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In this blog series, we’ve been looking at the key areas your organization needs to address when your employees, tenants, or other occupants return to the workplace. In this post, we’ll look at why office space needs are shifting and how space management is being simplified using mature smart building technology that helps create a more responsive workplace.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, your organization may have already been evolving the way you manage your office space. Maybe you were taking steps to right-size your space for your company’s head count, or reallocate under-used spaces and amenities. You may have also been moving toward a more fluid strategy, with a particular ratio of fixed versus flexible spaces, supported by ‘hot desking’ and ‘hoteling’ for employees. Optimizing these types of initiatives requires decisions that are based on real occupancy data.
The pandemic has now introduced important new challenges. While employees are looking forward to returning to the office to reunite and collaborate with colleagues, they are also concerned about safety. Will there be adequate physical distancing in their workspace and in common areas? How will they quickly and safely find an available workspace?
The tools and protocols you put in place today to address these requirements and concerns should also help your organization adapt to future, post-pandemic needs. Fortunately, smart building technology can help. The newest space management solutions will help you protect your staff and comply with new government guidelines, while supporting new, more-efficient ways of working.
3 Ways to create a responsive workplace
1. Monitor Occupancy Levels
To accommodate the new requirements, occupancy sensors and space management tools can be used to measure people-counts in different areas throughout a building in real-time. Capacity thresholds can be set for a room, floor, or building, with alarms sent to the facility manager if occupancy approaches or exceeds those limits.
To ensure air quality and comfort, occupancy monitoring data for each space can be shared with the building management system to proactively optimize HVAC settings. It can also support other building operations, including focusing cleaning where and when it is needed thereby reducing unnecessary traffic for a safer environment
2. Ensure Safe Distancing
Occupancy monitoring can also help ensure that occupants are following distancing guidelines. To avoid overcrowding, building owners and tenants will need to adapt interim policies for facility usage, including for areas such as the cafeteria, gym, and break-out areas. Collected data on usage patterns can be used to optimize policies and manage each amenity based on capacity thresholds.
The newest engagement apps also enable real-time availability and occupancy level data for each space to be displayed at a kiosk or accessed by mobile devices, helping employees safely and efficiently navigate the workplace.
3. Adapt Office Layout
Data on usage and evolving headcount enables a static workplace to become responsive. In contrast to manual estimates or guesses, a space management solution will identify new occupancy patterns and how individual and collaborative spaces are being used. This will help determine when a change in layout, workplace mix, or interim policy change is needed for specific usage areas.
For example, underutilized desks, offices, meeting rooms, or amenities can be quickly identified and reallocated as necessary. Rather than just marking desks or rooms with an ‘X’, employees can be given app-based access to see available spaces in real-time to support office hoteling.
Choosing the Best Space Management Solution
Space management solutions will include a network of IoT-enabled sensors and other devices. Technologies can include passive infrared to capture simple ‘yes/no’ occupancy status, imaging and thermal monitoring sensors for area-specific people counting, active infrared to count people flow, and desk sensors to identify availability.
A solution should be hardware agnostic to adapt to equipment from a variety of vendors, and sensors should be easy to deploy and retrofit. For example, a wireless network can use global cellular network without dependency on the IT infrastructure. The network should allow integration with a unified IP backbone either through a wired connection or using a range of wireless options, such as WiFi and Zigbee.
The solution should unify all data in the cloud for controlled access to monitoring, reporting, and analytics. It should also have the ability to share data with other systems, for applications such as wayfinding, demand-led servicing, or predictive maintenance.
With a network of IoT-based sensors connecting to the cloud, your IT department will have concerns about cybersecurity and data privacy. To give your enterprise the confidence it needs, you should choose a solution vendor that follows industry best practices and is fully compliant with all applicable cybersecurity and data privacy standards from the device level to the cloud (e.g. IEC 62443, General Data Protection Regulation).
The solution should be consistently adaptable to all of your facilities, with the support of a global vendor with local support in each region. Choose an experienced solution provider that offers a one-stop-shop, including expert advisory services to help you make your space management data actionable.
Our EcoStruxure™ WorkPlace Advisor suite of flexible digital services, based on an open platform, helps you create smart offices that support distancing protocols, optimize space use, improve comfort and employee experience, enhance productivity, and reduce facility service costs. Derive actionable insights through intuitive dashboards with data from IoT sensors and systems. Plus, employees can connect to their smart offices in efficient, convenient ways using office mobile apps.