By Stefan Schwab
In an economic downturn facility managers find themselves coping with change and increasing complexity when thinking of economic recovery. The current market is particularly challenging: organizations are facing the combined pressures of inflation, increased sales cycles, global conflicts, and reduced investments. Executives are looking at the workplace as a critical lever to adapt to these headwinds. At the same time, many executives are looking out at empty offices, with post-pandemic remote or hybrid work policies allowing employees to come in once or twice per week—if at all.
These empty workspaces are often viewed as albatrosses—expensive real estate providing little value to the business. Yet as business leaders seek to maintain control during an uncertain economy, offices and other workspaces offer tremendous opportunities. New advances in proptech make it possible for facility managers to drive cost and energy savings in their buildings, as well as more efficient operations throughout the organization.
Businesses will continue to face tough decisions throughout 2023. But by taking advantage of technology and building data insights with these four strategies, facilities executives can help drive a long-term economic recovery:
1. Optimizing space utilization
Understanding space utilization isn’t just a matter of knowing how many people are in an office at a given moment—it’s about understanding how employees are interacting with the space. IoT enabled sensors installed in a building’s lighting infrastructure can capture vast amounts of data and adding people counting technology can determine how many people enter a specific area to better understand utilization patterns. Collected and aggregated over time, this information will help an organization understand when and how their spaces are being used and make decisions on how to reorganize their workspace or potentially reduce their footprint in order to increase employee satisfaction and save money by reducing their energy bill.
2. Facilitating effective workflows
Buildings are dynamic places. From schools to hospitals to office buildings to warehouses, facilities are a frenzy of activity. The people that use our buildings often move from point A to point B without thinking about how they get there. But how do we know if we’ve set these people up for success? Using the same people counting data from sensors, we can understand the ways in which people move through spaces and buildings. This data can reveal bottlenecks and illogical layouts, allowing organizations to rearrange floor plans to facilitate easier movement and offer more spaces for collaboration if needed.
Moving a step further, real time location services (RTLS) combine people counting data with asset tracking to keep a real-time catalog of where essential assets are located and how a user can best reach them. In a hospital, wayfinding apps for example help new patients find the easiest path to a registration desk and their examination room. In a warehouse, the same technology can help employees to locate critical pieces of equipment—adding up to valuable savings in both time and money.
3. Driving energy savings
Have you ever walked into a conference room at 9 a.m. on Monday morning to find the lights on and the building cooled to 67°F? Data, collected with IoT Sensors in lights and shared with an HVAC can alert companies when they’re spending valuable resources on spaces that aren’t being used.
This isn’t just a matter of days off. With an automated lighting system, organizations can conduct profile analysis, understand facility utilization, take advantage of ambient light, and monitor energy consumption. These insights can then allow facilities managers to make data-backed insights regarding when a space will or won’t be used—and adjust their energy resources accordingly. Our buildings are responsible for one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions; data and building IoT technologies can help reduce that emissions profile to meet city and state emissions, as well as contribute to a company’s net zero goals.
4. Creating a more productive and comfortable workplace
Employers and employees continue the delicate dance of determining how and when to return to the office. According to Gensler Research Institute’s U.S. Workplace Survey 2022, employees have specific requirements for them to spend more time working in person. According to the survey, “Employees are looking for offices that are both effective in supporting their ability to focus on their work and offer a more desirable mix of experiences.” Research indicates employees want comfortable spaces that resemble a coffee shop or a creative lab with quiet spaces that resemble a library, rather than rows of cubicles with fluorescent tube lighting. The report shows that workers in high-performing workspaces are more productive and want to come into the office.
Business leaders should carefully consider the physical office environment they provide for employees so they can maximize productivity and facilitate a rewarding experience. Sensors, building data, wayfinding apps, and employee experience apps that foster collaboration for office time that is meaningful provide the framework for high productivity and satisfaction.
On an individual level, IoT applications on workplace experience reduce the cognitive load for employees to facilitate hybrid work and free them up to focus on getting their jobs done and easily collaborate with colleagues. And on a higher level, building data can help facility managers make decisions across the organization—laying out clearly how they can reorganize spaces, lower energy bills, and use their resources the most efficiently. The result is a business that is more productive, sustainable, and cost-effective. Optimizing each workplace will drive economic efficiency and lay the groundwork for a steady, long-term recovery.
Schwab joined Enlighted as CEO in 2018. Prior to Enlighted, he was the Executive General Manager for Siemens Building Technologies in Australia and New Zealand where he led business transformation by empowering people and increasing customer centricity.