For a moment in time, it appeared working remotely was going to become the new norm. And for a while it was. Many of us got through 2020 without leaving the comfort of our homes as we did our work efficiently and effectively. But as the situation with Covid is beginning to stabilize and companies are putting together their return to the office plans, two things are becoming obvious:
- Office space will continue to be crucial in 2021 and beyond.
- The way we use these office spaces needs to change ASAP: 83% of all employees want to work in either a remote or hybrid arrangement, according to Gartner.
The idea of a hybrid workplace isn’t new and certainly wasn’t created by the pandemic. People were looking for ways to defy geographic location even before the emergence of the Internet. The term “telecommuting” was coined back in 1973 by Jack Nilles, who was among the first to argue the advantages of remote work.
However, what used to be a “nice to have” has now turned into a “must have” – and companies need to adapt quickly.
Luckily, plenty of workspace management solutions are helping companies speed up their modernization process. There is a lot of emphasis on optimizing space usage, transforming old cubicles into modern hot desks and desk hoteling, creating communal spaces, and assigning employees to work from the office on certain days of the week. These approaches are accompanied by a big opportunity for improvement: leveraging the power of remote monitoring with IoT in the workplace.
What advantages does an IoT asset-monitoring platform bring to the workplace?
When talking about cutting costs, let’s not forget that the biggest expense companies face after employee salaries is facilities management. Rent, while an important consideration, is only a portion of that cost, and maintaining your facilities in functioning order is one expense that might increase even if your office space decreases.
Forecasts for the facilities management sector, from the BCIS five-year forecasts (3rd quarter 2019 to 3rd quarter 2024), are:
- maintenance costs will rise by 19%
- cleaning costs will rise by 26%
- energy costs will rise by 6%
This is where remote asset monitoring with IoT comes into play.
While you likely can’t avoid calling in the maintenance crew more often to sanitize office space, you can minimize requesting a site visit for false alarms. IoT systems like vx Observe allow you to monitor your assets through sensors, thus giving you real-time data about their condition. Not only will you reduce costs on unnecessary maintenance requests, but it will empower you with next-generation preventive maintenance capabilities: fixing assets before they even break. vx Observe detects changes in the signal pattern of your asset sensors, thus giving you a heads up that your HVAC or other asset needs a checkup.
We should highlight here that office workers weren’t the only ones who switched to working from home during the pandemic. The idea of doing maintenance work remotely would have sounded futuristic just a few years ago, but now, thanks to IoT asset management software, this is becoming a reality. IoT platforms allow maintenance engineers to make certain fixes remotely by connecting to the assets and changing the settings. This further decreases the need for site visits and increases your budget savings.
Another application for IoT is energy savings. The data collected by your sensors can give an indication of which assets are performing up to standard and which assets are decreasing in efficiency over time. After all, a malfunctioning asset isn’t a liability only in terms of maintenance costs, but it can also use up more energy to perform the same tasks as a functional asset.
By combining your energy meter data with the IoT analytics you gain from vx Observe, you have the ability to improve your energy performance, lower costs and reduce your carbon footprint.
In addition to the changes happening in the office space, behind the scenes the KPIs for service providers are starting to shift from how long it takes to fix something to the quality of the service provided. In other words, rather than paying for how often maintenance engineers make site visits or how long it takes to fix an asset, performance-based facilities management contracts are looking at how well an asset was fixed.
This is another key role that predictive maintenance software will play in the future: vx Observe will tell us if the asset’s sensor readings are normal or if more fixing is necessary.
What are the benefits of using both IoT and workplace management tools together?
Many modern offices already have workspace management software such as EMS to help their employees interact with their environments. However, companies at the forefront of innovation are realizing that even more can be achieved if you combine the workplace management tool with an IoT system. The benefits apply across a variety of use cases.
Optimizing energy spend in empty spaces
As more and more companies are offering their employees flexible working options, they are also running into the problem of paying rent and bills on office space that is empty at times.
Let’s say, for example, only 20% of your employees choose to come into the office on a Friday, and they reserve desks across 5 floors. Typically, this would be a frustrating situation in which the employer would have to cover the cost of not only rent but also electricity, HVAC and other necessities across all 5 floors for a small number of people.
But those using EMS could easily check the system to see how many people are planning on being in the office the next day, and the admin would have the ability to dynamically reassign everyone’s desks to the same floor. Furthermore, the admin could also log into the remote monitoring solution, vxObserve, and shut down the energy on the empty floors – thus reducing cost as well as decreasing the carbon footprint.
Preparing meeting rooms remotely
We’ve all sat through uncomfortable meetings in which the room was either boiling hot or freezing cold. And some of us have had to deal with the frustration of not being able to find an office admin or maintenance engineer on site to help regulate the problem quickly.
Companies using EMS don’t have to leave this up to chance. A quick look at the room booking schedule within our space management tool will let admins know exactly when any given room will be used. Rather than sending someone ahead of the meeting to press the button on the HVAC control, they can simply log into their IoT platform and set the system to cool down, or increase the temperature in the room to optimal levels, just before the start of the meeting.
In addition, some of the more advanced functionality of vx Observe even allows the system to monitor the temperature during the meeting, and continuously adjust as needed. This will both optimize your employee experience and reduce energy spend because vx Observe won’t forget to turn down the AC once the meeting is over!
Improving air quality
A big trend in the office management industry is focused on air quality, with studies and even government-issued advice on optimal CO2 levels inside the office space. As Covid has brought health and sanitation issues into the forefront, the idea of keeping the air inside your office well-filtered and fresh is something that most employees will appreciate, and perhaps even deem necessary.
The combination of IoT and workspace management tools comes to the rescue. EMS can help companies identify which rooms and spaces of the office are being actively used and thus require air quality optimization. And the remote asset monitoring solution, vx Observe, could connect to sensors that would inform it of the current CO2 levels in any given room. Then you could program the system to automatically bring in air from outside ventilation to create the perfect balance inside.
Cost Efficiency with Accruent’s EMS and vx Observe
The modern workplace means keeping your best people safe and productive with a secure, cost-efficient office. As you consider integrating the power of IoT remote monitoring with optimizing your space usage in the workplace, we invite you to consider how Accruent’s EMS space management and room scheduling platform, when combined with our vx Observe energy management software, can help your organization increase efficiency and lower overall costs.