Office buildings haven’t changed a lot over the past few decades, particularly in contrast to the pace of technological changes. Where the digital world is evolving, the physical world is struggling to keep up, at least until recently.
Things have changed since the arrival of IoT over the past few years. IoT or ‘Internet of Things’ brought it with it a promise of hyper-connectivity, that we can connect and interact with everyday objects and commodities through our devices, sensor and a Wi-Fi connection.
So, what does this have to do with the stalwart of modern working life; the office building? Well unsurprisingly, one of the ‘things’ that IoT can connect to is a building and Smart buildings are heralding the way for a new way of working, a more efficient and comfortable way for office workers to be productive.
Although there is a healthy amount of skepticism about how IoT and Smart Building solutions can further improve the efficiency and experience of the building, new case studies are telling us otherwise.
Let’s explore the three ways IoT is delivering the workplaces our future needs.
Delivering energy efficient workspaces
We’ve read the headlines and wherever you sit on the climate change debate, we know energy consumption, particularly the fossil fuels that power most of our homes and workplaces are not good for our Co2 output and therefore the world.
IoT solutions gives managers the information they need to identify sources for immediate improved energy efficiency, cost savings and carbon reduction.
IoT technology allows for the determination of sites with the biggest energy consumption and of equipment with the least efficiency. It can modify lighting and HVAC systems depending on the occupancy of a specific space. In fact, recent success stories reveal that a 20% reduction in energy usage, and an 85% increase in water efficiency are obtainable by adopting these solutions.
Furthermore, real-time data can also be manipulated to personalise workspaces through lighting, heating and cooling, thus also addressing the Indoor Environment NABERS rating category. It is through these adjustments that office spaces are witnessing employee productivity benefits
Optimise space utilisation
Many workers choose to work a day or more away from the office in modern work places, leading to organisations turning to hot desking to optimise the space. Unfortunately, what can be an efficiency gain for the building manager can be a headache for an employee coming into the office to collaborate with peers and unable to find an appropriate seat, if any at all.
IoT solutions in the smart building can ensure that available desks and meeting rooms are highlighted through sensors which can avoid unnecessary stress and time wasting.
At present, organisations are under pressure to drive down costs by increasing their static density, or space per square foot dedicated to each workstation. With this mandate comes a risk of damaging employee productivity and performance.
The good news is, there is another option, new and dynamic ways of working can simultaneously achieve these goals through enabling employee mobility. Organisations can optimise space in a way which will drive down cost per person, increasing dynamic density instead of static. When executed well, this approach improves the real estate bottom line whilst enhancing overall employee productivity, performance and engagement.
Increasing workplace productivity and employee comfort
Although there is not a once size fits all to a comfortable ambient temperature and size/set up of working space, it does help to gather data on employee comfort levels and space utilisation in the office.
Employees can also report on the ‘comfort levels’ of temperature which keeps HVAC costs down and employee productivity up.
A 2013 study examining the effect of workplace environmental changes had on productivity found a direct correlation in ambiance to productivity including a 23% increase due to better lighting and 18% access to natural environment such as daylight and fresh air.
In order to achieve primary goals held by offices worldwide, such as space utilisation and cost reductions, emerging technologies, in particularly IoT are being looked to. In 2017, 40% of companies in a Harvard study stated that they would be adopting IoT sensors within the next three years, and 39% would be implementing cloud services tailored for IoT and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
The largest problem is when IoT projects are implemented purely for cost savings and there is a limited understanding of the effect on organisational performance by poorly implemented desk sharing. When businesses mindlessly undertake utilisation studies, organisational chaos occurs rather than driving down costs.
The dual focus on space utilisation and energy savings combined with a genuine appetite to improve the working lives of workers and provide a space they can thrive in, will lead to more positive smart building implementations that keep employees and management happy.