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Moving Beyond Efficiency

Most of us are familiar with the data-driven approach to the workplace. Sensors can reveal when desks, offices, and communal areas are being used, so that ‘hot desking’ and other efficiency-enhancing services can be offered.

Once a certain amount of historical data accumulates, you can make decisions about the placement of chairs, office supplies, desks; you can analyse the way that workers move around the office and see what spaces they prefer to spend time in.

All this means space optimisation. It also means increased worker satisfaction and, down the line, increased worker attraction and retention, one of the main concerns for business owners and for facilities managers alike.

But for employers, the benefits of a truly optimised building have to go further. At present, we are living through a massive economic and social health crisis, and work must be done remotely wherever possible. Small businesses across the country are able to take advantage of measures that the government has put in place, but it means nothing without the capacity  to move your organizational structure online, on to the cloud, and continue to provide services, deliver outputs, and attend meetings. Here are some of the advantages.

First, digital management systems and sensors bring together in one place all the configurable settings of an office: lighting, heating, ventilation, and so on. One effect of this is to optimise performance. Another effect is that, when no one is in the office, they can be configured to use as little energy as possible with no requirement for an on-sight visit. CCTV and access control can also be monitored remotely, so that the office and the assets inside the office can be kept safe. This makes social distancing easier, and saves on fuel (and emissions) required to visit the site.

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic is also forcing a reappraisal of supply chains in this market; as a recent study conducted by IHS Markit found, ‘global manufacturing contracted at the fastest rate in over a decade during February… led by a record slump in activity at China’s factories.’ With so many Chinese component manufacturers offline, the need for coordinated and robust supply chains in access control is increasingly obvious.

Second, the productivity of employees is key to keeping small businesses afloat. But the productivity gains of a digitally enhanced, optimised workplace are not all tied to the physical space of the office itself: employees who are able to access assets remotely, and to find information about business operations from the cloud, can work as effectively from home as from the office. During the current crisis, and during the inevitable recession that will follow, flexible working will be increasingly important as businesses look for cost-saving measures; this is another instance where the adaptability and ‘future proofing’ of buildings will come to be seen, not as a luxurious addendum, but as something essential for continued operation.

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