This week’s instalment of the UnWork Series was based around the theme of ‘Unmeasured’. With people – for the most part – now reporting that they’d like to retain some of their current flexibility and autonomy, the forced adoption of mass home working seems likely to impact how and where we work on a longer-term basis. With occupancy levels in organisational space often low even pre-COVID, this makes understanding how businesses use their space more important than ever. However, buildings are arguably one of the worst-measured asset classes that there are.
Luke Bailey and Sasha Tinson from UnWork were joined by Nathan Lonsdale and Matt Dew from sense_ to discuss the evolving role and potential of sensor technology in assessing workplace use and performance. Here are the top ten takeaways from the discussion:
- Reducing occupancy levels: Pre-Covid, workplace occupancy levels could typically be as low as 60%. The group predicted that this could drop as low as 50% if companies adopt greater levels of remote working in response to employee demands.
- Changing role of the office: While how much space businesses need is therefore a key question, how the space will be set up is just as important. The post-Covid office may well move decisively away from bank desking towards supporting more collaborative aspects of work.
- Shifting towards ongoing measurement: Buildings are one of the last remaining asset classes that aren’t measured very well. If they’re measured at all, it’s typically at a point in time; the real value lies in ongoing real-time feedback.
- The potential of sensors: There are three key areas for potential measurement: identifying how space is used and therefore how much space is needed, real-time energy usage, and the building’s wider impact on the planet.
- Embracing automation: The industry needs to embrace automation more readily. Where sensor technology starts to get exciting is the potential to automate processes, using AI and machine learning to deliver self-regulating workspaces – for example, automatically tuning the environment based on the number of people in a particular area.
- Reinvesting in people: Understanding how space is used can enable companies to cut unnecessary overheads – and reinvest this in their people in the form of supporting more flexible working practices and wellbeing. This triggers the 3/30/300 rule, in which marginal gains in productivity can have significant impacts.
- Shift towards sustainability: We’ve all seen the effects of reduced commuting and building occupancy in our cities; this represents a real opportunity to reduce our impact on the planet rather than simply returning to business as usual. Smart buildings sensors have huge potential for helping to control the carbon footprint of the built environment.
- Decentralisation of work: Some companies are already talking about supporting their employees in remote working – but everyone wants to be at home full time. This might mean reducing the size of central HQs and reinvesting in regional hubs or offices that allow people to work closer to home.
- Connecting with remote workers: Work anywhere technology needs to be improved so that businesses can be truly agile and flexible. With people both in the office and working remotely, there’s a likely shift towards more flexible and ad hoc approaches to VC that enable moment to moment collaboration rather than having to book conference rooms in half-hour slots.
- A question of philosophy: The current forced shift is about more than just the office – there are some philosophical questions that we need to ask about work/life balance and how work gets done.
Overall, sensor technology offers the potential to transform our understanding of a historically under-measured asset class. As we face some of the most far-reaching shifts in how and where we work in recent decades, this depth of understanding is more important than ever, enabling businesses to make strategic and evidence-based decisions about their real estate. The potential gains are significant, from improving employee wellbeing and productivity to enabling us to sit a little more lightly on the planet that we call home. When would you like yours?
Watch the webinar here:
If you have questions about the future of sensor technologies in the workplace – or any of the other themes raised in the discussion – please feel free to reach out to:
UnWork: Sasha Tinson