The critical role of occupancy sensor technology in your hybrid working toolkit

OFF

Change in the workplace is moving, it seems, at the speed of light.

Most progressive companies are naturally seizing the opportunity of hybrid working. While hybrid means more time off-site, there is still a need for staff to visit the office for collaboration or staff training – tasks better achieved face to face. Similarly, they may also need a desk and this is more than likely going to be a hot desk.

This means that, paradoxically, space is at more of a premium than ever before. Allocating and understanding the nature of this space usage has never been more important in an era of flexibility. Occupancy sensor technology provides the solution.

Putting people first

Post-Covid organizations are recalibrating. They have a great opportunity in several key areas:

Talent-retention – it is undeniable that the “Great Resignation” following Covid has forced organizations to think about how they design the world of work – for the better.

Productivity – while there are benefits to face-to-face collaboration, there are also benefits to working alone or even off-site. When planning the office of the future leaders need to reflect on this.

Sustainability – this is a key factor for many organizations. Heating and lighting largely unoccupied conference rooms and offices is wasteful both in terms of cost and the environment.

Wellness – Covid is now moving into the endemic stage. Organizations will need to still maintain social distancing and cleanliness. Managing people flow and keeping staff safely distanced are two key actions for leaders.

The role of real estate leadership

Real estate leaders need to be armed with data that will enable them to create an environment that encourages collaboration – whether that is face to face or virtually or both. Usage data is invaluable for them to decide, for example, to provide more meeting rooms or to repurpose existing space.

They also need to provide a great digital experience for their agile staff in order that the minimum amount of time is spent checking in to desks and rooms and more time is spent on engaging and meaningful work that matters and that will keep them motivated.

More attention to staff density will need to be undertaken with emphasis on cluster points such as canteens, meeting rooms and reception areas. Moving staff swiftly and safely through the building is paramount.

The benefits of occupancy sensor technology

With the increasingly transient nature of the workforce, it is becoming harder for organizations to measure actual occupancy. Manual methods such as surveys are slow and prone to bias and without a check-in/out process it is impossible to gauge accurate utilisation of space.

Occupancy sensors are the silver bullet that will drive workplace and human-centric design in the hybrid workplace, while giving real estate leaders all the ammunition they need to provide a compelling rationale to right size the real estate portfolio.

The key benefits of deploying sensor technology are:

Maximizing space use: being able to measure the people flow through your estate is vital. The sensors can establish with pinpoint accuracy which areas have low and high usage, making it easy to know which areas to maintain and which can be repurposed or rationalized.

Controlling space costs: no-one wants to be maintaining space that is not well utilised. It is costly and, for organizations looking to reduce their climate impact, self-defeating.

Eliminating such unused space significantly saves operating costs and adds to profitability.

Creating a great staff experience: staff need space to work. It needs to be optimised from an ergonomic view and a budgetary perspective. Having accurate data means real estate leaders can create the optimised work space for staff while ensuring social distancing is maintained.

Creating a perfect hybrid environment: the new styles of working require new workplace designs that cater to multiple working styles – whether it is for informal meetings or Teams meetings in conference rooms – for example. Triangulating data from the sensor technology and other solutions such as the room booking software equips leaders with granular information on how staff are actually interacting with the space.

Driving sustainability: Effective use of space translates into the optimum use of energy. This not only includes heating and lighting but could also include intangibles such as travelling to the office – using space density data enables the facilities team to make smart choices on what part of the building to keep operational.

Reducing “no shows” – with staff becoming more used to flexibility, it is inevitable that some may choose at the last minute to stay at home. The sensor technology can detect if the room/desk is empty for a set period of time and when integrated with room booking software auto-release it for someone else to use. It puts an end to “ghost meetings” – a great source of wasted cost and staff frustration – and as it is fully automated it is one less item for leaders to manage.

A wealth of data – as sensors measure in real-time actual desk and room usage they provide all the data you need to make meaningful decisions. Further, integration between the sensors and room and desk booking systems enables you to enhance this data even further and make some intelligent comparisons between real and intended space usage.

A great digital experience – while it may not have been designed for Covid – sensor technology has transpired to be a wonderful solution. Staff simply walk up to a digital signage screen, find a free space and walk up to it to “check in” and walk away to “check out”. It could not be simpler or safer.

Easy to deploy – placed under desks and boardroom tables they are totally inobtrusive and use very little power. They can be deployed on a permanent basis or as a part of a low-cost survey experience for companies wishing to gather utilization data quickly and cost effectively as a kick-start to a wider digital transformation experience.

A Utilisation Survey

The NFS Utilisation Study- recognising the importance of real time space utilization data, NFS now offer a cost effective and rapid deployment survey solution designed to give companies a route into the adoption of sensor technology to create the most effective hybrid work environment for staff. Here is the link.

Conclusion

The ways in which staff interact with their working environments have changed greatly over the last two years. De facto assumptions about where they will be working or how they will be working have changed.

With this move to unassigned seating and more informal modes of collaboration, sensor technology plays two key roles – providing a safe and touchless experience for check in/out and a wealth of data for leaders to continuously improve the workplace experience.

Check out our new video to see how the sensor technology works in action and for strategies to help you hit the ground running when considering this important topic.