The Connected Workplace: IOT Devices Usher in a New Era for the Modern Workplace

The advent of the “smart home” era is well documented. Connected devices and technologies are maturing and they’re steadily and inexorably transforming the typical at-home experience, automating and personalizing everything from entertainment to energy consumption.  

Meanwhile, as home technology laggards marvel at a connected refrigerator capable of compiling shopping lists and ordering groceries with no human intervention, another Internet of Things (IoT) transformation - this one in the workplace - is beginning to take root.

This new focus on connecting the workplace has two objectives:

  1. Maximize operational savings
  2. Revolutionize the workplace experience
Operational Savings
Large organizations, generally those utilizing over 150,000 square feet of space, perhaps occupying multiple floors in an office building or a large scale, multiple-building headquarters campus, allocate considerable resources to physical plant, energy, and maintenance.

Like self-learning thermostats available for the home, present-day IoT devices and technologies are, as an example, able to sense human activity in a particular wing of a building and through an integrated building management system automatically adjust environmental set points in that space – e.g., lighting, HVAC - based on multiple factors, such as time of day and weather.

Another example, this from a building maintenance perspective: janitorial staff, via a mobile device, can access an activity report compiled to determine whether or not they need to clean that area of the building.

Workplace Experience
Part of what sets forward-looking organizations apart is a recognition that retaining and attracting the best employees means creating an environment that makes people genuinely want to come to work every day.  These organizations nurture corporate cultures, design physical environments and leverage workplace technologies as assets, differentiating themselves from the competition in the market for top talent.

It’s increasingly likely that employees live connected lives at home, are comfortable with IoT technologies, and will highly value or even expect similar technologies in their work environment. Such technologies and their application can range from the practical (conference room scheduling and temp/lighting control, resource booking, way-finding or presence detection in open-plan/flex-space/free address work environments, for example) to, well, the atmospheric – companies are experimenting with the use of technology to gauge employee mood and adjust the office lighting accordingly.

The workplace IoT revolution isn’t limited to just smart buildings. Third-party office product and service providers are getting into the act as well. Herman Miller, for example, has just introduced its LiveOS height adjustable desk, which comes equipped with a mobile app that can not only be integrated into any number of other workplace apps but that will also ‘remember’ an individual’s ergonomic preferences and prompt that user to sit or stand throughout the day based on the health settings they’ve provided. For Real Estate and Facilities Managers, the desk is capturing and reporting utilization data into the organization’s space management system, another tool for improving occupancy planning.

Alignment of Real Estate, Information Technology, and Human Resources
IoT is still quite new in the workplace, but adoption is accelerating. Certainly, resistance remains, primarily among those who don’t yet know what’s really possible. Early adopters, however, are – right now – bringing their RE&FM, IT and HR groups together to evaluate tools and develop a connected workplace strategy.

Such collaboration is no small thing; historically, in most organizations, RE & FM groups are consigned to playing a reactionary role, responding to dictates from corporate decision-makers. Now, smart building technologies, IoT connected devices and office products, like the LiveOS desk, are providing a rare platform for collaboration and – better yet for RE & FM - an opportunity to be innovative and to proactively introduce concepts that will significantly impact their organization.

Dusty Duistermars
Senior Managing Director

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