Leveraging office utilisation and environmental data is a way to efficiently aid office reopening and manage employees returning to work.
It provides Facilities and building manages a quick and easy way to ensure social distancing guidelines are followed, reduce the likelihood of a COVID breakout; as well as ensuring deep cleaning and disinfection regimes are frequently carried out.
There’s research that suggests the air quality within a building can have an effect on reducing the likelihood of the Corona virus spreading. The difference in temperature and humidity can affect how stable of transmissible viruses are.
Monitoring the humidity and CO2 levels is going to be important to maintain a safe and healthy environment. In addition this will help reinforce confidence in employees who are returning to the office in that measures are put in place to safeguard their wellbeing.
Humidity levels: Early research has indicated that keeping indoor humidity levels between 40%-60% is ideal to minimise virus transmission for COVID. Currently, most customers have an average humidity level of between 33%-35% in their offices.
With the seasonal flu virus, researchers have found that indoor relative humidity levels at 43% or above, showed a significant decrease in the ability of the flu virus’ to transmit. Interestingly, the same research also indicates that low humidity can negatively affect a person’s immune system.
CO2 levels: Indoor CO2 levels are usually driven by outdoor CO2 indoor breathing and the ventilation rate of a building. Indoor CO2 levels are generally raised by occupants exhaling in a space and can be used as an indicator of the rate of air circulation. Without adequate ventilation, CO2 can accumulate to high levels within an office throughout the day.
In normal circumstances, it is recommended that indoor CO2 levels are kept under 800 parts per million. The ideal CO2 levels are around 500-600ppm which most offices exceed and in some cases we’ve seen customers with over 1000ppm during peak hours in the office, which is dangerously high in normal circumstances but critical in a post COVID era.
We recommend that CO2 levels in an office building be sampled throughout the day as it becomes occupied. CO2 levels at the start and end of the day can vary widely and during peak periods, where more people are in the same space, CO2 levels will likely be much higher.
Ideally, aggressively ventilated buildings would refresh air regularly keeping CO2 levels in check. However, even quite modern offices and meeting rooms can have high accumulated CO2 levels due to the building's air circulation system.
It’s also important to take into consideration that high levels of CO2 will also impact productivity levels. Coupled with a poor ventilation system, there’s a risk of substances/particles emitting from furniture, carpets or office supplies accumulating in the air.
Monitoring CO2 and Humidity levels using sensors
The only way to be able to monitor both CO2 and humidity levels is by using environmental sensors. The data gathered from these sensors are transmitted into an analytics platform to give users a snapshot and report of performance levels.
At OpenSensors, we provide a visual report for both CO2 and humidity levels within an office space overlaid on floor plans. This provides Facilities and Building managers a quick view of areas in their office that requires attention, giving them better control to manage the office environment.
In addition, our platform gives customers the flexibility to monitor changes over time as well as send alerts to key users when CO2 or humidity levels are extremely high. Customers can set minimum and maximum data levels and be alerted if the data hits these points. This allows them to efficiently make quick changes when needed.
Workspace utilisation data
Most employers are staggering people back in the office in different phases starting with 20-30%. There are several ways to ensure that data can aid hitting utilisation targets.
When splitting teams in groups, such as team A, B, C and rotating office use between them on a weekly or bi weekly basis, it’s important to keep a close eye on the utilisation data between the teams, as they will each have different utilisation behaviours.
For instance, Team A might come into the office more whilst Team B has more WFH behaviours. It will be important to monitor the differing behaviours of each shift, as shift A may come into the office more than shift B, who appear to be working from home more. This suggests that the balance of time and space in the office should be weighted towards shift A.
When evaluating a recent office refit or planning a new office, it is important to consider the provision of different furniture types and workspaces made available for employees to do their jobs. Through analysing patterns of how different work points and office assets are used at different times it will be easier to plan for future requirements.
Identify peaks and troughs of how departments/teams use their space throughout the week. In the post COVID workplace this can be used to help manage peaks caused by different departments over occupying the office on the same day.
Occupancy and utilisation data can be quickly gathered through the use of sensors, which are triggered based on motion and heat. Our analytics platform provides a comparison feature to illustrate comparisons between different weeks in time representing each team. This will help you understand how each team operates and make decisions based on this as well as ensure social distancing rules are followed.
Desk utilisation data
Additionally, you can look at the effectiveness of desk level social distancing measures visually over a floor plan.
Ideally, the utilisation data should show that people are using desks in a zig zag shape and keeping 2-3 desks away from each other.
Average peak utilisation data
In addition to this, keeping an eye on the average and peak utilisation levels for all desking is important to ensure that thresholds aren’t being exceeded.
Footfall utilisation data
Footfall counting sensors can be used on each floor to monitor the peak number of people on every floor. It is incredibly important to ensure that you get a handle on not just desk usage but the amount of people moving around a floor and using meeting rooms as well as shared areas such as canteens or collaborative spaces.
The best way to do this is to keep a close eye on footfall on the floor.
Employee surveys / feedback
Gather employee feedback on how to better understand what challenges, fears or concerns they have around returning to the workplace or working from home. The data will give you a better understanding of areas you may need to improve on or concerns that need to be dealt with quite quickly.
Ultimately, employees will want to know that they are returning to a safe and clean environment and likely be keen to understand what new guidance to follow as a result of social distancing and using the office space. Information you may already have on hand to communicate and reduce any uncertainty they have.
Utilisation data can be provided to cleaning suppliers to ensure that deep cleaning and disinfections of surfaces are carried out in areas that have been used. Evidently cleaning, security and IT costs will increase significantly and become a permanent budget line for the foreseeable future.
Having accurate data on how your workplace will be used in a post COVID era will give you a better handle on how best to allocate budget, efficiently manage employees back to the workplace as well as ensure a safe and healthy environment for your employees.
Use air quality data such as CO2 levels to get an insight into whether fresh air is circulating appropriately on a floor
Ensure humidity levels is kept between 40%-60% as indicated by early research as the ideal level to contain the virus
Use occupancy data such as desk utilisation to manage seating arrangements and social distancing rules are followed
Use footfall counting data on each floor to monitor the peak number of people on each floor
Use employee surveys to understand what specific challenges people are having during this extended work from home