Hybrid work and the rise of the smart office

Hybrid work and the rise of the smart office

76% of European workers desire some degree of remote working*

In recent years, society has seen an increase in the adoption of hybrid work models, and the current pandemic has only accelerated this trend. These changes are transforming the office from a work-only site to a place where people come to socialize with colleagues, while also allowing for remote Europe jobs.

As more and more people can do part of the work at home, typically tasks that require a high level of focus and uninterrupted attention, the office is becoming a social destination where strategizing, brainstorming, and more collaborative activities can be undertaken.

The shift to flexible work models directly impacts how new offices are designed.

As design follows new consumption patterns, office spaces are now evolving into more collaborative spaces. The office design of the future is not purely functional; it is adaptable, flexible, and modular. Exit the cubicles, and enter the collaborative lounge spaces, shared desks, stand-up meeting tables, and multi-purpose rooms.

In addition, awareness of health challenges and general well-being is also on the rise. Employers are now sensitive to this argument, knowing that employee well-being increases productivity and reduces employee turnover.

How can the Internet of Things support this transformation?

IoT technologies are an integral part of this new approach to office design. Installing low-power sensors in facilities measuring environmental values opens a wide range of possibilities. Various smart solutions are already improving the employee experience in office spaces.

  • Meeting room and desk occupancy monitoring offer real-time visualization solutions that help the workforce navigate their way into the office space. This increases employee satisfaction and reduces friction in shared workspaces.
  • Indoor air monitoring ensures that people are working in clean rooms. Note that working in rooms with high CO2 levels can negatively affect your cognitive performance and well-being. Concentrations of 400-900ppm of CO2 are the norm in occupied indoor spaces with good air exchange. However, it is not rare to measure concentrations of 1500-2000ppm in some crowded meeting rooms or schools. At these levels, people start suffering from drowsiness and sometimes headaches.

Moreover, smart solutions also help office planners, facility managers and employers optimize their office space.

The occupancy and people flow monitoring over longer periods allows for recognizing room usage patterns and trends. The IoT data can even be coupled with seasonality effects to account for the impact of weather, holiday and other external elements.

Based on these observations, companies can optimize their office space and even adapt their rooms continuously over the year.

Smart building solutions are more accessible than you think

Quite often, very few investments are required to implement a smart solution in a building. Let’s take the example of smart washroom monitoring. In terms of hardware, it is enough to install a simple door counter sensor on the entrance door of the washroom. The device will simply count the number of people entering and exiting the room in real-time. This simple information, coupled with historical usage data, is enough to know if the washroom needs a visual inspection, a basic cleaning, or a full cleaning. Such a simple device can operate on battery for months (possibly years), sending a small amount of data periodically to a cloud application via low-power connectivity technologies such as LoRa.

As you can see from the previous example, a valuable smart building case can be built based on some basic off-the-shelf components and technologies—no need to delve into machine learning, AI and other advanced technologies to generate value from IoT.

Another straightforward example is the use of programmable service-on-demand buttons to automate the reaction to standard requests in the office. Is the printer out of service? How can I connect my laptop to the meeting room screen? Are we out of coffee? Just press a button, and the responsible person will receive a notification via email, SMS or MS teams.

This requires only a programmable button connected to a cloud application that generates a notification to the right person. The previous example may sound trivial to you. However, it becomes quite valuable for companies with large real estate. One of our customers migrated their outdated system (composed of phone operators dispatching the service requests) to an automated service-on-demand solution and managed to free up to 8h per day from their customer service desk.

Creating smart office solutions is now more accessible than ever thanks to the commoditization of sensors & actuators, the broader adoption of low-power networks and the rise of low-code IoT platforms. The IoT market is still very heterogeneous. But IoT platforms available as Software-as-a-Service are constantly lowering the technological barriers for IoT innovators and making it effortless to interconnect all the different components of an IoT system.

The previous examples just scratch the surface of what can be achieved with IoT-enabled solutions. But we can’t know for sure what will the office of the future look like.

* Source: McKinsey

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