10 September 2020

Speeding toward the future of workplace technology

I’ve heard it said recently that the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t changing the future, it’s just getting us there faster. That may be true in everyday life, but it is certainly true in the workplace. Advanced smart building technologies that last year seemed ‘nice to have’ but not required, are coming into sharper focus as measures and tools to increase workplace health and safety, which brings them closer to the category of ‘workplace essentials.’

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Consider, for example, space occupancy sensors. Strong business cases have existed for several years suggesting that organisations could save on real estate costs by installing sensors that give them accurate information about which workspaces and rooms are occupied, when, and for how long. Organisations that have implemented this technology have often been surprised to discover lower occupancy rates than they expected and have been able to reduce their portfolio size, alter the number, size and configuration of meeting rooms, and more. But for many businesses, this wasn’t compelling enough to lead them to invest in devices and management systems. Now, however, occupancy sensors have a new role to play in identifying whether safe occupancy thresholds and densities are being observed. They help teams identify where ‘hot spots’ may be occurring that could be cause for concern in terms of potential for COVID-19 spreading, and where there are vacant desks or workstations that are available.

Health and safety concerns like these have led to heightened interest in sensor systems, and a greater willingness to consider investment. Other technological advancements in the workplace could have similar trajectories. Want to learn more about some of short and long term benefits of these advancements? You can attend our webinar with Schneider Electric to learn about how smart building technology and an IWMS can help your organisation tackle workplace re-entry.

Smart Building Technology & Employee Wellness

The workplace consultancy Space Matrix recently posted a newsletter article describing how technologies can provide assistance with wellness issues. Use of video apps like Zoom, Skype and Teams to conduct fitness classes or social hours have become common in many companies. But the Internet of Things provides many more options. Since the COVID-19 crisis, employees may have heightened concerns about air quality, cleanliness and other areas that could affect their health. It’s not difficult to imagine a new class of workplace engagement app that allows workers to do spot checks on the carbon dioxide levels of a meeting room they are entering, view how often the air is refreshed in the room (air changes per hour as determined by air handling equipment) or to see when that room was last cleaned or disinfected. In theory, all it would require is location awareness and a link to the facility management system and/or building automation system that can provide that location-specific data.

Touch-free check-ins and temperature checks also are important issues for many companies. The folks at Space Matrix envision robots being used as greeters, providing temperature checks and authorising access. It’s easy enough to imagine them directing the arriving workers to their assigned seat for the day and letting them know which lift to use.

Food delivery applications that enable touch-free delivery or pickup have been thriving during the pandemic. We use Deliveroo or Uber Eats to order from our local restaurants and cafés; we can pick it up kerbside or have it dropped off at our front door. This concept certainly could prove useful with workplace canteens or coffee shops – maybe even with delivery by those same robots that checked us into the building earlier.

Science fiction has long envisioned convenience at the push of a button, and in reality, society has been moving in that direction. But if the buttons are on our personal devices – mobile phones and tablets – we avoid the danger of high-touch contamination, and help the future to arrive that much sooner.

David Karpook
Vice President of Operations, North America