Call centre occupancy (aka Utilisation) is best defined as the percentage of sign-on time a call centre agent spends talking and doing legitimate after-call work.

Occupancy is typically used by call centre managers as a metric to determine how hard your frontline agents are working.

High occupancy means there are little gaps between calls whereas low occupancy means agents have plenty of downtime between calls.

Given call centre labour is expensive, with good WFM practices a normal call centre aims for around 80% occupancy ensuring there is a good balance of keeping your agents busy without overloading them with calls potentially leading to burnout.

How is Call Centre Occupancy calculated?

The formula for occupancy is typically:

(talk time and ACW) /(total sign-on time)

Assuming a call centre agent spent 4 hours in talk-time and 2 hours in ACW for an 8-hour shift that would give them an occupancy of 75%

6 hours divided by 8 hours equals 75%

Is Call Centre Occupancy a good metric?

Yes, although it depends what you are trying to measure.

As we mentioned earlier, the purpose of occupancy is to determine how hard your workforce is generally working.

However, there is a big catch here.

Your occupancy figure is a direct result of your Workforce Management planning and your desired Service Levels.

In an emergency services call centre where they need to answer ALL calls within 5 seconds, you will have a very low occupancy.

Why? Because you need to ensure there are lots of available agents to handle calls as soon as they arrive.

So for agents, there will be plenty of time sitting around waiting for the phone to ring.

Call Centre Occupancy Key Tips

One of the laws of contact centres (well maths really) is that it’s impossible to have high service levels AND high occupancy.

So as a rule of thumb remember: as Service Levels go up, Occupancy goes down.

There is nothing an agent can really do to influence occupancy.

Your occupancy result will be an outcome of the staffing, call demand, average handle time and service level goal.

Recommended further reading: The Top 10 KPIs and Metrics in call centres (and what they all mean) 

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