Smart Buildings create a two-way conversation between a structure and its inhabitants. Mark Braund, CEO of RedstoneConnect, explains what this means for businesses.
Today’s employees have higher expectations for the quality of their working lives than ever before. They don’t just want to do a job they enjoy in exchange for a strong salary and tailored benefits, but to actively like the place they come to work in every day. As such, businesses can no longer set themselves apart from the competition by adding another zero to their employees’ payslips, or offering an extra day of annual leave.
To win the fight for talent, businesses must make their office environment as welcoming and stimulating for each individual as possible. Pot plants and free stationary no longer cut it, a more intelligent approach to engagement is required – Smart Buildings, which encourage real-time interaction between the physical structure and its inhabitants, are the optimum solution.
What is a Smart Building?
At their most simplistic level, Smart Buildings employ digital infrastructure to automatically control internal operations such as heating, lighting, and ventilation. At their most complex, they transform the behavioural data collected from the sensors embedded in these systems into actionable insights that build relationships between the building and each individual inside it.
A love story for all ages: the building and the employee
Establishing a connection between employees and their office space is becoming increasingly important, not only as expectations rise, but as working practices evolve. Over the past few years, there has been a marked rise in employees taking up flexible working. This can improve employee attraction and retention. However, when poorly managed it can also create a disconnect between the individual and the business, leading to a decline in their performance.
To avoid this, companies should direct more effort into ensuring that when their employees are physically present they are as engaged with their environment as possible. This can be achieved by creating a meaningful relationship between the building and the employee.
The beauty of Smart Buildings is that they create a two-way conversation between the structure and its inhabitants through acting on the analysed data the building collects in real-time.
Smart Buildings learn each individuals’ preferences over time and mould themselves to these. For instance, an integrated digital ceiling can not only sense when a particular individual has entered a room, but tailor the temperature and air ventilation to what it knows they like. This demonstrates to employees that their comfort and wellbeing are of upmost importance to their employers, whilst simultaneously boosting their productivity as they’re happy in their space.
Furthermore, the smart network helps workers easily and quickly identify and book the closest free spaces to work in, such as meeting rooms, and quiet areas when they really need them, all without disturbing other teams. This empowers them to explore new ways of working that suit them, all enabled by their employers.
Bringing employees closer together
Not only do Smart Buildings help individuals find space, but also other employees and visitors, facilitating teamwork and ultimately bringing the workforce closer. This is achieved in a two-fold manner; the building can alert individuals about where their colleagues are, and then help them locate them through intuitive wayfinding. This promotes cross-team collaboration, that may have not occurred before, through saving time and effort - benefiting both the employees as they widen their knowledge base, and their employers as their output will be better as a result.
Similarly, as the move towards being smart enables inefficient space to be identified for re-use or disposal, space utilisation is typically driven above 80 percent. This means employees are brought physically closer together, lending the right environment for staff to get to know one another better, develop support networks, and resultantly be happier at work, which is the ultimate key to staff retention.
A holistic experience
When implementing a smart strategy, it’s key that employers consider how each stage of their employees’ day could be optimised and linked through smart technology; rather than looking at conventional practices, such as meeting room management, in siloes. From the moment an employee or visitor walks through the doors they should connect with the building on an individual level, with each smart interaction flowing into the next till they leave. This shouldn’t be limited to strictly work-related actions. A key benefit of smart buildings is that they enable space management, and nowhere is this more needed that in a busy office canteen. Here smart technology can direct individuals to the shortest queues and free tables reducing both congestion and frustration.
The primary purpose of the Smart Building is to create a space that improves the lives of the people spending everyday there. As such, they are practically conceptualised to help companies distinguish themselves by offering a superior working environment for their employees.
At this point many businesses will be thinking, that all sounds great, but how can it be achieved without completely overhauling our existing physical infrastructure? The answer is simple - wireless solutions make it possible to overlay smart systems with what you already have in place. So, if you want to stand out in the fight for talent, there’s nothing stopping you.
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