Most of us are operating in a hybrid working model, sharing time between the home and the office. We are used to “working from home” and, as a result, are beginning to change our expectations about what we want from the office.
There is an increased expectancy that the office will safeguard people’s health and welfare and provide optimized and comfortable working conditions.
The use of smart technology, already prevalent in the home, will be expected to be in use in the office to deliver smart services that aid with occupancy and people's health and wellbeing.
On arrival at your office, the first thing you expect to find is a desk. With more and more companies adopting a “hot desking” or flexible working policy the hunt for a desk can be a difficult one. As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the situation is being further compounded, with many companies now expected to reduce the size of their real estate, squeezing available desk space even further.
It will be essential that organizations plan how their space is going to be used, for example, by introducing rotas for when teams or departments will be on-site to work together.
However, it is also important that management has a clear idea about actual desk occupancy to ensure that there is sufficient capacity to meet the expected demand from employees.
Using Internet of Things (IoT) technology is a quick, reliable, and cost-effective way to collect the required data and provide the baseline on which decisions about real estate can be made.
Tiny temperature sensors can be used to detect the presence of an employee at a given desk location anonymously. The collected data can be processed to provide granular information about personal presence at any location and therefore about desk occupancy.
Analyzing this data on an hourly, daily, weekly and monthly basis will provide management with a clear indication about occupancy levels, as well as usage fluctuations and assist with realistic desk and space planning.
Many employees choose to work in an office on days when business meetings are organized. They should not waste their time and meeting rooms should be both available and book-able.
For pre-planned meetings, this is not usually an issue and appropriate room booking software can be used to ensure availability.
However, for more ad-hoc meetings, the availability of a meeting room can be a big problem. With companies having a limited number of properly equipped rooms trying to find a “free” location can be an issue.A big frustration for many employees, for example, is to find that a room that has been reserved for 2 hours is actually available after 1 hour as the meeting finished sooner than expected.
A solution to this issue is to combine Motion sensor data from meeting rooms with an appropriate software application to determine when a room is no longer occupied or in use.
In such situations, an employee that needs a room can be notified that one has become free, enabling them to proceed with their meeting.
Some smart building designs are moving things to the next level for their occupants by combining IoT generated data with an employee app that provides not only information about available workspaces but also:
An example of such a building is The Edge, in Amsterdam, which combines both these types of IoT user services together with state-of-the-art energy-saving and sustainability to make it one of the “smartest” buildings in the world.
Touch sensors can also be used to allow employees to easily ask for assistance or leave feedback. Whether it's too hot or too cold, the restroom needs cleaning, or the coffee machine requires maintenance, employees expect to be empowered in having higher comfort levels.
When in the office you also expect to have a clean, safe and comfortable environment, just like in your home.
Here’s how technology can help:
Cleanliness: Employees should always find a clean restroom, desk, or meeting room at the start of the day. Sensors can track how frequently restrooms, desks, and meeting rooms are used to determine when cleaning is needed. As a result, only those areas that need cleaning will be cleaned.
Ambient temperature and CO2: Sensors can automatically monitor the office temperature and CO2, with collected data being used to determine any changes to the heating, cooling, or ventilation within the building.Safe environment: Sensors can be used to:
Food and drink: Having fully stocked vending machines to provide snacks and drinks is also important for employees. One of the first practical uses of IoT sensors was to indicate to facilities management that a machine was close to being out of stock of a particular chocolate bar or type of drink. This solution is still important today.
Many of us are aware of climate change, burning fossil fuels, and using too much energy. At home, we take care to switch off unneeded electrical equipment, we have smart services such as intelligent lighting control and wirelessly controlled radiators, and we recycle.
Employees can become frustrated if they see an obvious waste of energy at the office.
IoT technology can be used to help a company be much more energy aware and guide it towards a more energy-sustainable path.
Smart lighting with inbuilt motion detectors, or temperature sensors, for example, can be used for occupancy identification to ensure that in locations where no one is present the lights are turned off.
Sensors can also be used, together with analytics software, to identify potential heat losses or inefficiencies in a building. For example, they could indicate where Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) equipment is generating either too much heat or too much cooling. They can also show where heat loss is occurring due to poor insulation.
With hybrid working becoming the new norm, there is an increased level of expectation from employees about the type of facilities and services that they want and need in an office. They expect the same type of environment as they have at home, with desk and room availability, wellbeing, and energy saving at the top of the agenda.
IoT sensors will provide companies with the necessary data about occupancy, allowing them to optimize desk and meeting room numbers whilst ensuring maximum usage. This helps reduce employee frustrations as desk and room availability information can be provided in real-time.
Sensor technology can be used to help identify locations that need cleaning, to ensure a pleasant ambient temperature, and to assist with health and safety compliance by monitoring water temperature and movement in pipes.
Finally, with increased awareness about climate change and its causes, specifically the use of fossil fuels to generate energy, employees expect energy-saving solutions wherever possible. Monitoring heat generation, temperature fluctuations, and occupancy can all assist with saving energy and increase sustainability.
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