Smart Buildings: Return to Work

Following the fallout of COVID-19 more businesses have seen the benefit of home working, as such some office buildings are being vacated as they’re no longer required. However, this reduces the total available capacity within the office and therefore measures need to be brought in place to facilate office workers. Although some workers like working from home, others do still prefer the office as it takes them out of the house. Especially for larger families, working in a shared office space can be stressful and can start blurring the lines between work hours and personal hours. There are numerous ways in which we can handle this return to work period using Microsoft technology. The next few paragraphs will go through a series of options starting with the simple “do it now” method and the more complex Azure data architecture.

One method of helping people return to the office is using some method of registering office space and information office workers you’ll be attending. This ensure that allocated space can be provided observing social distancing and that if the office can’t facilitate you, you’re made aware well in advance. An example of this would be using a Power App on the user’s device that enables them to select a seating area and book their timeslot. Not only is this convenient for the user but other information could be conveyed at the point of booking. Some of our clients use a similar solution when visitors arrive at the office, they push health and safety information through the app which advises them of any COVID measures put in place.

Pushing on from this idea, we could also start looking at enhancing the amount of information we provide to workers but also to facility managers. One example is using IoT sensors in different work areas to pickup occupation data and therefore determine if seating space is available. If this is then paired to a booking system, workers can choose spaces based on who’s currently working there. The booking system could also have social distancing baked in preventing users from booking seats too close to other colleagues. The other benefit of this allows facility managers to view occupancy in certain areas and determine if people are social distancing.

Now, going forward a year it’s unlikely social distancing measures will still be in place, therefore investing in this solution seems unfeasible. However, depending on the type of sensors that are deployed, this could be an ongoing project that helps make better use of office space. The sensors themselves don’t just need to be based on occupancy but also environmental information such as temperature. If a building can start detecting other information about its office space, facility managers can better understand what capacity is available. A client of ours use a touchscreen in the reception area of buildings globally that enable visitors to select their working area as they arrive at the office. The screen shows all working areas, temperature information for those areas along with other information such as air quality. Allowing a user to select their working conditions based on this information ensures they are more productive and office space is utilised efficiently.

If you’d like to know more about IoT and it’s use in smart buildings, be sure to get in touch. Alternatively, we have several additional data blogs which may spark your interest:

Microsoft are also pushing the use of data technologies, check out this article which provides a use case and more information on a return to work approach:

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