Using IoT Tech Is Crucial For Office Planning And Employee Health

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Kate Tattersfield
Kate Tattersfield
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IoT technologies can provide key data to help organizations design their offices better — and boost employee health at the same time.

This article was originally published by Allwork.Space.

Hybrid working is the new norm — for office-based organizations at least. But with fewer people traveling to physical workspaces at any given time, how can business leaders and landlords ensure their real estate footprint is worth the investment?

Allwork.Space recently caught up with Erin McDannald, CEO and Co-Owner of Environments to talk about some of the technologies her business is using to gain a deeper insight into how the built environment is utilized by employees.

Through IoT-powered heat mapping, for instance, Environments discovered that one section of the office was typically empty, and so turned it into a gym space.
“The Internet of Things (IoT) describes the network of physical objects — things — that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the internet,” according to Oracle.

IoT technology can also monitor and improve air quality, which, in turn, boosts wellbeing.

Ultimately, it is about making the office environment attractive: a healthy place that facilitates collaboration, and inspires and motivates people to do their best work.

Allwork.Space: Hi Erin. First, can you explain heat mapping in a few sentences?

Erin McDannald: Heat mapping is a visual representation of information, usually using a range of colors to convey variations. For our purposes, heat mapping is used to track activity in the built environment. This provides stakeholders with a slew of information, including real-time occupancy data.

Allwork.Space: How is heat mapping applied in different built environment contexts?

Erin McDannald: One of the most exciting use cases for heat mapping is for retail stores. Heat maps can show company leadership which sections of their stores have the most foot traffic. For example, a department store could utilize this technology to determine that men’s accessories has the most traffic in the store, and men’s shoes has the least.

This should lead businesses to investigate the underperformance of the men’s shoes department and make adjustments to improve the shopper experience.

Allwork.Space: Let’s talk about offices. Why should leaders and landlords consider using heat mapping in their buildings, and how can they measure its value?

Erin McDannald: In the workplace sector, heat mapping will prove to be an integral tool, especially in the hybrid-work era, when many companies are considering downsizing or reimagining their physical office space.

In our own office, we discovered through heat mapping that one section of our office was typically empty and eventually turned it into a gym space. Not only does this make better use of our real estate investment, but it promotes employee wellness.

Allwork.Space: Which other IoT tools can help business leaders optimize their buildings?

Erin McDannald: Air quality is one of the most under-appreciated aspects of our daily lives. When air quality is good, it goes unnoticed, but when it is poor, it can cause many issues. With a robust IoT infrastructure, companies can track the air quality in their offices remotely, and ensure the wellbeing of their employees.

It’s also vital that business leaders put systems in place to monitor CO2 levels.

While many offices don’t have monitoring mechanisms in place, having too much CO2 creates brain fog, thus negatively affecting productivity, wellness, and happiness.

Having sensors in place helps maintain optimum CO2 levels by connecting occupancy data and climate controls. As building occupancy increases, an IoT-enabled system can open vents and run fans to introduce fresh air. A smart building system understands that when X number of people are present in the office, the space will reach its CO2 threshold and can automatically adjust before a problem arises.

Allwork.Space: Would a business leader require in-house expertise if they wanted to set up heat mapping in their own premises?

Erin McDannald: Installing heat mapping technology does require expertise, but that expertise does not need to be found in-house. Once the technology has been configured, interpreting and correlating your heat mapping data is simple and straightforward.

Heat mapping metrics can be transformative for your business and office function, made available to all desired user types.

Heat mapping information can be compared to or stacked with other spatial data to learn about your office and the movement or flow of its community.

In our own building, looking at the heat mapping data from our sample storage room has allowed us to optimize our real estate and get the most use out of every area. When our heat map clearly showed infrequent movement in one quadrant of the storage room, we had the insight to reorganize and restructure to get better use of the square footage.

Heat mapping can also help users make socially minded decisions.

If you were to stack week-long heat mapping and desk reservation data before booking a desk for the workday, you could choose to reserve a desk in a more populated space if you wanted some collaboration time or a desk in a lower-traffic area if you needed to focus.

Allwork.Space: What’s on the horizon for heat mapping and IoT technology?

Erin McDannald: One of the greatest focuses, both here within the Environments team and in the industry at large, is connecting our physical and digital worlds. We’re developing in a direction that will make hybrid work truly seamless, and the information collected within our physical spaces is key.

We’re identifying new workplace trends and testing out the very best hardware to make digital transformation happen. As we create and connect more data points within our spaces, we continue to learn and work better together.

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