2023 is going to be the year of the truly smart office. With some of the pressures that organisations have felt over covid starting to lift, companies are once again looking towards the office to build team dynamics, engage employees and increase productivity. It isn’t all great though. The concerns from covid still very much hang heavy in the air. Employees are concerned about personal space, about hygiene and the safety of their workplaces and they have far lower tolerances for workplace ‘annoyances’. Whilst some companies have addressed these concerns by simply mandating employees spend time at the office, this approach has seen a significant exodus to companies with more flexible views. To truly get employees back using the office, companies must address these core concerns and a smart building is the easiest solution.
What are the benefits?
It isn’t all bad news for those hoping to get their teams back full time to the office. By building a truly smart workplace, companies can address employee concerns whilst saving money and improving the quality of the environment in which their teams work. Let’s look at some of the benefits companies can achieve through the implementation of a smart office.
1. Improved health and hygiene
Smart office technology can have a significant impact on the health of your employees whilst making the building more hygienic. By utilising smart lights and utilities, high touch points in the workplace can be significantly reduced – as teams no longer need to interact with light switches and control panels to adjust the environment. Automated systems ensure that employees are kept comfortable. The monitoring of air quality can also reduce the chances of catching diseases by ramping up and reducing the ventilation and air conditioning depending on the office usage and internal environments. This keeps employees safe from air pollution and significantly reduces the risk of airborne contagions.
2. Reduced energy costs
All businesses benefit when they are using less power. Offices are expensive places, but small changes can have a significant impact on the overall cost of running the space. Smart technology can ensure that lights are turned off when not in use, reduce air conditioning, heating, and ventilation when the building is empty and even help optimise meeting room usage to ensure smaller spaces are used when appropriate. This is all possible with IoT sensors and smart automations helping to reduce the energy requirements, reducing bills, and helping to save the environment at the same time.
3. Improved maintenance
By monitoring your office space and its utilities, companies can make much better management and maintenance decisions. This can either come in the form of a digital ticket alerting the maintenance team to a malfunction (either through a portal or an app) or through IoT sensors reporting reduced efficiency in a system (like air conditioning). This helps to improve the quality of service by preventing breakdowns and also saves on expensive repairs. Preventative maintenance is always cheaper than waiting for the item to break whether that is air conditioning, fridges or the fancy Italian coffee machine.
4. Better staff retention
Covid has focused employee concerns on the health and safety of the office. Companies that don’t attempt to improve their building environments are likely to see significant employee losses(if they haven’t done already) as they look to work in safer and more comfortable environments. Smart workplaces are particularly good for hybrid working – whether desk booking, smart lockers or a host of other technologies that make it easy for a team member to spend the day in the office with minimal friction. This creates a more friendly and welcoming environment that further improves retention and makes it more attractive for new employees.
5. Improved utilisation of space
By understanding how desk space is being used and the footfall through different parts of the workplace, you can significantly improve the overall utilisation of your space. With office space being so expensive, being able to ensure you get the absolute most out of every square foot is crucial. Smart offices provide a data rich environment allowing you to see everything from desk utilisation and meeting room booking rates to common area footfall. With this, companies can build their space around how their teams are actually working, not how they would like them to work.
6. Safer employees
Finally, smart office technology provides a much safer environment for your teams to work. Intelligent CCTV systems ensure that you can monitor more space with fewer employees – with a centralised monitoring system watching over many of your spaces at once. Smart digital locks ensure that access is only granted to those who need it and removing their permissions is as simple as clicking a button. No more inappropriate access, no more worries about keeping secure areas locked and no more concerns about disgruntled employees wreaking havoc.
What technologies make an office smart?
Whilst there is no truly universal definition of a smart workplace, there are plenty of different technologies that make an office smart. These generally work around three core principles –automatically doing something previously done manually, to make the experience easier or to provide data to better understand a building. Some of these technologies fit into multiple of these categories – but all have their different use cases. Ultimately, the technology should focus on your specific problems – not the other way around.
1. Desk sensors
Desk sensors are one of the building blocks of any smart workplace. They provide a core piece of data about office utilisation, and they massively improve the user experience of hybrid workers coming into the office. Desk sensors generally allow users to book desks remotely, check whether a specific space is taken and with more advanced systems you can even check to see who is sitting at any given desk. This data then feeds back into a central system that gives the company an understanding of individual desk usage, where hotspots exist in the office and allow them to change desk layouts around to improve usage and reduce friction. They are generally installed under the desk, run on batteries, and are linked by low power Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to a central hub. You can find out more about desk occupancy sensors here.
2. Occupancy sensors
Occupancy sensors are built to monitor spaces, rather than individual desks. They usually come in the form of a ceiling or wall mounted box that monitors movement through zones. The more advanced systems can also count how many people are in a specific room and even their approximate location. This allows employees to see whether a meeting room or phone booth is in use, and it allows companies to understand employee movements at scale. Whether that is understanding the average number of employees in a meeting room, where employees are generally gathering or when the peaks and troughs of office occupancy are. They provide one of the most valuable forms of data when it comes to improving layout and reducing energy consumption. You can find out more about occupancy sensors here.
3. Smarter audio visual
Everyone has been in offices where sharing your screen or joining a video conference is a nightmare. SmartAV equipment is designed to reduce this friction and make using the office as easy as being at home. That usually revolves around improving the screen sharing facilities often making that either wireless or a single wire solution.Smart AV systems also often turn on and off depending on occupancy in the room thereby reducing the energy usage of tv’s and speaker systems. They also often include roof-mounted microphones and auto-focusing cameras that allow a conference room of people to speak with the camera following the current speaker. You can find out more about smart AV here.
4. Indoor air quality sensors
This group of smart sensors has seen a huge spike in interest over the last couple of years for obvious reasons. These sensors monitor the quality of the air looking for levels of CO2 and VOCs (VolatileOrganic Compounds). On their own, sensor technologies can do nothing, but combined with ventilation control or air conditioning, they can keep the air in a workplace significantly safer. It can be used to spot issues with the office layout or highlight areas that have particularly bad air quality during certain periods for example during peak office occupancy. Indoor air quality is often a core metric for green certifications like RESET, AirRated and Wellv2. The data from these sensors can also be displayed to ease the concerns of employees. You can find out more about indoor air quality sensors here.
5. Smart CCTV
Security is an area that has benefitted enormously from the rise of IoT technology. Smart CCTV solutions are like traditional CCTV but with added connectivity and analysis capabilities.Instead of relying on a security guard on the other end of a monitor, smart CCTV systems can identify movement, notify the relevant authorities and even automatically track their movement through a building. Digital trip wires can secure your more sensitive areas and ensure that any movement triggers a response. These systems can also be remotely monitored, allowing a single security professional to look after multiple buildings – and for teams to remotely monitor their space when an alert is triggered. Find out more about smart CCTV systems here.
Your next steps?
The next step in creating the perfect smart office in 2022 is to understand which of these issues you are really trying to solve. No two offices are alike, and no two solutions should be either. Whether you need a full building occupancy monitoring system or just easy to use desk booking, the system you chose should be able to scale with you, return the investment in savings and give your team a truly brilliant user experience.If you’d like to know more about how NCG can help you with that – please get in touch.