How Smart Office Buildings Will Transform the Post-Covid Workplace
September 16, 2020
When the Covid-19 pandemic started impacting the world in early 2020, many businesses made a swift transition to remote work. Challenges emerged as the corporate workforce began to adapt to new routines and processes while working from home.
With Covid-19, the concept of an office space has become more fluid and flexible. Across the world, people have set up home offices in kitchens, bedrooms, living rooms and even backyards. Some companies have announced plans to maintain their remote work format indefinitely, some are rolling out plans to transition back to the office and some are putting together plans for a hybrid work schedule.
No matter what office trends are dominant post-Covid, one thing is certain: agile office spaces and smart office technology will enable safety, flexibility, efficiency, connectivity and comfort for an evolving workforce. For physical office buildings to remain relevant, employees will expect much more than simple shelter.
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What will offices look like post-Covid?
While the Covid-19 pandemic has brought economic stress and uncertainty in its wake, it is also ushering in a new era for technology and the workplace of the future. There are certain aspects of work that may not go “back to normal” once the coronavirus threat has passed:
- Office buildings may become smaller because a greater percentage of the workforce is working remotely.
- There will be a greater need for agile office spaces adapted to the needs of a hybrid workforce.
- With employees doing more individual work at home, workplaces will need more space to accommodate meetings and collaboration.
- To keep the workforce safe and healthy, there may be an increased focus on enhanced cleaning and sanitation measures — perhaps even widespread UV light disinfection protocols.
- Businesses will need to increase connectivity and enhance the overall office experience. In order to make the office useful to remote employees, it should provide value beyond being a space to sit at a desk and work.
Optimizing Office Spaces With Limited Use During Uncertain Times
Across the world, many countries are very much in the throes of coronavirus prevention and response. A truly “post-Covid” era has not yet arrived, and the timeline for achieving some semblance of normality is uncertain. The coming months will be pivotal as businesses decide how to proceed with a long term plan for their workforce and physical office spaces.
Many office buildings are virtually empty, others are used only occasionally and some are utilized daily but with decreased occupancy. Either way, smart office technology aimed at reducing wasted resources enables enhanced energy efficiency and increased cost savings. Examples of technology for office safety and efficiency include:
Automated Door Locks
Use automated smart door locks and access systems to deny entry to specified areas or limit which sections of your building are in use. Using automated door locks can help you cut down on utility costs in those areas which are unused while operating with a smaller in-person team.
Rely on IoT sensors to enable lights, control HVAC systems and more. IoT sensors can detect motion and occupancy, making it easy to program devices, fixtures and utilities to turn off or enter power-saving mode when no one is using the space.
Similarly, sensors on entry points can be programmed to trigger certain functions. An entire smart office building could be set in a dormant “sleep” mode until a person enters through a defined access point, triggering a number of connected IoT smart office devices to “wake up.”
Customizable IoT Protocols and Programs
With an IoT software solution, users can create protocols customized for various scenarios and situations. To increase efficiency, simply create different modes for building vacancy, partial occupancy and full occupancy. Each connected device can be programmed differently according to each of these modes, allowing for fine-tuned building efficiency.
When a majority of the workforce is working remotely, building owners should prioritize building efficiency and solutions optimized for lowered occupancy. When the workforce returns to the office, needs and priorities shift.
Returning to Business as Usual Post-Covid
Some companies were not able to implement a remote work format, and some businesses that went remote have recalled a majority of their workforce back to the office. Even for offices operating at their normal capacity, there are IoT smart office technology solutions that can make the workplace safer and healthier for all.
Intelligent UV Disinfection
Igor’s Nexos Intelligent UV Disinfection solution combines the disinfecting power of UV-C light with the connectivity of an automated IoT platform. The result is a robust and customizable sanitization system that enables UV disinfection programs to run in unoccupied spaces during off hours. UV disinfection provides employees with peace of mind about being in a cleaner, safer work environment. Learn more about Igor’s UV Disinfection System.
Conference Room Scheduling
Installing an automated and interconnected IoT conference room scheduling system will help streamline office space utilization and operations. In an agile office space with automated scheduling programs, staff know when rooms are available and when they were last used. With a schedule, it’s also easier to build in buffers for rooms to be properly disinfected between meetings.
Access Systems & Door Locks
IoT access systems and automated door locks enable a safer and more secure office building, and they also allow for keyless, contact-free entrances. Many IoT access systems use biometrics to identify people and automatic doors, thus preventing unauthorized intruders and reducing the need for touch in a typically high-touch area.
Automation of High-Touch Fixtures
Automatic doors can prevent the spread of germs on door knobs and handles, and with the increase of available IoT fixtures and devices, it’s possible to create an almost entirely touchless office environment. By connecting and controlling intelligent lighting, HVAC controls, display screens, window shades and more from a centralized IoT dashboard, fewer individuals will be touching various switches and surfaces.
Occupancy Sensors & People Counting
Leaders and managers can use occupancy sensors and people counting devices to maintain and monitor appropriate occupancy and traffic levels. These devices can help employees practice safe social distancing and prevent areas from becoming dangerously overcrowded.
Air purification and air circulation systems become more powerful and customizable when they’re connected to an IoT platform such as Nexos by Igor. When implemented in tandem with occupancy and people counting sensors, IoT air purification programs create safer, more ventilated office environments.
While some companies have begun transitioning their workforce back into a physical office space, others are choosing to adopt a permanent remote or hybrid format for doing business. This shift brings with it a greater need for flexible, agile office spaces.
Adapting Office Buildings for an All-Remote or Hybrid Workforce
Global Workplace Analytics, a research-based consulting firm, estimates that 56% of U.S. workers have jobs that are at least partially compatible with working remotely, and many employers are embracing a remote work model that allows employees to work from home full-time or part-time.
Hybrid workforces — situations where team members split their time between home and office — are a growing office trend post-Covid. There are many ways to implement a hybrid work plan, but the bottom line is that office buildings won’t be used the way they once were. IoT technology will transform the workplace of the future, enabling agile office spaces to better meet the needs of an evolving workforce:
Designated desks and assigned work stations will become a thing of the past at many companies. To optimize office space utilization, modern workplaces may favor “floating” desks and desk scheduling systems so employees can use any available workstation while they’re in the office.
A connected IoT ecosystem can add customization and a personal touch back into a desk sharing office space. For example, employees could create profiles where their environmental preferences are stored. When visiting the office for a day, employees will simply activate their personalized profile, and the system will automatically turn on the right lighting, display screens, temperature settings and more.
Desk scheduling can also facilitate social distancing by preventing employees from using desks that are directly adjacent to a desk that is already in use. Smart office scheduling makes it easier to plan cleaning and sanitizing and to mark desks as unavailable while they’re in a disinfection queue.
Enhanced Meeting Rooms
While the workplace of the future may have fewer personal workstations, smart office buildings may have an increased need for collaborative spaces such as conference rooms, breakout spaces and other meeting areas. Connected room scheduling programs facilitate meeting room management and help employers monitor room use and maintain consistent cleaning protocols.
Other IoT innovations such as automated window blinds and lighting controls allow employees to adjust the environment, creating a comfortable collaborative space while limiting touch.
Video Conferencing Tools
Because video conferencing programs are already integrated into online systems and schedules, it’s easy to include video needs in room scheduling and meeting planning considerations. A connected IoT ecosystem ties all elements of the environment together into a single, seamless experience. Ideally, booking a conference room for a meeting will automatically trigger the video conferencing booking system and schedule a block of time for disinfection after the meeting is over.
Optimized Entry Points & Building Utilities
Employers can schedule select building utilities and tasks — lights turning on or A/C kicking on, for example — to be triggered when an employee uses a certain entrance. Sectioning off a building with IoT programs cuts down on operational costs and allows for a more efficient, scaled back output when spaces are unoccupied.
If a majority of the workforce is working remotely, it will be important to implement intuitive wayfinding in the office space. With digital, customizable wayfinding, employees will be able to find the resources and spaces they need when they’re in the office — even if they haven’t been to the office in a while.
What is wayfinding?
Wayfinding typically refers to signage and other cues that help individuals orient themselves within a space and navigate from place to place. Wayfinding design is an important consideration for any space, and designers can use IoT enhancements to improve the wayfinding experience in any building.
These are just a few examples of how smart office buildings adapt to the changing needs of an evolving workforce. Because of the benefits of an adjustable environment, smart offices will become increasingly popular in the coming years.
What Advantages Do Smart Buildings Have After Covid-19?
The Covid-19 crisis ramped up extremely quickly, and businesses already utilizing smart building technology were able to react quickly because their building spaces were agile. The world is constantly changing, and smart office technology puts employers in a position to adapt to future changes and improve office health and safety for employees.
How will IoT technology make offices safer during and after Covid-19?
IoT-enabled workplace safety measures like UV disinfection and desk scheduling can work in tandem with traditional health and safety precautions like sneeze guards, face masks and hand washing. These additional measures increase employee peace of mind and create a safer, healthy workplace environment.
When you pair these benefits with the knowledge that agile office spaces also improve efficiency and reduce the cost of day-to-day operations, it’s clear that IoT technology in the workplace is a worthwhile, long-term investment.
Envisioning Technology and the Workplace of the Future
Offices won’t fully disappear, but they’re certainly going to change. Business leaders need to think about investing in smart office technology in order to create agile office spaces for their changing workforce, and commercial building developers should be considering the appeal of smart office buildings in attracting tenants in an increasingly remote working world.
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