks to space planning and utilization software and other technology, the bigger barrier is effective communication. Employees often resist being told to change the way they work—whether that means giving up their desk or scheduling meetings earlier or later to avoid overbooked conference rooms. Having a strong change management and communication plan will help you implement policies to handle peak utilization.

But What Do You Do When Everyone Shows Up?

Sometimes, no matter how much you plan and prepare, you’ll be surprised by a full office. If you’ve been creative and purposeful with your space planning, you won’t have chaos. Set up multi-use spaces that people can use: lobbies, hallways, cafeterias or breakrooms can all be outfitted to serve as part-time workstations or meeting spaces. Some companies can make use of outdoor spaces as well.

When you create multi-use spaces, make sure they will function well when being used for work activities. Check that your Wi-Fi can support them and that they have adequate technology available.

Communication for Resource Utilization

Having these multi-use spaces or a plan to handle peak utilization won’t do any good if no one knows about them. In addition to a communication plan that eases employees into new ways of work, your change management strategy should also explain how various spaces can be used and what to expect when office traffic is above average. You can also share your usage data with department heads so they understand how they can adjust their team’s work patterns to minimize occurrences of peak utilization.

Find out other ways activity-based working serves your employees. Download our guide to creating an activity-based working strategy in your office.