IoT Sensors and Occupancy Data: The Key to Re-Engaging Employees

IoT Sensors and Occupancy Data: The Key to Re-Engaging Employees

By Matthew Margetts, Director of Sales and Marketing at Smarter Technologies.

It happened: 2020 came to an end. Now, midway through 2021, with the world’s population being vaccinated at varying speeds and degrees, there is, at last, some light at the end of the tunnel. However, the physical workplace and our attitudes towards it have changed for good.

For many employers, it is a long road ahead to bring workplaces up to date and alleviate employees’ anxieties as they return to work. Significant energy and efforts will need to go towards health and safety measures. The good news is that smart technology is making this more manageable and cost-effective.

It’s normal to be nervous

As many employees as possible have been working at home for months on end. Despite the vaccine rollout, many remain anxious about returning to the workplace.

Data from employee experience company Limeade found that 100%—of 4,553 full-time employees surveyed in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States—are anxious about returning to the workplace:

  • 77% cited being exposed to COVID-19 as their top source of anxiety
  • 71% are concerned about less flexibility
  • 58% are anxious about commuting to work

So, what can employers do to ease this anxiety? One answer is to make social distancing guidelines easy to follow and monitor. In this article, I’ll outline how smart occupancy monitoring can help employers and employees re-engage with physical workspaces in the future.

Accelerated adoption of IoT technology

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the crucial role that the IoT has come to play in our lives. According to data and analytics company GlobalData, the global internet of things (IoT) market by revenue will be worth $1.1 trillion by 2024, up from $622 billion in 2020 and $586 billion in 2019.

Several IoT use cases saw growing adoption during the pandemic, including sensors for monitoring office occupancy levels. Although occupancy monitoring has always been a valuable tool in the pocket of the building manager, the regulations and obligations around the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing have made it a necessity.

Here’s how it works:

A series of wireless sensors are placed at strategic points around the building. The sensors collect real-time occupancy data that is sent to a cloud-based management system.
Occupancy sensors can accurately track key factors such as:

  • Real-time people count
  • Density in a given area
  • Distance between occupants
  • Movement between zones

Real-time alerts according to predefined parameters can then be used to manage the flow of people, avoiding overcrowding and potential transmission.

There are several use cases for the tech, depending on the needs of the organisation:

Access control

Sensors can collect entrance and exit data, counting the number of people and displaying whether or not it’s safe to enter an area based on its occupancy limits. This technology can be implemented in high-traffic areas such as receptions, canteens, break rooms and bathrooms.

By imposing limits on the number of people allowed into an area, employees can be protected from potential person-to-person transmissions.

Crowd control

At a glance, anyone from visitors to employees and building managers can see real-time occupancy data that indicate which areas of the building are busiest, and whether it’s safe to enter an area at all.

All of this occupancy data can be leveraged to help employees identify the best way to use the space:

  • The best floor to work from
  • Where to hold a meeting or take a call
  • Whether or not they should work remotely that day

Optimise cleaning schedules

Knowing which rooms are at their busiest helps building managers to schedule optimal cleaning times. Not only does this enhance hygiene and health, it also helps cleaning teams make more efficient use of their time. Understanding the areas that have been used the most and least can ensure that cleaning is more focused and effective. For example, rather than cleaning a bathroom on a set schedule, the area can be attended to once a specific number of people have used it.

Data-driven decision making

There’s more to smart occupancy than understanding how many people are in an office space; access to real-time and historic data that enables building managers to understand where employees are and how they use a specific space.

Taking a longer-term view than immediate social distancing needs, access to accurate occupancy data helps companies make informed decisions about how much space is really required. This has become particularly important during the times of the pandemic when many companies are implementing a staggered employee schedule and assigning alternate work hours to limit the number of people in the office at any given time. With historic occupancy data on average utilisation levels, companies can create time-based allotments accordingly as well as informed decisions about re-allocating space or downsizing to save costs.

Cost-saving and employee confidence converge with smart occupancy monitoring

With Smarter Technologies’ building monitoring system installed throughout your building, the smart sensors cand real-time occupancy data can help you optimise your workspace with employee safety at the forefront.

About the author: Matthew Margetts is Director of Sales and Marketing at Smarter Technologies. His background includes working for blue-chip companies such as AppNexus, AOL/ Verizon, and Microsoft in the UK, Far East and Australia.

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