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Badge Data: The Key to Managing Occupancy in the Hybrid Work Era

Why badge data is your key to getting relevant occupancy metrics and what are the potential downsides of it? Let's have a look at this metric from the perspective of cost-effectiveness, ease of scalability, or privacy concerns.

Introduction: Why Measure Occupancy

If you are responsible for a larger office or a portfolio of offices or buildings, you probably grew a few gray hairs over the last few years trying to figure out how to get data to optimize it — measure utilization, optimize operations, predict trends, and make the right real estate management decisions.

With the rise of hybrid work arrangements, it can be difficult to accurately gauge occupancy levels which in turn makes it challenging to plan, manage resources, and ensure smooth operations of an office or building portfolio.

While there is a number of technologies available out there such as occupancy sensors, smart cameras, footfall counters, motion sensors and others, there is one that you most likely already have available with all the hardware installed — access badge data from the access system.

Whether you have or even if you haven’t used it for understanding occupancy— read on. We will look at their benefits but also the technical aspects of badge data collection and analysis, which you need to know to measure the right data.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Using Badge Data — “Why Badge Data is Your Key to Occupancy Success”

Unlike in the case of occupancy sensors, and smart cameras, all the hardware you need for measuring occupancy with mobile or plastic badges is already installed — and used by people entering the office. This brings several very strong benefits compared to these solutions:

  • Cost — no additional hardware or software is needed and the data is already collected. Compare it to the need of installing and maintaining dedicated hardware and the badge data is a clear winner.
  • Easy scalability — opening new offices typically means installing new readers and connecting to existing infrastructure: Badge data collection systems are easy to scale and can be easily connected to existing infrastructure. So whether you plan to open new offices or expand the existing ones, you can easily start collecting occupancy data without significant additional investments.
  • Access readers are a critical infrastructure with 24/7/365 availability: this means that badge data can be collected and analyzed without outages, providing organizations with an up-to-date and reliable source of data.
  • Badge data can be used to monitor compliance: Badge data can be used to monitor compliance with security policies and to identify individuals who are not following established protocols, whether it’s hybrid work policies, entrances to be used, or anything else.
  • Since the technology is already there, the data can provide historical information right now, which provides a shorter time-to-understanding. This allows you to get much better insights and is a significant difference compared to technologies that will start to provide data only when installed.
  • Better user experience—you don't have to learn how to operate new software. Also the privacy concerns are unfounded and you don't have to deal with the processing of personal data that may come for example with installing new cameras in the building. End users continue to use the access badges as they are used to.
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However, there are also some downsides to consider, too:

  • It’s not attendance monitoring. In a typical office, people don’t badge out, so while the data often can give a general sense of occupancy, you will not know with 100% certainty how many people exactly were in the office at any given time. In most scenarios, this is sufficient and badge data is a solid approximation of actual occupancy.
  • If you have people coming in for an hour or two a day at different times (such as a co-working space or a shopping mall) and you still want to measure reliable hourly occupancy, you may need to look for another solution than badge data.
  • Also, if you work as a director of the workplace experience, badge data will not give you detailed information on the individual utilization of desks, phone booths, or seats in a meeting room until access to these areas requires a badge.
  • Not everyone badges in. Depending on your office space, it may be more or less common for people to enter with someone else, without badging in. Given that the badge access log is a security audit trail, if this happens a lot, you may need to address it anyway. The more separated and access-restricted the premises are, the more reliable the data is, indeed — as employees need to use the badge several times.

A frequent area of concern is privacy — some employees may feel uncomfortable with the idea of their movements and presence in the office being tracked. However, it’s important to note that in most cases, companies already collect this type of data through security systems, time-tracking systems, or other means, used for security purposes. The additional use of the data, for occupancy measurements, can typically be aggregated, stripped of personal data, anonymized, and only for the specific purpose of occupancy monitoring.

However, answer for yourself, how do you perceive entering the workplace just with a badge compared to constant camera surveillance?

What Metrics can you get from Badge Data

Badge data is not just one number. It allows you (in combination with the right building systems) to measure important trends and numbers for the whole building portfolio:

  • Occupancy per tenant
  • Users vs visitors
  • Occupancy on the level of floors or even conference rooms (if access requires badging in)
  • Occupancy peaks
  • Busy times at the door/lobby

Conclusion: When to use Badge Data

So when are existing infrastructure and badge data used and when you should look for more specialized hardware solutions? If you have a large portfolio equipped with access systems and card readers, scalability and cost are key factors — using badge data for occupancy monitoring can be the most convenient and practical solution to better understand and manage your office space.

Even for a single office or building, badge data can be the best fit for occupancy monitoring, if you understand its limitations and benefits. Potential downsides can be mitigated upfront by implementing best practices and strict data privacy/security measures.

Are you open to discuss badge data as a key to getting relevant occupancy metrics? Will it help you to navigate through hybrid work challenges? Is it a useful tool to optimize large property portfolio utilization? Book a demo with us and we will answer all your questions!

Written by Ondrej Langr, Chief Product Officer (CPO) at Sharry.

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