How the IoT Helps Optimize Hybrid Office Environments

IoT to help connect offices

Streamline HVAC Performance and Cleaning Schedules with Smart Building Sensors

For many people, their working world has become more flexible, remote, and hybrid. These new work modes have prompted facility managers to find new ways to work, coordinating maintenance, cleaning, and occupancy around office workers' fluctuating schedules. Unfortunately, we must also acknowledge that these changes and others have produced underused office spaces and rising vacancy rates, which must be managed.

Do It with Data

Facility, property, and building managers can turn to real-time and trending data from sensors connected to the Internet of Things (IoT). With this data, they can manage the predictable and sometimes unpredictable workday challenges regarding how building management systems (BMSs)—like environmental or indoor climate controls—should work optimally.

This 24/7 monitoring, combined with instant alerts on their smartphones about preset threshold breaches, will keep managers on top of what's happening even when they're working offsite or away during the weekend.

We should mention here that a sensor network monitoring a facility's occupancy, HVAC performance, plumbing, indoor air quality (IAQ), etc., doesn't need to be embedded into a BMS for managers to access the sensor-supplied critical building system data.

The data can be analyzed independently and securely in the cloud with iMonnit Premiere or exclusively on a desktop PC running iMonnit Enterprise or iMonnit Express. There are also easy ways to feed sensor data via the Building Automation and Control Networks (BACnet) protocol, an API, or webhook into your proprietary BMS and other software systems.

IoT sensors for office buildings

Strategically Install Sensors

Building occupancy sensors can help managers know which spaces are used and how often on a given day. Managers can optimize HVAC systems to conserve energy while preserving worker comfort by integrating space scheduling with smart thermostats and occupancy sensors.

HVAC sensors—duct temperature, humidity, differential air pressure, air velocity, vibration, current, and air quality—placed throughout a facility's system can track HVAC equipment performance to predict maintenance and improve efficiency.

IAQ—A Key Concern

Among the work-life balance reasons for employees to request remote or hybrid work, albeit to a lesser extent, are possibly poor IAQ and sick building syndrome. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we're more concerned about the air we breathe and cleanliness where we live and work. Here are some reasons why people worry about the cleanliness of buildings post-pandemic:

  • Health and Safety: People are more aware of how viruses and pathogens can spread in indoor spaces. Cleanliness measures are crucial for preventing the transmission of diseases, not just COVID-19, but also common illnesses like the flu and colds.
  • Public Health Education: The pandemic increased public awareness and education about proper hygiene and sanitation. People are more informed about how to protect themselves and others from infection.
  • Air Quality: Improved ventilation and air filtration are vital to building cleanliness. People are concerned about indoor air quality, and proper ventilation is crucial to dilute and remove contaminants.
  • Return to Work: As employees return to the workplace, even in hybrid mode, they want to be assured that their offices are cleaned and sanitized regularly to reduce the risk of infection. They want their employers to continue hygiene protocols to ensure a safe working environment.

To manage concerns, building owners and managers have had to implement enhanced cleaning processes, optimize ventilation systems, and improve communication to ensure occupants feel safe.

Hybrid Work Can Work for Everyone in a Smart, Connected Building

There can be more complexity to hybrid work, combining flexible in-office and remote modes. However, cleaning and HVAC scheduling don't need to complicate hybrid facility management practices. Accurate sensor data on workers' locations can also help with the efficiency and conservation of electricity, lighting, IAQ, heating, and cooling.

Sensors deliver valuable data about space use to optimize the workplace with more suitable spaces for different types of work and roles. For example:

  1. The data gives facility space managers and planners visibility into trends regarding which workspaces get the most use and which receive less traffic or remain empty.
  2. Then, they can refine work schedules and reconfigure spaces to provide a more streamlined work experience with matching facility resources.

The return on investment (ROI) in hybrid working using the IoT can pay dividends beyond the cost-effective, efficient benefits of optimizing building systems. This work mode is a strategic advantage for talent recruitment and retention. Regardless of the strategy, IoT technologies can help create a comfortable, safe, and productive workplace.

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