By Jeffrey Josephson

Better utilization brings ghost offices back to life

Imagine your worst-case scenario after a long commute from home to the office. It probably involves sitting by yourself on a laptop, surrounded by unused workstations and empty conference rooms. Just as you finish settling in, a nagging thought creeps into your brain: “Why did I even come into the office today?”

This “ghost office” scenario is a discouraging reality for thousands of employees each week as employers refine their approaches to the hybrid workplace. These isolating experiences hurt company culture, and they highlight opportunities to better utilize corporate real estate.

Based on JLLT’s experience assisting our partners with similar challenges, this overview provides a better understanding of what ghost offices are, why they hurt organizations, and how utilization technology can help fix the problem.

Ghost offices or ghost towns?

Often the terms we use to describe pain points in the workplace contribute to the confusion around how to solve them. Remember the “quiet quitting” debate? I believe this is the case with the discourse around ghost offices. The terminology evokes empty rooms and seats that need to be filled, but that’s missing the big picture.

People come to the office to engage with other people. To see and be seen. When we find ourselves in a ghost town, inside or outside the workplace, our first instinct is to leave.

That’s why describing the problem as a workplace “ghost town” needs to be front and center. It focuses on the organic social engagement that people crave from in-person work. This sense of community directly supports a workplace experience that gets people excited about coming into the office.

Long-term harms of ghost offices

As I just alluded to, a negative impact to company culture is one of most impactful consequences of workplace ghost towns. Expenses associated with high-turnover and dissatisfied employees are substantial.

The appearance of workplace ghost towns is also an indicator of a glaring utilization problem. How long should organizations pay the same janitorial and utility costs when their people aren’t using the office the same way?

Rather than just operate less space to fix ghost offices, organizations will need to run their space more efficiently. For this approach to succeed, those organizations need detailed data about how their people use the office.

A smarter approach to utilization is needed

Utilization technology can do more than help organizations improve processes around hybrid work. This information can reveal a clearer picture of how people behave in the office. Here are a few examples of how organizations might start collecting and leveraging that data:

Get more from badge data – Badge data provides deeper insights into the real behavior of employees in of the office. After all, employees can book desks or a conference room in advance and never show up in person. Equally important, badge data provides a reliable source of info about which time periods are peaks for in-person attendance. This visibility makes it easier to flatten that weekly foot traffic if necessary.

Dive deeper with utilization sensors – Are collaboration spaces and neighborhoods being used consistently? Do employees regularly attend social events? What spaces do occupants gravitate to and which ones do they avoid?

Data collected from state-of-the-art utilization sensors allow organizations to confidently answer these questions and many more. Approaches like these allow organizations to offset the inefficiencies involved with ghost offices and inform the investments to make the workplace more engaging.

More utilization insights from a world leader in real estate

There’s no shortage of opportunities to improve workplace engagement and reduce costs once an organization refines its utilization strategy. Want to learn more about the benefits of combining room reservation data with sensor data, or how to instantly visualize the results?

Reach out to JLL Technologies today if you’d like to learn more about how we can help turn these opportunities into lasting value for your organization.