Mexico City.- Around 36 percent of office desks in much of the world sit idle all week, according to a new report from XY Sense, an Australian provider of workplace sensors.
This begs the question of how well workplaces are currently designed as companies struggle to win back employees.
Of the desks used, 29 percent were occupied for only three hours or less and only 14 percent for five hours or more.
The study examined 24,855 unique workplaces in nine countries: Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The most commonly used workspaces include meeting rooms for two or three people, which are occupied at an average of 90 percent.
Rooms for small and private meetings and acoustically isolated rooms for individual work are now more important than old-fashioned booths.
Overall, office utilization remains at around 50 percent of pre-pandemic levels.
The results illustrate the challenges companies face when determining office space needs.
Both employees and managers say they should be at least a third of their time on-site, according to a study by the Boston Consulting Group, but much of that face-to-face time is no longer spent at a desk.
“It’s time to rethink the humble desktop,” said Alex Birch, co-founder and CEO of XY Sense.
“They take up space in our offices, they’re expensive and we just don’t use them like we did before the pandemic,” he added.
So he felt companies should reallocate that desk space.
The lack of desk usage could also prompt employers to reconsider their real estate needs. More than nine out of 10 large companies reported low office occupancy rates in a CBRE survey, and more than half plan to downsize their real estate inventory over the next three years.
According to data from XY Sense, office occupancy rates didn’t change significantly between the first and second quarters of 2023, but roughly one million U.S. desk workers will now need to return to their offices more frequently before the end of the year, JLL.