Occupancy sensors—driving workplace transformation?

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The world of work has changed significantly in the last 18 months. Workplace transformation has happened by accident as much as design.

Whether these changes have been driven by a global pandemic, societal changes or the rapid improvement in new technologies one thing is for certain, work is no longer about a journey to the office.

While office facilities may remain permanent, the relationship between the people and the space is ever changing.

Sensor technology is key to understanding and maximizing the use of space and can form a central part of a back to the office strategy.

An opportunity for change

As organizations embark on their back to the office journey, it is clear that previous office configurations need to be changed for the new breed of agile worker.

With hybrid working taking centre stage, cubicle farms, open plan offices and fixed offices are being replaced with spaces more suited to collaborative working and deeper engagement.

While it may be an attractive idea to simply downsize real estate, with concerns about the productivity impact of enclosing staff in small spaces and the fear of virus transmission, a better approach is to tailor space to the organization’s exact needs.

The checklist for change

Our philosophy is that technology works best when it forms a complete ecosystem – the connected workplace.

Our recommended checklist for a successful back to office strategy includes:

Revaluate workplace design

When thinking about your new floorplan you need to consider how workers will interact with the building. A typical worker’s day may include:

  • Starting the day at a hot desk for some intense work
  • A video conference in a small meeting room
  • A coffee break in the lounge where they may catch up on emails
  • A face-to-face team meeting in a larger meeting room
  • Time spent with colleagues in a huddle space.

Consideration needs to be given to how the workers can seamlessly transition from one area to another. Once you have this design in place then technology such as mobile booking apps and occupancy sensors can play a pivotal role in how and why the staff navigate through the space.

Look at the bigger picture

By integrating occupancy sensors with other technologies such as meeting room booking software you get the opportunity to consolidate data far better than on relying on such systems in isolation.

Occupancy sensors deliver a real “live” picture of how space is being used – or not. Over time, for example, you can see whether those expensive to run boardrooms or huddle spaces are actually being used to their fully capacity or whether they could be repurposed.

While room booking software is ideal for your scheduling needs it may not give you a true picture of room occupancy. Integrating sensor technology with a room booking system gives you the total view of how many people are using your rooms. The data from the occupancy sensors will also give you the information you need to ensure that social distancing rules are being enforced.

Think about maintaining social distancing

Another key benefit of the occupancy sensors is that they measure people density.

This is a key metric in ensuring social distancing measures are being adhered to. Being able to predict the correct densities and at specific times of the day of the week is vital for space planning and reconfiguration. For example, real estate managers will be able to accurately gauge how much space they need to allow between desks while being able to meet demand.

Touch free check in/out

By integrating the occupancy sensors with a digital signage platform, you can create a completely touch-free check in and check out experience for your team.

The process of selecting and checking in to a desk could not be easier – staff simply find a free (and socially distanced) space on the digital signage floorplan, walk to it and sit down while the sensor detects their presence and checks them in.

Reducing no-shows

Another great application of the integration between occupancy sensors and other solutions is in terms of reducing no shows.

By linking the sensors to the room and desk booking software, it is easy to identify no-shows simply by detecting no presence in the room or at the desk. Aligning this with business rules – such as room and desk auto release – means that the space can be made available for someone who needs it – automatically.

Better cleaning regimes

In addition to social distancing, office cleanliness is pivotal as part of the whole back to the office journey.

The sensors can be used to detect high traffic areas of use and this information can be used by the service team to ensure that they pay extra attention to these potentially infectious areas.

For example, cleaning staff can be proactively messaged when a certain quota of visitors has been met in the lobby and cleaning can take place.

Business intelligence

The occupancy sensors produce a wealth of actionable data. From live floorplan data for desk availability to historical data on meeting room occupancy levels, space usage by day of the week, to visualizing patterns of usage by department.

Armed with this data, real estate leaders can make informed decisions about user and departmental space needs. For example, the marketing team can be mandated to come into the office only a Wednesday.

Planning reconfiguration of space or making decisions on office moves becomes much easier. Leaders can see in their minds eye what is required in terms of rooms, desks and collaborative space – all backed by facts.

Conclusion

Sensor technology is a pivotal part of the back to office toolkit. Providing real-time and historical actionable data gives you a solid base on which to build future office configurations to meet the changing needs of today’s workers, while maintaining the correct levels of social distancing and cleanliness.

Combining sensor technology with room booking and desk booking platforms maximizes the utilization of space while further innovations such as integration with digital signage and floorplans ensures a safe and socially distanced desk check in/out experience for staff.

This smart technology is a win-win for everyone – real estate leaders can drive value based on accurate usage while workers get a productive working environment based on their needs. This is workplace transformation in action.