Turning offices into smart buildings, through COVID-19 and beyond
Smart IoT sensor technology can support a phased return to work for employees, and help you create better, more sustainable workplaces in the years ahead. This article explores how sensor technology can support you through reopening and managing new workplace guidelines, at the same time embedding new practices for future energy and cost savings.
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we work, and for many organisations some of these changes will be long term or even permanent. But even before the enforced lockdown, workplaces were already changing beyond the traditional ‘office space’ as flexible working became the norm.
It’s clear that trends which were emerging before the pandemic have now been accelerated. Remote working has allayed employers’ fears about productivity and employees are realising that ‘presenteeism’ isn’t always necessary.
But while remote working may continue for some, a phased return to work may be necessary for others. A ‘mix-and-match’ approach to home and office working can ensure social distancing practices are still met, while offering teams the chance to safely meet in person as well as via video conferencing.
The challenge now facing workplace and facilities managers is getting the balance right in their buildings. With no precedent to model their strategy around, how do they ensure health, safety and wellbeing of staff, while still maximising productivity and output?
It’s also essential to address these issues not just in the light of the pandemic but for the long term. Some new working practices will be here to stay, so decision making needs to be strategic and insightful.
How can smart sensor technology offer solutions?
Pre-pandemic, many organisations were already looking at how they could turn their premises into ‘smart buildings’, using IoT sensors to feed back real-time data in terms of building utilisation, people occupancy, air quality, asset management and energy use. Now, more than ever, this smart building technology will come to the fore and remain an essential, and permanent, fixture.
While social distancing is still part of Government guidelines, this technology will enable organisations to manage their offices safely by accurately monitoring desk, room and space occupancy, helping managers to plan resourcing effectively. It can also aid air quality control, monitoring ventilation and air conditioning to optimise the working environment.
Cleaning is clearly a big factor with return to work, and understanding which areas have been used can help facilitate robust cleaning rotas after meetings, for example.
Sensors are also extremely discreet. As understandably nervous employees make their way back to the workplace, keeping things as normal as possible for them is key. Once the sensors are in place you can’t see them, even though they work incredibly hard behind the scenes.
Looking to the long term, smart offices make for healthier workplaces. A comfortable physical environment leads to better productivity and higher morale, so managing lighting, temperature, air quality and occupancy to best effect results in happier occupants. In fact, in a survey by Savills UK, cleanliness, comfort, lighting and air quality were cited by employees as some of the most important factors in their ideal workplace.
Smart sensor technology can also lead to improved automation and control, enabling organisations to optimise their environments and energy use accordingly. With sustainability already a watchword, identifying waste can lead to significant energy savings and reduce costs and overheads.
How can IoT sensors benefit your organisation?
There are a number of ways you can use smart sensors to turn your building into a smart office. These include:
Desk occupancy. Detect real-time desk occupancy and get updates when this changes. See live availability and better manage desk bookings, monitor usage for cleaning and track occupancy over time for space planning.
Doors and windows. Monitor when these are open ore closed, tracking over time to automate building management processes.
Occupancy. See live occupancy to manage space usage, implement demand-controlled HVAC and lighting systems.
Environment. Monitor CO2 levels, ambient temperature and relative humidity in each area throughout the day.