Nov 14, 2022

Smart workspaces in the age of hybrid

Julie Sylvest

Remote working has changed the way we interact with our workspaces. Take a look at how IoT can deliver new solutions to the requirements for a modern smart workplace.

In the age of hybrid work comes the need for companies to adapt to change. And this adaptation is crucial, especially in a post-covid world where assured work flexibility has become a norm. Research shows that 72% of office workers prefer a hybrid way of working even if it means they will forgo a pay rise. Two-thirds would not even apply for a new job unless long-term workspace flexibility is guaranteed.

In times like these, it may not be enough to offer “just” an open space office. Granted, we are past the heydays of single offices or even the rather depressing cubicles. A state-of-the-art office can be so much more than just a simple open space. Collaboration spaces are not solely an eyecatcher, they are also raising work efficiency and a sense of community. And these spaces have their own opportunities for improving employee experience in the office.

Opportunities for smart workplaces

The shift to flexible work directly impacts how new office operations are implemented. At the center of these decisions should be the well-being of the employees and the efficiency of management processes.

  • Achieving well-being for all

Workplace well-being is not a new concept. However, like many other post-covid trends stemming from hybrid working, it has become an increasingly important topic. Focusing on employee well-being reduces sick days, improves productivity, and increases overall office mood. As there are many avenues to tackling this topic, we will focus on two smart cases: space occupancy monitoring and air quality monitoring.

One of the main benefits of being in the office is the ability to speak face-to-face with colleagues. This requires a collaborative space and raises the questions of how often and to what extent these workspaces are being used. To foster collaboration decisions in the time of hybrid work, having access to the real-time usage of all meeting rooms and communal spaces allows for informative choices when scheduling. Similarly, a comprehensive overview of individual desk usage reduces friction points in environments with free desk policies. With this data, employers also cater to the specific needs of their employees as well as save money by improving operations.

With shared spaces and an increasing number of employees in and out of the office, employers should also focus on the automation of air quality systems. Indoor air quality might not be seen as a basic pillar of well-being as it is out of sight, but there is a strong correlation between proper ventilation and optimum performance. Even beyond performance, maintaining proper office air flow can prevent health issues such as fatigue and headaches, as well as the transmission of viruses. This system can be completely automated to bring intangible particles to workable data, for quicker reaction times to unsatisfactory levels.

  • Greater efficiency of management processes

Air quality monitoring is just one of the many new workplace considerations Covid has introduced, even to the most well-managed workspaces prior to the pandemic. With hygiene at the top of everyone’s mind, processes that were once well-equipped to cater to employee needs have to be rethought. Important to improved operations and resource management, quick reaction times are crucial for efficient workplace procedures.

Timely hygiene administration is only one example of facility management that improves workplace efficiency. Proper hygiene tracking keeps spaces clean which in turn reduces the spread of contaminants and pathogens. This includes tracking how often dispensers are used and when the facilities are used most often. This tracking provides real-time alerts to enhance cleaning schedules, as personnel have a better understanding of usage. With crowd prediction, facility teams can avoid cleaning in busy periods, scheduling routine maintenance in quieter times.

Two main benefits of intelligent hygiene include resource optimization and increased productivity. By tracking resources, managers have a better understanding of product use and can improve inventory management to reduce unnecessary spending. Deploying cleaning personnel only when needed increases productivity. A washroom that has not been used all day will not be cleaned, also contributing to resource savings.

Zurich Insurance headquarters, an example of a state-of-the-art smart building

IoT solutions for smart workplaces

How can we fill the gaps towards creating a smarter workplace? We are convinced of the benefits of state-of-the-art IoT solutions to support employee well-being and efficient management processes.

  • IoT solutions for well-being at the workplace

Occupancy sensors make it possible to share spaces safely. If your office is operating with a shared-desk system, you can rely on floor maps with real-time occupancy data to find unoccupied spaces without walking the entire floor. This system also integrates with meeting rooms to provide this data. As many employees regularly interact in crowded meeting rooms, there is a likelihood of poor air quality and possible transmission of viruses. For this reason, it is crucial to monitor air quality values.

In one use case in the city of Zug, akenza joined forces with Astra LED to provide the optimal solution to this monitoring. The system installed in the townhouse in Zug requires a lamp with an embedded sensor connected to the akenza IoT platform. The sensor measures the air quality of the room and transmits the data to the IoT platform. The parameters are monitored continuously and the data is displayed on a dedicated dashboard. If the room requires ventilation, the lamp changes accordingly with a simple color system (green: acceptable, orange: high levels, red: critical levels). Even schools have implemented this monitoring system to raise student awareness on the topic of air quality. Together this system fosters a healthy environment and ensures the well-being of employees and students alike.

  • IoT solutions for an efficient workplace

Cleaning is an industry that has avoided change for too long. When Soobr Ltd. was founded in 2020 it felt like a breath of fresh air. Soobr Ltd. revolutionized the cleaning industry through data acquisition and artificial intelligence. Smart room sensors collect data regarding room occupancy and patterns. This technology is using LoRaWAN which allows devices to communicate the needed distances while minimizing battery usage.

Based on the collected data the Soobr cockpit plans cleaning tours which are visible through a tablet, providing a simple map of the spaces reflecting the demand by filling individual rooms with different colors. This heightened transparency deploys staff to clean only when needed which leads to a time saving of up to 15%. The Soobr platform is based on akenza, which is responsible for the LoRaWAN connectivity and device management.

soobr's cockpit is a custom application connected to the akenza platform

How to build your own smart office

The great thing about modern office solutions is their variety. You can creatively design your very own solution and listen to stakeholder needs at the same time. And the opportunities for novel solutions don’t limit themselves to the problematics of hybrid work. To relieve customer service desks, self-service buttons allow for one push to trigger notifications reaching responsible personnel. Critical asset monitoring performs real-time analysis on the status of critical assets such as fire extinguishers in the building and temperature alerts to improve and automate monitoring capabilities.

Whatever your post-covid workplace requirements are, akenza provides customizable solutions. Our broad offerings of smart office cases tested by our various customers help you to adapt to change in the workplace and prepare your space for future uncertainties.

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