Time to get smart about employee health and wellbeing

January 10, 2019 by Pradyumna Pandit VP of EcoBuilding UK & Ireland at Schneider Electric
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Time to get smart about employee health and wellbeing

As winter sets in, shorter days and colder temperatures can take a heavy toll on employee health and productivity. Unless they take action, it is very likely that UK businesses will lose millions in the next few months due to absenteeism and a demotivated workforce.

It is imperative for businesses to find other more intelligent ways to motivate workforces to ensure their productivity remains. Smart building technologies are able to transform how employee health and wellbeing are handled by businesses. Sensors can now perform various functions including information about air quality, temperature and ambient noise. Smarter, more responsive sensors will inevitably lead to a healthier and more motivated workforce.

The right way forward: Investing in smart buildings

Employee health and wellbeing are important to all businesses. Not only are they beneficial for the individual, but your company will thrive in the long run if your employees have the right mindset. A new and innovative way of ensuring employee wellbeing is to invest in smart buildings. They hold the key to a more efficient workforce.

Companies are no longer relying on traditional aspects of workplace design – such as specific seating arrangements, standing desks and easily available food and beverages – to motivate employees but are now focusing on more embedded ways that they can further utilise their buildings to increase efficiency. Sensor technology in particular has advanced greatly in the last decade, which is proving to contribute to a healthier, more efficient working environment.

However, more needs to be done. According to Steelcase, the average UK workplace environment satisfaction score is only 6.3 out of ten. This is shocking when compared to other countries. It is clear that changes need to be made, not only to increase satisfaction in the workplace but also to boost morale.

Smart buildings have four main types of sensors. Motion and occupation, light, temperature, and chemical, are used to monitor a multitude of systems such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), occupancy, lighting, fitness, water, elevator, parking, waste, energy, fire safety and access and security.

Smart sensors have now become easy and cheap to install. They take in data from their surroundings and provide precious insight to employers and building managers. With real-time data on lighting levels, temperature and air quality, managers are able to adapt working conditions. They can now make quick and immediate changes to HVAC and lighting systems that keep workers at their best.

The rise of HVAC Sensors and the benefits of data collection

Smart sensors are proving to be greatly beneficial to employee health. The US Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that 30 per cent of commercial buildings contribute to illnesses as a result of the poor air quality related to HVAC sensors. The advantage of having air quality sensors is that they can collect specific information which is then relayed to the building management system.

Data collection has now become cheap and continuous. Focusing on certain parameters will be beneficial for the sustainability of businesses. Precise and continuous readings of parameters such as light and temperature, allow intelligent insights to be developed. This will ultimately enable the right information to be gathered and provide the right insight to your business structure.

It has been proven that lower light levels negatively affect worker productivity. However, the obvious alternative of having brighter lights comes at the cost of higher energy consumption in the long run. There has to be a balance. The key is to monitor certain changes in ambient light such as those from natural lighting and notice the changes that need to be adjusted. This will have a significant impact on the overall cost. You will save significantly, with little to no cost to productivity in the long run.

This saving can only be realised as a result of the emergence of smart light sensors and data analytics. The emergence of new technologies such as cloud computing and data storage has now become much more affordable and reliable due to the increase and knowledge and analysis around the area. IoT has truly been a game changer.

Learning from the best: The Edge

Workplaces play a crucial role in attracting the best talent, and businesses are increasingly becoming aware of it. Deloitte’s Amsterdam office building, The Edge, is somewhere that has taken this to the next level. It was awarded the accolade for the world’s most sustainable office building in 2016 by BREEAM. It prides itself in using sensor enabled smart lighting with the goal of optimising working conditions. The lighting is also controllable through an app showing the impact building management systems are having on businesses.  

Smart lighting in particular is able to track air quality, temperature, and humidity. If tracked correctly, this can be incredibly beneficial to your workplace. The better the environment you work in, the more work will be accomplished. Not only do they focus on the internal building, they even focus on the building’s surroundings. In the car park, there are lights which illuminate as employees walk towards their cars and which dim as soon as they walk away. Even small details like this are important in order to improve employee health and wellbeing. If employees feel like they are valued they will ultimately be happier in the workplace, which is beneficial to all.

Learning from buildings like the Edge is imperative. More and more businesses need to adopt smart building technology to ensure their buildings are up to date with the best technology. They can also help their businesses thrive by refocusing on the wellbeing of their employees. Clearly, corporate real estate is no longer simply a cost of doing business, it is a corporate asset that helps further key business objectives.

 

 

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